News from UW-Madison School of Music Alumni Association
Friday, April 6, 2012
Jerry Hui: composer, conductor, teacher, and lover of music
Jerry Hui talks about music with a palpable joy. Utterly down to earth in the face of remarkable success, Hui—an adjunct instructor for Continuing Studies music programs—simply loves sharing many kinds of music with the widest possible audience.
Hui’s development into a composer and choral conductor has taken a somewhat unusual path in that he had no formal training in music as a child or teenager. “In high school in Hong Kong I started writing music for some video games that my friends and I were designing, which led me to read several music-theory and music-history books on my own.”
Still, when Hui moved to Wisconsin in 1999 it was to study not music but computer engineering. But under the guidance of Jim Aagaard, professor of music at UW-Richland, he quickly found himself drawn to UW-Madison’s renowned School of Music.
Soon after enrolling at UW-Madison in 2000, he switched from computer engineering to computer science so he could complete a double major within the College of Letters and Science. After completing his BA, Hui enrolled one summer in the Madison Early Music Festival.
“Finally I had a summer when I didn’t have to worry about a job or a course schedule, and I could find out what early music was all about.” Hui’s approach to music would never be the same.
“Early music has something for everyone. If you like sacred music, you can find some of the most serene music ever written. If your tastes lean toward the secular, early music has plenty of bawdy songs, too.”
Hui later attended the University of Oregon’s graduate program in composition and choral conducting, returning from Eugene to Madison every summer for the festival.
“Over the years I’ve played a number of roles for the festival, including stage manager, house manager, and audio-video technician. This year for the first time I’ll serve as assistant conductor.”
After completing his master’s, he moved back to Madison to begin the doctor of musical arts (DMA) program. In 2008 Hui, whose own voice can range from bass all the way to alto, founded his own early music ensemble on campus, Eliza’s Toyes. The group’s current configuration features eight voices, three recorders, and a lute.
“We’ve performed in some rather unusual venues,” Hui notes, “including the stacks of Memorial Library. And in one of my Schola Cantorum: Singing Gregorian Chant classes the students and I sang chant in a stairwell of the Humanities Building, which gave a wonderfully resonant sound.”
Eliza’s Toyes is one of the featured groups at a special preview of the Early Music Festival set for the evening of April 26 at the Chazen Museum of Art. The preview includes a lecture on the Chazen’s early American collection and a reception with performances by several School of Music faculty as well as Eliza’s Toyes.
Hui began teaching for Continuing Studies in 2010 and completed his DMA last year. Along the way he also used his computer expertise to help Prof. Chelcy Bowles—director of music programs for Continuing Studies—design and develop an online portal for the North American Coalition for Community Music.
Intended for people who work with community music groups—from municipal orchestras to prison choirs to ethnic ensembles—the portal will make available a wide range of resources on starting a group, working with people who don’t read music, building an audience, and many other topics. It goes live this spring.
This winter Hui realized the dream of many a classical composer when his opera, Wired for Love, had its world premiere. Performed in January at the Carol Rennebohm Auditorium of Music Hall, the work allowed Hui to bring together many of the “extremes” of his musical study, from early forms to the most contemporary. This coming weekend brings yet another milestone in Hui’s career: Wired for Love will be recorded for compact disc.
Meanwhile, Hui continues to prepare for this year’s Early Music Festival. Set for July 7–14, “Welcome Home Again! An American Celebration” focuses on early music of our nation and Canada. The musicians in residence will include Anonymous 4, the most famous early-music ensemble in the world, as well as such other notables as The Rose Ensemble and Newberry Concert.
“One of the interesting changes this summer is that all the vocal music will be in English,” says Hui. “Well, unless we introduce some French songs from colonial Quebec!”