Mile of Music honored with Lawrence’s 2015 Collaboration in Action Award

A three-year old festival that has turned downtown Appleton into a mecca for music lovers far and near each August was honored Tuesday, Sept. 29 by Lawrence University during the college’s seventh annual Report to the Community.

Mile of Music co-founder Cory Chisel addresses the audience after accepting Lawrence’s 2015 Collaboration in Action Award.

Brian Pertl, dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, who was involved from the embryonic stages of the festival’s planning, and his wife, Leila Pertl, who serves as the festival’s music education curator, presented Mile of Music organizers with the sixth annual Lawrence University Collaboration in Action Award.

The award recognizes an individual or organization, who, in partnership with Lawrence, has provided exemplary service to the Fox Cities community through strategic vision, leadership influence, long-standing commitment and enthusiasm, financial contributions and/or volunteerism.

Bob Pedersen, president and chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries NCW, was the featured speaker for the event. He spoke about the need for the community to be tolerant and accepting of all people.

Festival co-founders Dave Willems, CEO of Willems Marketing, and Appleton native singer-songwriter Cory Chisel launched Mile of Music in 2013 as a showcase for original artisan music and hands-on music education created and performed throughout downtown Appleton.

Last month’s “Mile 3” set festival records with 750 live music performances by 210 artists in 65 venues, including Lawrence’s own Memorial Chapel, which Chisel has described as a space personally more special to him than Carnegie Hall.

A critical component of the festival’s success has been a concerted focus on music education, led by Leila Pertl, a 1987 Lawrence graduate and a harp instructor at the Lawrence Academy of Music. For each of the first three festivals, she has assembled a hand-picked team of a dozen or more educators, nearly all of whom have ties to the college. Collectively they have led songwriting and instrument workshops as well as sing-alongs, helping participants get in touch with their “inner musicians.”

Singer/songwriter Cory Chisel performed at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel during this year’s Mile of Music festival, which he helped launch in 2013.

Beyond the music education team, Lawrence has helped make the festival successful both in front of and behind the scenes. Sixteen alumni representing four bands were among the Mile 3  performers, while four student interns at Willems Marketing and nearly a dozen Lawrence-connected volunteers helped with a variety of logistical tasks to keep things running smoothly.

“The festival has been a collaborative venture from its earliest planning stages,” said Burstein. “The inclusive approach of co-founders Dave Willems and Cory Chisel has paid off in Mile of Music’s strong community support and diverse programming, including a distinctive music education component led by Leila Ramagopal Pertl that gives festivalgoers abundant opportunities to be music makers.

“Lawrence music educators, musicians, volunteers, interns and venues all help make Mile of Music a success,” Burstein added, “and we are delighted to recognize Mile of Music with the sixth annual Lawrence University Collaboration in Action Award.”

As a catalyst for change, the festival is helping drive Appleton’s economic well-being as well as redefining Appleton as a community that embraces the arts.

“What I’m really excited about is where we will be at Mile 10 or Mile 15 or Mile 20 as a community, and how Lawrence plays a role in developing our creative economy and creative identity,” said Pertl.

Leila Pertl (right) has been instrumental in the success of Mile of Music as the festival’s music education curator.

Lawrence’s connection with the festival extends to one of its mainstays, alumnus Nathan Litt, who serves on the front lines as its director of operations.

“The Collaboration in Action Award recognizes our team’s efforts and community partnerships, for which we’re certainly most grateful,” said Litt, a 2008 Lawrence graduate. “On a personal level, because of my ties to Lawrence as a graduate and former employee, this award is very gratifying. Outside of earning my degree from Lawrence, this recognition is a huge personal honor and means a great deal to me.”

Mile of Music joins Riverview Gardens (2014), Boys & Girls Club of the Fox Cities (2013), the Appleton Area School District (2012), the YMCA of the Fox Cities (2011) and the Mielke Family Foundation (2010) as previous winners of Lawrence’s Collaboration in Action Award.

Lawrence’s involvement with the greater Fox Cities community includes:

  • 840 volunteer participants provided 12,492 volunteer hours to 173 community agencies during the 2014-15 academic year.
  • 78 student organizations provided volunteer service in the community.
  • 31 local employers provided internships to 58 Lawrence students.
  • Lawrence Academy of Music teachers and students provided 95 free community concerts, recitals, master classes and presentations during the 2014-15 academic year. More than 1,500 community members, ranging in age from 6 months to 81, participated in voice and musical instrument instruction at the Academy.
  • 2,061 Lawrence alumni live in the 18-county NEW North Region.

    Lawrence University
    Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.