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String Teacher Workshops

Gerald J. Reiser: 1992 String Academy Arts Leadership Award Recipient

Gerald J. Reiser has become one of the strongest allies of the arts in Milwaukee.  “The arts,” said Reiser in a recent interview, “give an individual a balanced education, creative thinking skills, discipline, and an ability to process information.”  His commitment to the arts is evident most obviously in his accomplishments as Chairman of Marquette Electronics Foundation.

During Reiser’s first five years as Chairman (1985-1990), the Foundation granted over $130,000 annually to Milwaukee area arts organizations, including the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Dance Theater, Pabst Artist Series, Skylight Opera, and the United Performing Arts Fund.

Reiser’s particular interest in “arts in education” led to Marquette Electronic Foundation’s sole sponsorship of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra “Classical Conversations” and “Keyboard Conversations.”  The Foundation also helps fund the “Worklights Residency Program,” which enables Pabst Artist Series performers to conduct workshops, master classes and informal concerts throughout the Milwaukee area.  The Lafayette String Quartet’s April 4 visit to the String Academy was made possible by the Worklights Residency Program, as was Frank Almond’s master class for String Academy students in 1991.

Since many arts organizations rely heavily on the support of private foundations, Reiser is in a unique position to shape the cultural life of southeastern Wisconsin.  Mimi Zweig, Director of the String Academy, called Reiser last summer to request support for the February 1992 benefit concert featuring violinist Joshua Bell. Marquette Electronics Foundation promptly provided the String Academy with a $6,000 grant to produce this concert, enabling the Academy to raise $20,000 (now in an endowment fund at the Milwaukee Foundation).  Reiser has had a life-long interest in music.

His first music studies were on the trumpet, in his home town of Carlton, Michigan. Several years later, after sailing the Great Lakes as a member of the US Navy, he became a founding member of a folk rock group called The Pilgrim People.  He sang with The Pilgrim People in churches throughout southeastern Wisconsin, performing folk rock liturgies in exchange for donations from parishioners for local food pantries.

In 1975 he joined the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus (with whom He later sang on a Koss recording of Beethoven’s ninth symphony).  He has attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Marquette University, UWM, Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, and Milwaukee Area Technical College, in a wide variety of engineering, management, philosophy, music and commercial art studies.

Reiser is a member of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors, the National Children’s Museum for the Performing Arts Board of Advisors, the Skylight Opera Theater Board of Advocates, and the Milwaukee Public Schools’ Task Force on the Arts in High Schools.

Reiser has also had a distinguished career in electrical engineering.  After 15 years with General Electric, he became one of the first employees of, and, for 20 years, the Design Engineering Manager for Marquette Electronics, Inc., a Milwaukee-based company which produces medical electronics equipment used worldwide.

Reiser has 4 daughters, all of whom live in Milwaukee.  Two are musicians; one plays 7 different musical instruments and performed with Reiser in The Pilgrim People, and the other is a French horn player in Knightwinds Ensemble. The other daughters work for Marquette Electronics, one in marketing and the other as a graphic artist.  Reiser’s stepson, a former violinist, now studies at the University of Southern California Film School. His son’s violin is being used by a deserving student.  Reiser’s wife, Nancy Reiser, is the Development Director of Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera Company.

Jim Olsen

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