Conservatory of Music CEO Finds Harmony in Milwaukee

Oct 25, 2013

The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music is the oldest and largest nonprofit music school in the state.
Credit Dave Reid, flickr

It's only been about six months since Gregory Ruffer took the helm at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, but he's already composing some big plans.

Ruffer came to the post this past March after 13 years’ working in various arts organizations in Florida, including the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. His background is in music education with emphasis on saxophone, a master’s in conducting, and a doctorate in college pedagogy.

Although the weather is nicer in Florida, Ruffer says the arts scene offered little for professional musicians. Milwaukee, he says, is “so rich in culture…so rich in the arts.”

"Northerners often have a stronger value on the arts, because it’s a part of the education system, it’s a part of the churches that are up here," he says. "So I was looking forward to getting back north again."

From his office in the Conservatory's Prospect Avenue mansion, Ruffer says he loves the cacophony of activity he hears. He is happy with the level of instruction, the emphasis more on music education and a little lighter on music performance, and communicating with the Milwaukee Public School system and private schools in the area.

He says the conservatory, the oldest and largest nonprofit music school in the state, offers lessons to everybody: giving children their first taste of music education, music therapy for those it helps, and offering refresher courses for adults who wish they would have kept up with their playing. But he hopes to offer more lessons in classical music and vocal performance in the future.

Ruffer says the Milwaukee music community is “not competitive - everybody plays nicely together." Now that he has been in his position for a few months, he would like to see more integration with the music community of Milwaukee, organizations such as the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Florentine Opera.