How Present Music Is Creatively Adapting Their Annual Thanksgiving Concert

A concert to Zoom into before you give thanks.

Present Music, a Milwaukee institution dedicated to contemporary classical music, is no stranger to unconventional venues. In 2011, for instance, ensemble members played instruments while floating down the Milwaukee River – for listeners gathered along its banks. So it’s hardly surprising that they feel comfortable hosting their Thanksgiving concert, titled “Wherein Lies the Good,” over the videoconferencing app Zoom.

One of the hallmarks of this annual event has always been audience participation via singing and friendship circles. And co-artistic directors Eric Segnitz and David Bloom are determined to keep that tradition alive, even with a wholly virtual audience. How? They’ve invited Mark Stewart, a musician and instrument builder, to lead a “private duet” with audience members.

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All ticket holders will receive care packages before the concert, containing homemade instruments that Stewart fashioned from Popsicle sticks. And, according to Stewart, when would-be music makers bite down on the stick and strum their fingers along its side, the reverberation will create subtle buzzing sounds that only they’ll be able to hear. Hence, the “private” part of the “duet.”

Ultimately the ensemble members and their collaborators – including the Reagan High School Choir and the Bucks Native American Singing and Drumming Group – hope to bring a little more togetherness to socially distanced city dwellers.


Present Music’s 26th annual Thanksgiving concert will take place on Nov. 22, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Tickets are available online at presentmusic.org.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s November issue.

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Marla Hiller is an editorial intern at Milwaukee Magazine. She is a junior at Boston University majoring in international relations and minoring in journalism