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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Hamel Music Center features pianist Artina McCain this September

Professor, pianist, storyteller Artina McCain speaks about upcoming event at the Hamel Music Center, musical journey
Sara Bill and Ziggy Tucker/Artina McCain
Artina McCain

Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m., Artina McCain will perform her refreshingly unique program “Intersections” at the Hamel Music Center in Collins Recital Hall. Tickets for students are free for purchase online through the University of Wisconsin’s Mead Witter School of Music website. 

McCain holds a doctoral degree from the University of Texas at Austin and has built an impressive career on the foundation of her love for storytelling through the art of music — more specifically, through her ability to tell stories on the piano. Renowned by the New York Times as a “virtuoso pianist,” the confidence she has built from world-wide appraisal and performances continues to inspire others on a micro-level. 

She has branched her career out to impacting individual lives through speaking and teaching. Currently, she is associate professor of piano and coordinator of the Keyboard Area at the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music at the University of Memphis and co-founder/director of the Memphis International Piano Festival and Competition.


McCain is dedicated to community and inclusivity in her work. One recent engagement landed her on a concert organized and curated by Solange Knowles, famous singer and sister to the one and only Beyoncé. 

Everyone starts somewhere. McCain’s advice to young people just getting started with their careers is to focus on your friends, your mission and bringing other people’s talents into your circles. 

Her journey hasn’t always been easy. After receiving her degrees in piano performance, an injury kept her from performing for a few years. Putting a more positive spin on this challenge, she coined it as a “detour,” according to McCain.

“We’ll all experience some type of challenges at different stages in our life,” McCain said. “So I think the biggest thing is to not give up and to persevere whether that looks like continuing on that career path that you’ve had or maybe reinventing yourself in a way that’s more relevant based on your circumstances.”

Post-recovery, she is now an advocate for musician wellness, empowering others in ways she found to empower herself. 

As a distinguished international artist, McCain has a prolific worldwide career. Recently, she has experienced what she calls life-altering engagements. She performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York at a concert assembled by Solange Knowles, as well as at the Barbican Center in London for a program honoring the works of female composers from the early 20th century. McCain has also performed in the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie in a performance honoring victims of human trafficking.

The culmination of so many prestigious performances geared to bring awareness of those who have been forgotten by society is extremely meaningful to McCain.

Madison’s fall concert preview

McCain is such a notable artist not only for her obvious achievements but because of her authenticity and her powerful mission. 

In her upcoming concert, she will be playing her program “Intersections.” This repertoire blends “the old with the new,” while telling the story of a life journey. In one song that focuses on motherhood, she plays the popular African American spiritual weaves “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” and a sacred religious song about Mary looking at Jesus on the cross. These songs came to the public with different styles, influences and historical contexts. Franz Liszt popularized the Christian work. This Hungarian composer’s art is hailed in higher education.

Additionally, McCain features artists she describes as being in canon for centuries such as Debussy or Rachmaninoff alongside a diverse group of contemporary artists from different music genres such as Joseph Joubert and Maria Corely Thompson.

McCain also shows her passion by crafting Underrepresented Composers Concerts in her series, Mahogany Chamber.

By bringing underrepresented composers and artists to the front of the stage to explore new musical styles along with standard ones, McCain said.

“I feel like it creates a more welcoming environment, maybe a safer environment if you’re wanting to explore musical styles, but you don’t know a lot about various musical styles,” McCain said. “Yeah, they’ll always just wait five minutes, there’ll be something that you know, so it’s been really nice to be able to share music in this way.”

Through connecting lesser-known and better-known pieces and styles, these concerts stimulate meaningful conversations about music, culture and inclusivity. 

In McCain’s current position as a piano professor, she teaches applied piano one-on-one with students who want to have a career in playing or teaching. When asked about a moment when she knew she was significantly impacting her students, she says that at a music teachers conference international students came up to her that she had never met before and told her how much they loved her work.

“Work that we started for the community has branched out to something that’s even beyond our state in our country,” McCain said.

This concert won’t be one you want to miss. McCain knows how to captivate audiences of any interest. Her take on musical experiences is that there is “something for everybody.”  Even if you are a business major and have never touched an instrument in your life, storytelling is a universal means of communication.

“Regardless of whether a student is a musician or not, music is healing for the soul,” McCain said. “And so that’s something that I hope to bring in the storytelling like I was telling you, there’s themes of motherhood, there’s themes of joy, there’s themes of social justice. And if this story isn’t for you, you can learn something. So I think you should come because music is meant to be a balm. It’s medicine for us. Regardless of what we think we might like, we can come away refreshed and hopefully learning something new.”

Editor’s Note: This article was updated Sept. 25 to correct the spelling of McCain’s name and to include additional details about McCain’s education and career, as well as the music being performed.

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