In 2015, the Madison Symphony Orchestra League created the John DeMain Award for Outstanding Commitment to Music. The award recognizes an individual or individuals for their longstanding and unwavering support of the League, the Madison Symphony Orchestra and music in the community. The presentation of the award is the focal point of the League’s Symphony Gala fundraiser in September. Learn more and RSVP to attend by Friday, August 26!

Since Stan and Shirley Inhorn received the first award, the MSOL has given the award to Valerie Kazamias, Marilyn and Jim Ebben, Carolyn White, and, most recently, to Marian Bolz. Each individual or couple had a unique story of their involvement with music. This year’s recipient is Judy Topitzes, who will receive her award when the Gala is held on Friday, September 9.

Judy’s love of music began at home in Marinette, WI, where she grew up in a musical family; her father, a graduate of Lawrence Conservatory, taught band and orchestra. She has memories as a child of listening to Wisconsin Public Radio classic music broadcasts at breakfast. “I begged my father to give me piano lessons when I was four and began lessons with other teachers at six, “says Judy, who explains “I took violin lessons and played in school orchestra through high school. Our family attended local subscription concerts, and I performed in the community Handel’s Messiah performances both in choirs and orchestras.” She sang in her father’s church choir and in the summer, the music didn’t stop; Judy, her parents, and sibling sang duets during summer services when the choir was on vacation!

Her commitment to music as a young person brought her to Madison for state school music competitions and to attend the UW Summer Music Clinic. As a University of Wisconsin student, she sang in a campus church choir and was a member of the Wisconsin Union Music Committee. She remembers chairing publicity for the Isaac Stern concert in the Union Theater. “My reward was to sit next to Mr. Stern at a post-concert dinner!”

Her active support of music as in our community continued through her volunteer involvement with the Madison Symphony Orchestra League, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, and more. She joined the MSOL in 2001 and chaired numerous committees and fundraising events during that time and was President of the League from 2005-2007. She has served on the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Board as a Director or Advisor since 2005. She was a member of the Madison Symphony Chorus and sang with the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church Choir for almost 25 years.

In her professional career, she was a social worker with the Madison Metropolitan School District. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Masters of Science in School Work from the University of Wisconsin- Madison. She and her husband Nick have two grown sons.

The MSOL looks forward to celebrating Judy’s lifelong passion for music and commitment to music in Madison on Friday, September 9. Tickets for the 2022 Symphony Gala are on sale through August 26. The League welcomes all who share a love of music and want the fellowship of other music lovers, like Judy Topitzes, to join the League. Membership activities support the Symphony’s Community Engagement and Education programs.


This story first appeared in the Fall 2020 edition of The Score. It has been updated to include current information about this year’s Symphony Gala.