Almost four decades ago, a Milwaukee music ensemble performed its first concert to an audience of about 30 people. From those humble beginnings grew Present Music, an artistic fixture on the Milwaukee arts calendar.
The brainchild of conductor and trumpeter Kevin Stalheim, Present Music has a devoted audience for a genre of music that often gets no love: contemporary classical music. Stalheim says the idea to start the group 37 years ago came out of a trip to Amsterdam to hang out with The Netherlands Wind Ensemble:
"They had this whole idea of doing music where you don’t get all dressed up," he explains. "Where you play maybe in a club or a bar and you’re playing Mozart one minute and the next minute you’re playing Frank Zappa. I just thought their programming was so interesting and it got me researching music by living composers ... "
Now, Present Music is an organization that commissions and champions music by living composers. Milwaukee audiences know they'll always hear something new at one of their concerts.
But all good things come to an end. And while Present Music isn't going anywhere, this is Stalheim's last season as artistic director. So, ahead of the season opener on Saturday, he came into the Lake Effect studio to reminisce: