GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Northeastern Wisconsin’s performing arts scene is on its way to getting a major boost.
What’s happening is worth 76 trombones and a big parade – as in the song from the enduring musical “The Music Man.”
A woman who once performed in a troupe that was greeted by 76 trombones and the music man himself – show creator Meredith Willson – is instrumental in the whopping project.
An institute of music is being established at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in the name of Sharon J. Resch.
Four-year scholarships and more are part of the commitment.
It is likely more activity will be found in the classrooms and rehearsal spaces of the university’s Fine Arts Building and Theatre Hall.
And then there are the formidable structures and performance spaces of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts just across the street.
Sharon Resch says she wants to provide talent in our region the opportunity to embrace the journey she has enjoyed in performing and creating.
Her performance experience includes ballet and such famous shows as “The Music Man,” which happens to be in revival on Broadway.
One of her favorite photos among many from across her career in her and husband Richard Resch’s home in De Pere is from “The Music Man.”
In the photo, she stands beaming next to the Harold Hill character in her role of Zaneeta Shinn, the mayor’s daughter.
Zaneeta’s famous line is an eruption – “Ye gads!”
Sharon Resch has many colorful stories to tell.
One is about her marriage to Minneapolis Central High School classmate Richard Resch – met again at a class reunion – that led her to Green Bay and substantial involvement in arts and community organizations.
She has choreographed for productions of the influential Music Theatre of St. Norbert College for Dudley Birder and the beloved Pamiro Opera Company of Green Bay for Miroslav Pansky.
Her reach extends to an international voice competition held in Green Bay.
For the Sharon J. Resch Institute of Music on the UW-Green Bay campus, the Resches are donating $5 million.
The university looks on the institute as a game-changer – and it is part of a larger campaign to enhance more facets of the campus.
The fundraising goal is $20 million for the “Ignite the Future” campaign, which the university reports is past half way there.
Sharon Resch adds the color of personality to the project.
A showbiz element comes naturally when asked to pose for photos for this article.
In the photo above with the steely phoenix sculpture, the sha-zam! came automatically.
Sharon Resch is originally from Minnesota, trained in dance in Chicago and got into “The Music Man” with during an open-call tryout after Equity talent made their bids.
Audiences in such cities as Chicago, New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles have seen her perform in a variety of productions.
She even was a sub for a time for TV’s “The Carol Burnett Show.”
One of her prized connections is from “The Music Man.” Also in a cast photo at the far right is Gildo Dinunzio, who went on to become pianist for superstar tenor Luciano Pavarotti and longtime assistant conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Gildo Dinunzio will return to Green Bay in October to be one of the judges in the American International Czech and Slovak Voice Competition (https://www.uwgb.edu/voicecompetition) of which Sharon Resch is producer and notable benefactor.
Advanced singers come from near and far for the competition that has a complex history. In the mix are consulates and embassies and connections between Canada, America and the Czech Republic, even a bit of Russia. A friendship with Sarah Meredith Livingston of the UWGB Music faculty is a major connection for Sharon Resch, whose birth name is Chmel.
In a sense, Sharon Resch is an ambassador for dance, music, America, her heritage, UWGB, musical theater, local community organizations and young talent.
She says she is committed to giving young talent the opportunity to follow adventures akin to her journey.
Important to her is the word “institute.” There are schools, and then steps above are institutes in her way of thinking.
Sharon Resch says Michael Alexander is important in her commitment to UWGB, being acclimated to music and the arts prior to becoming chancellor at UWGB. A sympatico, maybe.
The “Ignite the Future” campaign was announced May 2. Eleven priorities fill the package:
+ Need-based Aid for Students
+ First Nations Studies
+ Electrical Engineering
+ New Finance Laboratory, Student Managed Investment Fund, and a Center for Personal Financial Planning
+ Center for Entrepreneurship
+ Audio Production
+ Institute of Music
+ Water Science Research and the National Estuarine Research Reserve
+ Institute for Women’s Leadership
+ Shorewood Redevelopment
Highlighted at the announcement was the involvement of Sharon Resch.
“Sharon is a shining example of how philanthropy can change a community,” said Mark Murphy, president of the Green Bay Packers and campaign co-chair.
The $5 million gift by Richard and Sharon Resch includes an endowment for scholarships and funds for a new audio production facility, the Richard J. Resch Audio Production Studio.
One belief of the Resches is music and engineering go hand in hand.
Sharon Resch says, “With technology the way it is today, engineering students should be required to take one course in music because it hones your skills in listening to scales, sharps, flats, and it makes you a better engineer.”
Flashback: Sharon Resch won a Ford Foundation of The Arts Scholarship and enrolled at the Illinois Institute of Technology. She studied for a math degree in the mornings, took dance classes in the afternoons and danced in the Chicago Opera Ballet in the evenings.
“It was perfect,” she says. “I had quite a bit of education.”
She knows math and music and dance and musical theater and stories are filled with equations.
Sharon Resch has a vision for the institute. Here is some of her thinking:
“Over the next decade, UW-Green Bay will become a premier destination for arts education, performance and entrepreneurship, all while creating educational pathways for under-served and unrepresented members of our communities.”
“Beginning this fall, UW-Green Bay will offer fully-funded, four-year scholarships to promising music students. These scholarships will not only help attract the brightest in talent and potential to the region, but it will also allow students with little financial means to realize the dream of a college education.”
“(C)hildren who once thought higher education unattainable will soon perform onstage in the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts.”
“(T)he institute will also train students in music’s technical applications and how to match these in-demand skills with innovation and entrepreneurship. With this goal in mind, UW-Green Bay is currently planning construction of the Richard Resch Recording Studio, a brand new, state-of-the-art recording facility adjacent to the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. This facility will serve as a thriving lab for audio production majors and a creative hub for our various community partners.”
Important are a “love for the arts and career readiness” as being part of “meeting our region’s employment needs.”
“(T)he institute will produce graduates who can both dream big and gain employment in any of the many local industries with audio production needs, including entertainment, voice-over production, corporate advertisements and videos, and work at our many media outlets.”
“(O)ur bedrock commitment to music education and teacher training remains steadfast. As our region continues to grow while experiencing a teacher shortage, our K-12 partners will need a pipeline of teachers well-trained in the arts, including music of all types. UW-Green Bay’s commitment to music education will ensure Northeast Wisconsin’s schools and young people have access to music during the early stages of their educational journey.”
Keep in mind, the music institute is one facet in the 11-priorities list.
The institute promises to have much interest from a person who connects to Green Bay since 1985 as the wife of chairman and chief executive of KI, Richard Resch.
“I thought I could come here and try it out,” she said in an interview. “I got married here at First United Methodist Church. He had four kids who were still like 10-12 years, 15 and 16… That was fun, and all I knew how to do was make hors d’oeuvres. I said, ‘Hey, I like Doritos with cheese for dinner’.”
Along the way, Sharon Resch met up with – and collaborated with – leading figures on the performing arts scene.
In that role, she generated some press.
For Miroslav Pansky, she choreographed, among others, the 1998 Pamiro Opera production of “La Boheme.” The review of musicologist Terence O’Grady for the Green Bay Press-Gazette said, “The choreography by Sharon Resch was clever yet natural.”
For Dudley Birder, she choreographed, among others, the 2009 Music Theatre of St. Norbert College production of “The Music Man.” My review in the Press-Gazette said her choreography “puts a lot of people to the test with abundant motion.”
That abundant motion leads to my close, another story related to “The Music Man.”
Sharon Resch recalls traveling with the show company from Chicago to Los Angeles aboard a train. “It was craziness with the dancers, the berths, pulling the curtains on the second level, and the boy dancers were everywhere.”
The opening song of the show captures the rocking rhythm of a train back in the day.
“When we got off the train, there was Meredith Willson with 76 trombones. It was a long trip, and then that happened. We just loved it. It was so great.”
And so another trip begins.