Investing in Overture is nourishing your soul

Gail Becker

“When the opportunity presents itself for Overture to reopen, so many people will be hungry for it and ready to jump in with more vigor. When that first note is sung or the first scene of a play completed, I can already hear the uproar of celebration in my ears—not just for Broadway shows, but for local artists as well.”


When Chicago-born singer and actress Gail Becker moved to Madison a decade ago, she quickly found her place in the community as a vocal coach, music director and instructor, working frequently with students at local high schools and theaters. It didn’t take long for the programming team at Overture Center to identify Becker as a valuable resource for recruiting young adults to perform at their special events.

The demand for a performing group of talented youth musicians was frequent, inspiring the creation of Overture’s Jerry Ensemble in 2013.

The Jerry Ensemble is the premier performance groups representing the Jerry Awards, a high school musical awards program that encourages, recognizes and honors excellence in high school musical theater. Students are selected through auditions each year. The Central Wisconsin Jerry Ensemble is directed by Marshall DeLonay and the Southern Wisconsin Jerry Ensemble is directed by Gail Becker.

“Initially, we performed at 16-17 events each school year,” said Becker. “Now, just seven years later, the ensemble performs year-round at 40-50 events.”

The accomplished singers of the Jerry Ensemble participate in the group 1-3 years each, delighting audiences with songs from musical theater classic gems and performing solos, duets, trios and more. Overture fans will recognize the Jerry Ensemble from its cabaret and group performances at Cocktails with Tim & Karra, Kids in the Rotunda, Frostiball and business luncheons as well as community appearances at Badgers’ games and other sporting events.

“Overture grooms this unique group of talented musicians to not only perform but to serve as ambassadors for our youth program,” said Becker. “Every time I see these students conducting themselves in front of an audience, they are so poised and speak with an excellent demeanor. The skills they’ve gained from the Jerry Ensemble will propel them through college and beyond. Overture is helping to mold our future leaders.”

Ethan Hanson, class of 2020, DC Everest Senior High School said, “One of my favorite things about being in Jerry Ensemble is that I’m able to do the thing I love and make great friends while doing it! The biggest skill I gained from being in the Jerry Ensemble is having the self-discipline to work on things daily and improve upon myself.”

Ava DeCroix, class of 2020, of Middleton High School agrees it was a valuable experience. She noted, “As a member of the Jerry Ensemble, I’ve been introduced to some of the more professional aspects of the performance world, such as networking, behind-the-scenes technology and a fast-paced rehearsal process. I definitely feel that these experiences prepared me for success in both performance and other fields at the college level.”

According to Becker, there is no substitute for live performance and art, and she dearly misses going to Overture for shows and rehearsals since the building closed in March.

“When the opportunity presents itself for Overture to reopen, so many people will be hungry for it and ready to jump in with more vigor,” said Becker. “When that first note is sung or the first scene of a play completed, I can already hear the uproar of celebration in my ears—not just for Broadway shows, but for local artists as well.”

Becker describes Overture as a beacon that draws in many diverse types of people to have amazing experiences in art, theater, performance, music and more.

“Nothing can replace live performance. It’s the breath of the soul and the human spirit,” said Becker. “There is an emptiness you feel when you’re not able to participate in live art. Humanity cannot survive without it. Therefore, supporting Overture is feeding your soul. It’s more than investing in a building and shows. You are nurturing yourself, nourishing your own soul.”

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