When Neenah residents Howard Kidd and Margaret Murphy bought a home in Madison’s Parkwood Hills neighborhood for Margaret’s daughter, Mary, to live in while she pursued graduate studies at UW-Madison, they did not anticipate how quickly they themselves would begin to feel “at home” in Madison.
As a student, Mary signed up to be a Madison Symphony Orchestra ambassador to help promote the MSO’s student-rush ticket program on the UW campus. Knowing that Howard and Margaret enjoyed attending Fox Valley (Appleton) and Chicago Symphony concerts, she suggested they come down for a Madison Symphony concert. Howard and Margaret were seated in the Circle where they became acquainted with Ellis and Katie Waller, quickly learning that Ellis was a Symphony board member. “The Wallers invited us to join them at a post-concert donor reception with Music Director John DeMain and members of the orchestra,” says Howard. “We were absolutely floored when John DeMain arrived at the reception and we had an opportunity to shake his hand. We never would have had that kind of access in Chicago.” After a thoroughly enjoyable evening at the Symphony where everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and after learning that a few of their Madison neighbors were also Symphony patrons and donors, they decided to become Madison Symphony subscribers and leadership donors themselves in 2017.
Howard’s interest in classical music stems from his early experiences taking piano lessons and singing in choir. “I only took piano lessons until I was allowed to quit, but that was long enough for me to gain an appreciation for the effort takes to become really good!” says Howard. In high school, he sang Handel’s Messiah as part of a multi-choir event with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. “That was when I really fell in love with classical,” says Howard.
As for Margaret, she remembers always being interested in music and theater. “I was always an artsy person,” she says. She feels that the performing arts are so important to a healthy community and that all children should have the opportunity to discover and participate in the arts. “Madison Symphony is such a rich organization in terms of what it offers our community at large,” says Margaret. “In addition to our enjoyment of the concerts and all the other activities we like to attend, such as the luncheons, discussions in people’s homes, and the pre-concert talks, we really appreciate that the Symphony offers such wonderful education programs to get children excited about music from an early age,” says Margaret. “I think that music touches you differently at different points in your life. You can always turn to music in good times and bad, and when you are tired or stressed, your whole mood can change by listening to music. Music is a transformative experience.”
Always in search of high-quality live music experiences, Howard and Margaret recently went on a driving tour of the Midwest and they attended orchestra concerts in several midwestern cities. Howard reports, “The experience of attending a concert in Overture Hall is at least equal to, or better than, those of many other midwestern cities. It is really a gem.”
Over the past three years, Howard and Margaret’s involvement in the Symphony and Madison Symphony Orchestra League activities has increased. Howard now serves on the MSO’s Board of Directors, and the couple has increased their support to the level of concert sponsorship as a way to celebrate their wedding anniversary in November. They have also become fans of MSO’s principal organist Greg Zelek and the organ series. “I love the music so much, and as an older adult, I feel a responsibility to help keep it going for younger people who haven’t yet discovered the role it can play in their lives,” says Howard. “It’s definitely a priority for me.”