Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra’s Swing Band got people dancing at last year’s gala. This year’s event will be Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva. The annual fundraiser features a cocktail hour, dinner, auction and numerous musical performances. (Tom Ganser photo)

Symphony Orchestra’s annual gala set for Feb. 16

By Tom Ganser


Looking for something to ward off the “winter blues?” The Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra’s annual gala concert might be the ticket.

The Feb. 16 fundraiser has a new venue this year – the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, which has set aside a block of rooms for gala attendees.

With the theme of “Moonlight Serenade,” the doors open at 5:30 p.m. with an opportunity to catch up with friends over cocktails from the open bar while being serenaded by members of the orchestra that has been a musical jewel for the region since 2001. Tickets are $75.

Following a full plated dinner served at 6:15 p.m., including for tables for 10, the evening continues with the orchestra performing an excerpt from the second movement of Beethoven’s monumental Symphony No. 9 that will be performed in its entirely on March 16 in the Irving Young Auditorium on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater – the orchestra’s first performance ever in Whitewater.

UW-Whitewater faculty Rachel Wood and Brian Leeper will be accompanied by the orchestra and Lauren Hayes from Whitewater playing harp, in vocal numbers including “Habanera” from the opera “Carmen,” Aaron Copland’s arrangement of “Simple Gifts,” and “If I Loved You” from the musical “Carousel.”

Wood and Leeper will also appear as soloists the LGSO’s upcoming performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Whitewater.

The evening of musical magic will continue with the gala’s 18-piece LGSO Swing Band and the chance for attendees to take to the dance floor.

Performers weigh in

“It is thrilling to be part of the classical and romantic traditions of the orchestra,” said Sue Childress, long time flute and piccolo player with the LGSO.

“I have to admit that playing with the Swing Band is the highlight of the Gala for me. I get to play second alto saxophone right next to my husband, Dave, who leads the section on first alto. They are fantastic musicians and it is an honor to play with them under the leadership of John Meyers. I look forward to playing with the Swing Band every year,” she added.

John Ludy Puleo, who describes himself as “a local Rat Pack favorite that moved to the Lake Geneva area ten years ago,” will appear with the Swing Band as the featured vocalist for the Gala for the eighth time.

“I really enjoy performing with the Swing Band as the sound of the big horn sections takes one back to the hay days of the Swing Band era reminiscent of Sinatra and the current employs of such stars as Michael Bublé and Harry Connick Jr.,” Puleo said.

This year, for a first time, the gala will include a live auction of a limited number of items and services, thanks to auctioneering services donated by Dale Folkers of Elkhorn.

The auction’s highlight is a two-hour picnic cruise on Lake Geneva for up to twenty guests aboard the Sea Lark, a custom 80-foot vessel built in the tradition of Lake Geneva’s graceful steam-powered 1890s era yachts, yet fitted with a modern power plant and facilities.

Other items up for auction will include a VIP Wine Tasting at Studio Winery for up to 10 people, along with a private tour and information about wines, wine production, etc.; a round of golf for four, including cart, at one of Grand Geneva’s championship courses; and jewelry donated by China West.

Largest LGSO fundraiser

The gala is the largest fundraising activity of the LGSO, with one focus this year being the orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with a chorus of more than 160 singers. Rob Keefe, LGSO president, describes the concert as “a treat not often experienced live in the biggest cities.”

This year’s gala is supported by Ulla Brunk, a long-time supporter of arts in the Lake Geneva area.

Another target for the money raised is the expansion of the orchestra’s youth music education outreach efforts.

LGSO music director David Anderson said an education task force was launched last spring with the goal of connecting with more of the area’s music teachers.”

“After a large brainstorming session made up of LGSO players, school ensemble directors, and private music teachers in the area, small groups were formed and several of these have moved forward with specific initiatives,” Anderson said.

The plans include establishing an honors orchestra for students, school ensembles playing before LGSO concerts, a family concert in October, the compilation of a private teacher list and scholarships for private lessons and conductor clinics.

These new efforts complement an annual tour of elementary schools, Young Artist Concerto Competition and the Rotary Club of Lake Geneva Neal Heffernan Art Scholarship, and the newly established scholarship for a Badger High School graduate.

For more information about the orchestra and to purchase tickets for gala, visit



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