Dr. J. Michael Allsen

 Photo by Katrin Talbot 2024
J. Michael Allsen
has written program notes for the Madison Symphony Orchestra—one of America's leading regional orchestras—since 1984. He has also written commissioned notes for dozens of orchestras, ensembles and festivals, as well as CD liner notes: in total, notes on over 2000 individual works by more than 600 composers. His program and liner notes have been published by orchestras, choruses, wind bands, chamber ensembles, soloists, and festivals across the United States, and in Canada, England, Scotland, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Israel, and Zimbabwe. During the 2000-2001 season he was commissioned by the MSO to write a series of short historical articles celebrating the orchestra's 75th anniversary: extended versions of these articles and other historical documents appear on this site.  He has also written feature articles on local music history for the Wisconsin State Journal. He is currently working on a book on the history of the MSO in anticipation of the orchestra's centennial season.

Allsen is Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.  Previous professional appointments include teaching positions at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an administrative job with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. While he was a faculty member at Whitewater from 1996-2018, Allsen taught Music History courses, World Music, classes in African American and Latin American music, and World of the Arts, an interdisciplinary arts course.  He also directed the UWW Trombone Choir for several years, and still serves on the faculty of Whitewater's annual Trombone Day.  At various points in his tenure, Allsen earned College of Arts and Communication and university-wide Excellence Awards in Teaching, Research, Academic Advising, and Service.  In 2015 Allsen's advising work was honored with a Certificate of Merit from the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). He also served in various administrative capacities: as Chair of Whitewater's Music Department from 2006-2012, and subsequently as the department's Advising Coordinator, as Coordinator of the interdepartmental World of the Arts faculty, and as the College of Arts and Communication's Graduation Examiner.

Allsen's research interests have been primarily in the field of late medieval music. Beginning with his dissertation research, he has worked intensively with the motet, among the most important polyphonic genres of the 14th and early 15th centuries. In studying the motet repertoire, he has focused in particular upon the issues of musical style, intertextuality, genre, and compositional process. Allsen has also worked on biographical problems, particularly in connection with the preeminent composer of the early 15th century, Guillaume Du Fay, and and his contemporaries Gilles Binchois, Arnold and Hugo de Lantins, and Johannes Brassart. Allsen's scholarly work has been published in the Journal of Musicology, Plainsong & Medieval Music, the Journal of the American Musicological Society, and others. He has also contributed reference articles to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, American National Biography, and others. Allsen has strong secondary interests in the fields of 17th-century instrumental music, the music of the Moravian Church, and in local (Madison, WI) music history, particularly in the history of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Allsen was on the faculty of the the Madison Early Music Festival from 2002-2019, performing on sackbut, and serving as guest historian and program annotator.

Allsen is a semiretired professional trombonist, and performed with the Madison Symphony Orchestra for 35 years (1983-2018), playing bass trombone from 1990 onward. He also performed with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and many other ensembles, including Sinfonia Sacra, the Madison Jazz Orchestra, the Jazz Players Big Band, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, and the Frank Sinatra, Jr. Orchestra. Allsen was the co-founder of the Glenwood Moravian Trombone Choir, an amateur/community group in Madison that that he directed for nearly a quarter century (1983-2007) leading the group in some 500 performances. (Allsen in still a member of the group, and beginning in 2021 is co-director.)  In July 2006, he served as Trombone Choir Director at the Moravian Music Festival in Columbus, OH.

Allsen has written nearly 200 arrangements and compositions, mostly for the Glenwood Moravian Trombone Choir.  Most of these of these have been archived by the Moravian Music Foundation.  Beginning in 2022, Aaron Hettinga Music will publish about 40 of his musical works.

He resides in Madison, WI.

Education includes:
PhD in Musicology
- University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1992
     dissertationStyle and Intertextuality in the Isorhythmic Motet 1400 -1440 (advisor, Prof. Lawrence M. Earp)
     minor area:  Applied Music (trombone)
MM in Musicology
- University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1984
BS in Music Education
- University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 1982

list of publications and papers

revised 3/4/2022

Madison Symphony Orchestra low brass on on stage in Overture Hall, October 2014: Left to right: Joyce Messer, Benjamin Skroch, Maestro John DeMain, Michael Allsen, and Josh Biere

Bass Samuel Ramey and Madison Symphony Orchestra low brass, backstage at the Oscar Mayer Theatre.  This was during a May 2001 concert, where we brought in additional players for Boito's “Prologue in Heaven” from Mefistofele.  Left to right:  Katie Kretschman (MSO second trombone), Rick Seybold, Joyce Messer (MSO principal trombone), Brian Whitty, Samuel Ramey, Michael Allsen (MSO bass trombone), Bill Irving, Terry Sliester, Paul Haugan (MSO tuba, with cimbasso).