As a member of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, I have the honor of performing weekly with over 80 of the country’s most talented and inspiring musicians, in concerts meant to be heard by anyone who will lend us their ears. Since moving here to begin work in the Orchestra, I have had the privilege of exploring quite a bit of what the city has to offer, both in the arts and otherwise, as well as venturing to other parts of the state, both with the Orchestra and for other reasons, and have discovered there can be much more to Milwaukee – and Wisconsin – than may meet the eye (and ear, for that matter).
For instance, every fall the Orchestra embarks on a week-long tour to such locales as Marinette, Rhinelander, Fish Creek, and that’s not to mention the concerts we perform throughout the year in Madison, Green Bay, Ripon, West Bend, and Whitewater, just to name a few. Some highlights from these tours include Marinette and our favorite burrito spot, Blue Bike Burrito, and, of course, no Wisconsin travel blog could be complete without a mention of Door County, where I am also fortunate to spend three weeks every summer as a member of the Peninsula Music Festival, during which I might be the only member of the orchestra to sleep in a tent.
Camping is one of the best ways to honor the warm days and nights that Wisconsin has to offer, and it’s important not to take any of those for granted. In Fish Creek, where we spend most of our time during the festival, some favorite activities include kayaking in the lovely Green Bay, and biking the seemingly endless networks of trails in the Peninsula State Park and its environs. I also enjoy making futile attempts at ordering something at the charming and fabulous Blue Horse Bistro besides their most satisfying of all sandwiches: the Curry Chicken Salad with Door County Cherries. Which brings me to my next point: the Cherries. An enthusiastic jam-maker, I have been known to transport large quantities of Door County Cherries to California, hidden (albeit not so expertly) in a shoebox, my time in Wisconsin having run out too soon for their suitable preservation; one can’t let these delicious treasures go to waste, after all.
At home in Milwaukee, the lake figures largely into my daily life; its lawns are prime real-estate for kite flying, sunbathing (or lake-bathing), general cloud- gazing, and really any other idleness necessitated by our sultry spring and summer days; we in Wisconsin earn our warm weather, as I like to remind my West Coast family, so it is rare that we’d pass up any opportunity for a precious moment in the sun.
Not to be missed (well, could you even if you tried?) the Milwaukee Art Museum is of course one of my favorites. I always beam with pride when I see the looks on the faces of my out-of-town visitors upon first entering that revelatory space. As they marvel, they invariably gush about how fortunate I am to live in a city with such an architectural treasure – indeed, it is a formidable testament to Milwaukee’s commitment to sustaining vibrant arts organizations for everyone to appreciate.
A position in a full-time orchestra is an honor afforded to approximately the same proportion of musicians as a spot on a major-league baseball team. It is an extremely competitive job market, and among those in coveted positions in orchestras like the MSO, there is little turnover. For that reason, I consider myself lucky to be a part of a much-appreciated orchestra in a state that has so much to offer. Come and see for yourself. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!
Margot Schwartz has been a violinist in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for four years. In addition to her performances with the MSO, she is seen on stage with Present Music, Bowing Rogue, and the Arcas String Quartet. She enjoys traveling and teaching privately and at Homestead and Whitefish Bay High Schools.