Wisconsin Singers bring it home

Two performers from the Wisconsin Singers have local ties to De Pere

By Chris Rugowski

De Pere High School graduate Caden Pulley plays the trombone as a member of the Wisconsin Singers. Submitted Photos

It’s a homecoming of sorts for two De Pere natives – Caden Pulley and McGregor (Mac) Farah.

Farah and Pulley are members of the Wisconsin Singers, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s touring pop ensemble, and will perform Come Alive! at De Pere High School at 7 p.m. April 9. 

Come Alive! celebrates the past five decades of American pop music in a live 90-minute show – highlighting some of the music industry’s greatest artists, ranging from Elvis Presley and the Four Seasons, to Lady Gaga and Elton John.

Caden Pulley

Pulley, a De Pere High School graduate, said he started playing the trombone in fifth grade and played in the jazz band from sixth grade through his senior year. In high school, Pulley said he participated in the De Pere Jam Session and performed with the Chicago Street Singers. 

After high school, he said he thought about leaving music behind, but said it kept calling to him. He discovered the Wisconsin Singers on UW-Madison’s campus, auditioned, and now has three years performing under his belt.

Pulley said he is excited to play a show in his hometown, especially after the event being postponed for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “We were scheduled to go back, I was really excited to get my chance with a hometown show, but then the pandemic hit. For me that was hard. There’s a lot of hype around a hometown show. Now, we’re finally coming back to De Pere. I have a lot of family and friends coming out.”

Though majoring in math, Pulley said his time with the Wisconsin Singers has given him a new outlook on life. 

“I think there’s this narrative in college that you need to focus on academics, and anything else should be thrown away,” he said. “Music felt so far away from math, but it’s not. It’s also a huge outlet where I’ve met many of my friends. We’re in all kinds of majors, still doing music, and still committing to the music.”

McGregor (Mac) Farah

Farah hails from West De Pere High School, and said he has played the guitar since first grade. 

When he went to college, he said his plan was to stop cold turkey – mainly because he wasn’t sure about making a career out of music – instead he pursued a major in electrical engineering. 

Farah, however, said he shared Pulley’s sentiment for music.

“I missed it so much I came back,” he said. “Now I’m majoring in jazz guitar.”

Farah said he is relatively new to the organization, with only a year under his belt, but within that timeframe said he has come to appreciate what Wisconsin Singers has offered him. 

“I came to the conclusion this is unlike anything I’ve ever done before,” Farah said. “It would give me experience that I hadn’t gained yet, and would make me a well-rounded musician. I don’t regret that decision. It’s done exactly that.”

Farah also mirrored Pulley’s thoughts on the stigma around a career in music.

“There was this stigma that pursuing music is a passion project, that you’re not going to make a career out of it,” he said. “That you’re basically just throwing your future away. But what no one ever told me was you can pursue a career, while still pursuing a passion.”

The show

West De Pere High School graduate McGregor (Mac) Farah plays the guitar as a member of the Wisconsin Singers. He is currently majoring in jazz guitar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Executive Producer Abby Kennison said she is also excited for the show at De Pere High School.

“This show was started at the beginning of the pandemic, with the hopes that eventually, we would step back onto that stage and bring to life all the dreams and passions that all of us hold,” Kennison said. “You’re going to hear a song that is close to you, or a song you’ve never heard before in a way you like. Hopefully, you’ll feel inspired by the students with the energy and mastery they have by perfecting the show.”

Kennison said all arts programs require support philosophically and financially. 

“It’s hard to believe when you hear our show that we aren’t financially supported by the university, so we have to raise $128,000 in donations just to stay afloat,” she said. 

Kennison said whenever Wisconsin Singers have a presence in a community it always tries to give back.

“Not only because we hope that we’ve made an impact large enough, but we hope to be able to give the opportunity back to these communities who brought us in to work with their students and programs,” she said.

To learn more about Wisconsin Singers and details on the De Pere show, head to wisconsinsingers.com.

Chris Rugowski is a photojournalist from Green Bay who focuses on event photography, with an emphasis on bands and music. When he’s not doing live event photography, he focuses on landscapes and macro as well as writing narrative pieces to accompany photos.

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