It was music to the ears of the UW-Madison School of Music staff when Leslie Shank, violinist for the renowned St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO), recently agreed to join the music faculty. She'll be a visiting assistant professor of violin next fall.
Shank has been a member of the SPCO since 1984 and was assistant concertmaster for 24 years. She replaces Felicia Moye, professor of violin, who has taken a position at McGill University in Montreal.
Susan Cook, director of the UW School of Music, says Shank's appointment is a one-year position.
"The faculty knew the high quality of Leslie's work and extended a special invitation," she says, noting that a more extensive search for a full-time, tenured violin professor will continue.
Shank's appointment is just one of her many jobs. She'll continue playing violin for the SPCO, and she is a sought-after chamber musician who performs with all sorts of orchestras, festivals and chamber groups around the country.
As busy as this seems, Shank didn't want to pass up teaching in the UW's music department, an opportunity she says "people would give their eye teeth" for. The job will also give her a Wisconsin connection she can share with her husband, Joseph Hagedorn, a classical guitarist who teaches at UW-River Falls.
Shank will continue to live in the Twin Cities. She insists that she looks forward to the five-hour drive to Madison to teach six to eight students.
"It's a beautiful drive to Madison from Minnesota, and time alone in my car sounds like a luxury," she says.
One of Shank's goals is to occasionally bring UW students to the Twin Cities so they can meet the prestigious guest violinists who play with the SPCO and participate in the orchestra's activities.
During lessons, students will learn how to collaborate effectively and truly listen to each other. These are vital skills in the classical music world in particular: Shank's teamwork expertise took center stage last year when she helped negotiate a deal that got the SPCO performing again after a six-month lockout.
Teaching students in Madison while living in the Twin Cities will require some creative scheduling as well.
"My schedule will probably differ from week to week. Sometimes there might be two lessons over three days, or if there's a blizzard, we might have a lesson on Skype," she explains, adding that at music schools where faculty members perform out of town frequently, "students are somewhat used to this [type of] schedule."
UW students have already worked their charm on Shank. She met a number of them and "was impressed with their high level of playing, their intelligence and their eagerness."
And the music faculty is thrilled. David Perry, a violin professor and first violinist for the Pro Arte Quartet, recently praised the transformative powers of Shank's teaching in a UW-Madiosn School of Music press release, noting that her "performance and master classes in recent years have been inspirational."