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Music educator and professional harpist Jeanne Henderson died Feb. 12 at age 94.
Music educator and professional harpist Jeanne Henderson died Feb. 12 at age 94.

Celebrating MPS music innovator Jeanne Henderson, who has died at age 94

Earlier this month, when Jeanne Margaret Henderson passed away at the age of 94, Milwaukee lost not only one of its premier harp players, but also a tireless advocate for music education in public schools.

Henderson, who was born Jeanne Bergeim in 1922, died on Feb. 12. The funeral was held on Wednesday.

"For a woman born in 1922, she was miles ahead of the wave of feminism that would come during her daughter and granddaughter’s time," says her granddaughter Tracy Henderson.

"She headed to NY at 18, with not a fear in her head, then dyed that head (of hair) blonde and headed across the U.S., into Central and South America with her crazy harp quartet, and, when she did come home, changed the face of city."

After attending the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York City, Tracy says her grandmother had an amazingly varied career as a musician. She played with Latin legend Tito Puente, and that "crazy harp quartet" that wended its way around the globe featured – wait for it – a contortionist. Clearly, Jeanne Henderson was not one to be bound by the rules.

Here in Milwaukee she performed "The Nutcracker" with the Milwaukee Ballet and played with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. She also entertained diners at The English Room in The Pfister Hotel and The Immigrant Restaurant at The American Club in Kohler.

"If you listened to harp music at a wedding from 1960 to 2010, you also probably heard her performance," says Tracy Henderson, adding that Jeanne continued to give harp lessons until she was 90 years old. Despite the fact that Pat McCurdy’s mom was Jeanne’s best friend, the singer/songwriter did not study with Jeanne. His loss.

Perhaps most importantly, and most far-reaching, was Jeanne’s work in Milwaukee Public Schools, where she created the largest public high school harp program in the country in its day.

For a quarter of a century Henderson traveled among all MPS high schools sharing her love of and skills on the harp with Milwau…

For some of us, there's a Usinger's Day once a week.
For some of us, there's a Usinger's Day once a week.

10th annual Usinger's Day means free sausage for you!

There is nothing that is more classic Milwaukee than Usinger’s Famous Sausage and once again, Usinger’s neighbor, the Old German Beer Hall, 1009 N. Old World 3rd St., joins the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County in celebrating Feb. 23 – today! – as Fred Usinger Day.

Of course, for some Milwaukeeans – guilty as charged – there's a Usinger's Day nearly every week. I suspect restaurateur Hans Weissgerber is in the club, too.

"Usinger ‘wurstmachers’ have been making superlative quality sausage on Milwaukee's Old World 3rd Street since 1880," said Weissgerber, owner of the Beer Hall, in a statement.

"The site of the original store is located directly across the street from the Old German Beer Hall. The original family recipes have never been altered in order to meet a competitive price. To the Usinger sausage makers, it is a matter of pride to maintain their tradition of excellence."

This 10th annual celebration includes free Usinger’s brats from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., and a gratis beer sample (21 and older, of course) at a 6 p.m. keg-tapping, while supplies last.

There will also be live music by Ferdinand Buchel & Ken Brandt at noon and the Brewhouse Polka Kings from 5 until 8 p.m., as well as a variety of specials on brats, wieners, Braunschweiger, chicken sausages, sauerkraut and more from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

And, seriously, you’ll be right across the street. Don’t miss an opportunity to stop in the one-of-a-king Usinger’s retail store, where you can get the full range of Usinger’s treats – encased or otherwise.

Say hi to Fritz for me.

Valerie June met the kids at MPS' Lancaster Elementary in September. She'll see them again today before her gig at Turner Hall.
Valerie June met the kids at MPS' Lancaster Elementary in September. She'll see them again today before her gig at Turner Hall.

At Turner Hall, Valerie June reunites with friends from MPS' Lancaster School

Folk-blues singer/songwriter Valerie June plays at Turner Hall Ballroom at 8 tonight as part of the tour for her anticipated new record, "The Order of Time."

But I’m pretty sure the best moment of the day will come when she welcomes about 15 kids from MPS’ Lancaster Elementary School to the venue at 4:30 p.m. to watch her soundcheck and then spend some time at a meet-and-greet.

The event was organized as part of the Turnaround Arts program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Four MPS schools – Lancaster, MLK, Sherman Creative Arts and Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts – participate in the program, which integrates art, dance, music, theater and more across other subject areas.

The meet-and-greet will be something of a reunion because June visited Lancaster Elementary, a K3-8 school near 68th and Hampton, in September. That’s when the photo you see above was taken.

At the school, June performed and talked to kids, who had been researching June and her music for a couple weeks – drawing pictures of and writing essays about her.

June’s connection to Lancaster via the Turnaround Arts program is expected to last two years, during which time she will continue to visit and connect with kids whenever possible.

MPS' MacDowell Montessori at the Juneau Campus hosts a candidate forum this week.
MPS' MacDowell Montessori at the Juneau Campus hosts a candidate forum this week.

Parents for Public Schools hosts school board candidate forum Wednesday night

Four of the nine seats on the Milwaukee Board of School Directors are up for grabs on April 4, and there are two candidates vying for each.

To help voters get to know the candidates, Parents for Public Schools of Milwaukee hosts a candidate forum Wednesday, Feb. 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at MacDowell Montessori School at the Juneau campus, 6415 W. Mount Vernon Ave.

The program will also include a brief workshop on the proposed 2017-19 Wisconsin budget.

In District 4, Aisha Carr will challenge incumbent Annie Woodward; in District 5, incumbent Larry Miller faces Kahri Phelps Okoro; Tony Baez and Jonathan Zuniga are seeking the seat representing District 6, being vacated by Tati Joseph; and in District 7, Joey Balistreri and Paula Phillips are running for the seat currently occupied by Claire Zautke, who, like Joseph, was elected in 2013 and has declined to seek re-election.

"We can’t think of a more important way to celebrate ‘I Love My Public School’ week in Wisconsin than by meeting eight people who want to help shape policy and success for our district’s children," said PPS-MKE President Jennifer Hofschulte in a statement.

"We know that Milwaukee’s future is tied to the success of our public schools. Let’s see where the candidates agree, and don’t, on a way forward for Milwaukee Public Schools."

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and PPS-MKE says that candidates will respond to questions posed by PPS and audience members, "about the challenges facing Wisconsin’s largest school district, how parents can support and engage with the district, funding issues and more."

School board elections are held every two years for four-year terms. In 2015, voters re-elected Mark Sain (District 1), Michael Bonds (District 3) and Terry Falk (Member at large), and picked new directors in District 2 (Wendell Harris, replacing Jeff Spence) and District 8 (Carol Voss, replacing Meagan Holman).

Because no more than two candidates are running for any of the open seats, there …