Spotlight of the Week: Canary Reeds

Canary Reeds are a Milwaukee-based woodwind quintet who play both contemporary and standard chamber music. We spoke to their clarinetist, Lauren LaFond.

ME: How did you get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?

LAUREN: So, it actually started when I was in a reed quintet in my undergraduate, and our coach – who happens to be the saxophone professor at UWM – heard about Wisconsin Music Ventures when it was first starting up. They told us we should try to join with them and get some performances in, and that’s what we did. From there, at one of the performances that we were doing for Allison in Green Bay last summer, she was talking about wanting to do more things with education; I happened to do my undergrad in education and clarinet performance so I was looking for something that I could do while I finished my Master’s. That’s how I’m here now working with Allison.

ME: Awesome, that’s super cool! Sounds like all the pieces fell into place. I was also a clarinet player in middle school.

ME: Who’s all in Canary Reeds?

LAUREN: Well, unfortunately Canary Reeds isn’t really a group anymore just because everyone got busy with different things. There’s me; I teach at a high school, I’m in my Master’s, I work with Allison, and I teach private lessons. Our oboe player is Miko Roman and he’s currently finishing his undergrad at UWM; he also plays bassoon and he’s active around the area with the UWM Woodwind Orchestra and the Black Cat Quintet. Our saxophone player is Valerie Nowak and she’s a teacher in the Whitnall School District. Our bass clarinetist is Clay Steiner and he’s the most stellar of us all because he’s been traveling with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway – he’s doing amazing things. Then our bassoonist is Callahan Lieungh, who’s also finishing his undergrad and does a lot of performances with Miko and local groups as well. They’re all doing their own things and are a wonderful group of people; we’re all just very busy (laughs) so we’re not performing right now.

ME: Understandable. That’s all really cool stuff! It sounds like a great cast.

ME: How was your summer, as far as music goes?

LAUREN: It was pretty awesome, actually. I’m part of another reed quintet called Cosmo Reeds and I found them in my graduate program. It’s a wonderful group of women; Samantha Carr is our oboist and she’s been taking many auditions. Our saxophonist is Joanie Dyer; she just played with Present Music on Sunday and she’s awesome. Rosie Avery plays with the Racine Symphony Orchestra often. Amy Butler is in Cinderella right now for a local theater plus she plays with a polka band, the Milwaukee Philharmonic, and another chamber orchestra group. We as a reed quintet performed at the International Double Reed Society in Boulder this past summer; our proposal was accepted and we got to play there, which was pretty awesome (laughs).

ME: Sounds like a stacked summer of really cool opportunities and great people!

LAUREN: We’ve been practicing a lot this week because we’re performing at Cafe Sopra Mare on Sunday.

ME: Super cool!

ME: What are you looking forward to most in fall?

LAUREN: I’m looking forward to it for a couple reasons. This is my first year as a public school teacher so I’ve got my first Christmas concert, we have our first marching band competition, and I’m looking forward to some performances; I’m taking a principal clarinet audition for the Atlanta Symphony, which will be amazing. It’s my last academic semester for my Master’s; I made it so that for my spring semester I can only focus on my recital. So this fall is the last semester of tests and paper writing and all that fun stuff…I’m excited for that to be over (laughs).

ME: I can imagine. Well, you’re on home stretch.

ME: My last question is, outside of school, what are you working on now?

LAUREN: Well, I’m working with Wisconsin Music Ventures on the education side of it, just trying to get that into schools. Of course, COVID last year was very hard because a lot of schools were hunkering down on not allowing guests come play, but this year’s definitely a lot more promising. We’re working with musicians in the Green Room and putting together lesson plans with specific things that we can offer teachers. Like, we can come talk to students about becoming a touring musician and or how to start your budget with different careers in music. Or we might even perform with them. I’m putting together that material and hoping to engage musicians in schools more. I also play with UWM plus I have some other performances coming up with Cosmo Reeds; it won’t be till next year but we’re also doing a collaboration with DanceWorks. We’re really excited about it.

Visit Canary Reeds Facebook page here.

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