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The Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra Plays On, 114 Years Later


The Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra has been making music since 1900. It is the oldest fretted instrument organization in the country.

In the 114 years of its existence, the orchestra has performed countless times – including twice on the very popular public radio program A Prairie Home Companion.

This Sunday, they’ll feature works performed by three mandolin soloists, as well as a number of ensemble pieces as well. Lake Effect' s Bonnie North was able to get a preview of that concert with guitarist and new musical director Rene Izquierdo, assistant musical director Katy Vandenberg, former director and now librarian and archivist Paul Ruppa and manager Ruth Williams in the studio.

"The original name of the group was the Bon Ami Musical Circle,  which has to do with good friends. And that's really a big part of our group, comraderie," Ruppa says.

He joined the group thirty five years ago when there were only six members. Now, the numbers have grown to twenty five. Ruppa says it has made "a world's difference, and it's just been so exciting. I've loved just about every minute of it."  

Larghetto and Arando from Duetto #3 for mandolin and guitar by Filippo Gragnani, performed by Katy Vandenberg on mandolin and Rene Izquierdo on guitar.

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.