Emma Zei

UWSP Scholarship Quartet

            Hi! Let me take a second to introduce myself. My name is Emma and I am a junior at UW-Stevens Point with a major in Arts Management and minors in Spanish and Music. This fall, I was an Arts Management intern with CWSO, but I wanted to write a piece sharing my experience as a 2019-20 recipient of the CWSO/UW-Stevens Point Department of Music String Quartet Scholarship.


            At the end of the 2019 Spring semester, I was awarded the String Quartet Scholarship. I am a cellist in UWSP’s Music Department and am a member of the UWSP Symphony Orchestra. Auditioning for and receiving this scholarship includes a number of things. First and foremost, you perform in a quartet with three other UWSP music students. Throughout the year, the quartet performs at several events in central Wisconsin. While my experience was cut short due to COVID-19, we still had three great opportunities to perform.


            The first performance was at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau for their Birds in Art exhibit. This is an annual fall exhibit, and the museum has partnered with CWSO musicians for many years. Our quartet played as people walked through the gallery and we had a few people stop to listen. Combining live music with visual art is something I have never been a part of and I think it creates a great atmosphere for both the performers and the visitors.


            We also played at a local assisted living home. This opportunity came together last minute, so we caught the end of their bingo session when we arrived to perform. Our presence did not deter the seniors, and they invited us to play a few rounds with them before performing. This was a super fun evening of playing bingo with the sweet residents of the assisted living home, followed with live music. We had folks asking about the pieces, our instruments, and about us as students. Playing for seniors never fails to be a good time because of how appreciative they are.

            In addition to our responsibilities performing with the quartet, the scholarship also allows you to play as a member of the CWSO. This was my first professional opportunity with a professional orchestra. From the very first rehearsal, I was welcomed into the cello section. Rehearsals moved quickly, and adjustments in tempo, intonation, and dynamics were discussed openly and collaboratively when needed. The rehearsals alone really energized me. I realized how significant it was to play with a large number of UWSP faculty, including principal cellist Lawrence Leviton, who I had the privilege of studying with during my first year at UWSP.


Pictured (from left to right) members of the 2019-20 UWSP String Scholarship Quartet: Jacob Cass, Emma Zei, Rachel Marquette, and Jinyoung Ryoo. 


            Last fall, some of you may have attended the October concert weekend which kicked off the 2019-20 season. Dr. Molly Roseman was a featured soloist with the orchestra. She is an incredible performer, and I can say that being on stage with her and the orchestra for the first time may have been the best welcome to the professional world I could have asked for. With my first professional concert weekend being extremely memorable, the rest of the season did not disappoint.


            The other concert that was particularly memorable was the 2020 Dorothy Vetter Education Concerts. This is a day of three concerts attended by nearly 2000 fourth graders from local school districts where the orchestra performs, and the students have opportunities to participate by singing or playing the recorder. Watching the students sit in the audience with their friends and classmates and enjoying the whole experience was the best. There was so much energy from the students participating and it radiated through the orchestra. This was a special experience as it was held on March 12, 2020, which (for me, at least) was the last “normal” day before everything shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m grateful to have spent it playing live music for a great audience which is almost impossible to do in the present. Thinking back on this day, months later, it’s clear that performing for these students with the CWSO was a highlight of my year.


            Overall, I cannot speak more highly of my scholarship experience with the Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra. I was given an opportunity to collaborate with classmates in a quartet and perform for the community. Getting to perform in a professional orchestra as a college student was a dream. I learned a lot during my experience both about music and being a professional. I discovered how rewarding it is to play for students who may be attending their first orchestra concert, and how lucky I am to be student in a community that supports the arts so strongly. The CWSO does a lot for central Wisconsin in bringing people together through music, and I will always look back on this experience as a highlight of my college career.