Local Focus

The road of rock
Vinnie Kircher strums his guitar and sings "check one two!" He’s wearing a colorful striped button-up shirt and sports a bold moustache. He surveys the crowd from a small stage made of wood, corrugated metal and sound system amplifiers. "Check one two!" He sings out again.

From White House to Field House
When President Obama visited GE Healthcare in Waukesha last February, the White House called on Milwaukeean Jesse Rosen to coordinate logistics. This isn’t as much of a stretch as it sounds because Rosen was a member of the White House advance team, which coordinates travel for the president, vice president and first lady. He’s now with the Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee.

Kindred spirits
Indie folk group Blessed Feathers is making award-winning music, but you won’t find the duo planting roots anytime soon. The newlywed couple are on the road again, leaving Wisconsin and heading west.

Smithin' school
At a Cedarburg gig with hisoutlaw country band, the Carpetbaggers, Kent Knapp of Bay View quickly became smitten with smithin’. The owner of the club where the band was playing is a musician and a blacksmith.

Change in Trajectory
Twenty years ago, Dennis Kois wrapped up an internship with the Milwaukee Public Museum. "I only wish now that the day I left I’d stood outside, shaken my fist and shouted, ‘I’m going to run this place someday!’ he laughs. And now he is having the opportunity to do just that, named MPM’s president and CEO in February.

After dance
The life of a creative professional can be beautiful, adventurous and competitive. But it can also be short-lived. That is why three members of the Milwaukee Ballet Company launched Milwaukee Dancers’ Fund Inc. earlier this year to help dancers, still in their prime, fund careers after their stage life ends.

Marine mama
When Shelley Ballmann was growing up in Aurora, Ill., she rescued squirrels, raccoons and lizards, and nursed baby birds back to health. Her neighbors knew she was the one to contact if a gosling flock was missing its parents. "I was one of those kids who saved every animal I came across," Ballmann says.

Good vibes
Cross a ukulele with a rapper riff and an upbeat hook and what have you got? The bright new sound of up-and-coming pop star Corey Pieper.

Returning his talent
Oconomowoc native PT Gazell was 15 years into his second career as an audio engineer for the radio, television and film industry when a young documentary filmmaker came to him with an idea to make a movie about the legendary Station Inn in Nashville.

Country's calling
Move over, "American Idol" winners. Step aside, "Voice" finalists. Make room for Nora Collins. This 20-year-old singer/songwriter from Brookfield is continuing to make a name for herself on the local music scene. Collins was named the Wisconsin Area Music Industry’s 2012 and 2013 Rising Star of the Year and was recently named the 2014 WAMI Singer/Songwriter of the Year.

Rockin' attitude
The pairing of legendary musicians Alejandro Escovedo and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck drew eager music fans to Turner Hall, but it was rock violinist Susan Voelz’s ability to add beauty or grit to the music that stole the show.

Inking the deal
When Jim Francis was in his late teens and early 20s in Southern California, he admits he was on a roller coaster of drugs, alcohol and "almost anything I could get my hands on." It wasn’t until the LAPD kicked in the door at his dealer’s house — and pinned most of the drugs on Francis — that he decided to go straight.

Action! Mode
Living in Milwaukee, we often take the beauty and splendor of Lake Michigan for granted. Now our own Great Lake plays a prominent role in an upcoming movie. Bayside resident Jeff Gendelman wrote and produced "The Surface," an indie film in which Lake Michigan is virtually a main character.

Made of steel
Richard Edelman can’t remember a time when he wasn’t around metal. Following his father into the scrap iron business, Edelman, who lives in the Milwaukee area, later became successful in the steel industry in Chicago, Cleveland and Gary, Ind. At the age of 58, he decided to venture onto a different ore-laden path — steel sculpture.

Curtain call
It’s been 12 years since Gary Witt was named executive director and president of The Pabst Theater. While his accomplishments have been more than impressive, it’s clear that Witt’s first priority is the betterment of our city. Witt shares his most memorable moments, the importance of supporting local businesses and Milwaukee’s promising future.

Urban influences
The public art installations in four Milwaukee neighborhoods aren’t just innovative creative works, they are meaningful expressions of those who live there. Created on and around foreclosed and boarded up buildings in Burnham Park, Sherman and Washington parks, Harambee and Lindsay Heights, the artwork, funded by a Joyce Foundation grant, is the result of hours of community conversations in order to create works that reflect the culture, challenges and hope that lives there.

Mayoral maybes
Although Tom Barrett handily won a third term as Milwaukee mayor last year, speculation about who might run for the city’s top political office in 2016 is already percolating. "Mayor Barrett is well positioned to run again in 2016 if he chooses, but there’s still hope of finding a viable candidate to run against him," says Janet Boles, professor emerita of political science at Marquette University. So who’s being mentioned about town as a potential candidate?

Finding his way
Trying to draw meaning out of Jason Rohlf’s paintings is like trying to capture all of the details of a bustling urban scene: standing before the canvas, it constantly changes and evolves, forcing the viewer into a flexuous state of reinterpretation. It is everything you think it is, and everything you think it’s not.

Game Changers
It takes guts to be a game-changer, says Milwaukee Wave soccer club owner Sue Black, but she subscribes to Helen Keller’s philosophy, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

In the danger zone
How do you get invited to Vanity Fair magazine’s party at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York? Travel to the most dangerous place on earth (Puntland, an autonomous portion of Somalia); spend two-plus years focusing the unblinking eye of your Canon 5D camera on a rogues’ gallery and willingly risk your life alongside other participants to make a documentary. That’s how Milwaukeean Adam Ciralsky earned his glass of expensive champagne.

Sailing Solo
When the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center hosts the U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship Sept. 5-8, athletes from across the country will be in the city to compete. One of the toughest sailors to beat will be John Ruf of Pewaukee, who first launched his own boat on Pewaukee Lake at the age of 9.

Alluring Milwaukee
Many Milwaukeeans who leave the city to study, to build their careers or simply to see the world realize they can never truly say goodbye. When they return, they find there really is no place like home. Then there are others who relocate here from other points across the globe and are finding a lot to love about their adopted city, from the scenic beauty of Lake Michigan to the friendliness of the people, and a whole lot more.

Schooled in Tradition
Like it or not, ours is an assembly-line age. Virtually everything we own, from our cradles to our coffins, is manufactured en masse. And for good reason — by keeping costs low, mass production allows all of us to afford a higher standard of living.

Nontraditional families face obstacles to social acceptance
There are few things less controversial than the oat bran rings produced under the cereal brand, Cheerios. That all changed this summer when the "first food of children everywhere," released the seemingly innocuous commercial, "Just Checking."

Schooled in Tradition
Twin sisters Divya and Soumya Kodali completed two rites of passage this year: Graduation from Hartland Arrowhead High School and, in a dazzling ceremony, taking the stage at the New Berlin West Performing Arts Center to perform the Bharatnatyam, a dance with roots in India that date back more than 2,000 years.

Living the Dream
She was 4 years old, cast as "Jolly the Elf" in the play "A Rock N’ Roll Christmas" at Deerwood Day Care Center in Brown Deer, when Kathy Sue Holtorf got her first taste of the challenging world of show business.

Taking a stand
On a clear morning in early May, Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. sits astride his horse, his posture firm, in MacArthur Square in downtown Milwaukee. While a photographer snaps his picture, a news crew appears and begins filming. Shortly after the shoot wraps up, a reporter swoops in to ask Clarke how the photo session is benefiting taxpayers. Clarke looks the reporter squarely in the eye and says, "What kind of question is that?"

Brave in the Face of Danger
There are heroes among us. Every year, at its Brave Hearts Awards celebration, the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red Cross makes sure that they do not go unnoticed. The Brave Hearts Awards recognize the life-saving achievements of people who have stepped up under extraordinary circumstances to come to the aid of others. The 2013 honorees, in six categories, have all had their mettle tested in life-threatening situations and prevailed. The Hero of the Year, Cristal Wilson, is just 10 years old.

Neo expression
The crowd of kids and adults gathered around Ben Seidman as his fingers fluttered around the deck of cards. His lean digits were like a hummingbird about to land in the courtyard of Lynden Sculpture Garden. After a few waves and moves in a shuffle that would make a chemin de fer croupier envious, out pops the correct card previously selected by one of the youngsters. Applause all around.
Beautiful heart
The Steinway piano is out of proportion in the modest Mequon apartment, but right-sized for its place in Sigrid Gullickson’s existence.
Neo expression
Growing up in a large family in Fox Point, Peter Kudlata quickly learned that he could earn extra cash by cutting grass in his neighborhood. So, even as an English major at St. Norbert College, he’d hitchhike home on weekends to keep up with a growing lawn care gig that helped pay for school.
Celluloid Adventures
If anybody can spell "Oconomowoc," it has to be Andy Gillies and Joe Haas, two rising young Wisconsin filmmakers. The reason why their spelling is on target is obvious. Their most recent production is a comedy of the same name as the Waukesha County community.
Indie Impresario
Michael Raisler’s love of making movies harkens back to his childhood in Wauwatosa. Today, Raisler has realized his movie-making dreams, as executive producer of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" — this summer’s blockbuster indie film — which tells the story a young girl dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane that turns her Louisiana island world upside down.

Living the dream
One of Peter Shelley’s earliest memories is crossing the Pyrenees Mountains on foot with his mother, Ruth, and his little brother, George.
Poor little George had to be gagged so he wouldn’t make any noises that would give away their location. Little did young Peter know that years later, his courageous journey would earn him an Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


Redemption song
His friends and family know him by his birth name, Mark Phillips Jr., but Milwaukee recording artist MP Luciano — who adapted his stage name after gangster Charlie "Lucky" Luciano — is a master of transformation. Now, at 31, he’s feeling mighty lucky himself.

Strumming success
Nora Collins launched her songwriting career when she was 14, just to break the monotony. "I was bored that summer and had an old guitar laying around my room," she says. "I only knew four chords."

Scholastic achievement
Amy Mrotek is holding her breath. Her Pius XI High School creative writing teacher, Dan Martin, has handed back her short story, "Oil and Water," not with a grade, but a note: "See me." She wonders what she’s done wrong. After class, Martin explains.
On the fast track
When Laura Bray decided to pursue her master’s degree in 2002, she was working full time for Milwaukee’s Department of City Development and juggling a heavy extracurricular schedule. But the urban redevelopment advocate recognized that an MBA was necessary to advance her career, so she enrolled in Marquette University’s accelerated MBA program.
Changing lives through music
If music is the universal language, music education should know no boundaries. Thanks to a community effort, students at Hadfield Elementary School in Waukesha are learning to play classical music using "El Sistema," or "The System" — an approach to teaching music that originated in South America.
What a feeling
Two photo albums dramatically show the "before" and "after" of the heart surgeries that saved Helen Kraklow’s life. The first holds snapshots taken when Helen was a baby, even more helpless than most infants. She’s hooked up to an assortment of tubes and monitors, and bandages protect an incision across her tiny chest. "I still get choked up," says her dad, Tom Kraklow.

Leader of the pack
To say Bernice Larson is an excellent bridge player is an understatement. Larson plays a style of bridge known as duplicate bridge, in which you don’t win by playing the hand dealt to you. Instead, you play the same cards as your opponents — but play them better.

Words with friends
Both novice and seasoned writers, at one point or another, have what Nobel-prize-winning author J.M. Coetzee calls the "bout with the page." It’s that drought when the words can’t find their natural rhythm, or don’t show up at all.


Here comes Kitty
It’s often said that great art runs in the family. And Kitty Sturrock is proving that to be true. The Mequon resident, whose mother was an artist and grandfather an architect, has been chosen as one of the featured artists for this year’s Channel 10 Auction, which airs April 27-May 5.

An idea that stuck
Like many of his fellow sixth-graders at Swallow Elementary in the town of Merton, Greyson MacLean has always liked messing around with Legos. He just wasn’t a fan of the stickers that came with them. They were semi-permanent, he says, and left a sticky residue on the plastic blocks.

London calling
Gwen Jorgensen never dreamed of becoming an Olympic athlete. Even during college, when she reached All-American status in track, she didn’t have her sites set on representing the United States at the games.

Live, learn and pass it on
The area's top educators share from-the-heart insight 
for making the most of your family's educational experience.

The talk
When older adults and their children talk about the senior possibly moving, things can get heated. "We tend to play the conversation over and over in our head, ahead of time, and prepare our arguments," says Adele Lund, director of community relations for the Laureate Group of senior residences.

To hell and back
William Rossman was a fresh-faced boy of 19 when he enlisted in the Army Air Force in January 1943, eager to see action in World War II. Soon he would be in the thick of some of the most ferocious air battles in the European Theater.

Living proof
On a Wednesday morning five summers ago, Mary Schneider’s bed at Froedtert Hospital was rolled into a surgical holding area. Nearby was another bed where Schneider’s sister, Amy Sanner, lay waiting for the biggest day of their lives.
A win-win-win
For an hour each Saturday, Kevin Tock proudly watches his 5-year-old son, Bryce, smile and laugh as he plays soccer, though Tock has a different perspective on the game than most parents.

Flying solo
M reveals Milwaukee's 20 hottest singles - and what makes them tick.

Frozen in time
In August 2010, Milwaukee conservator Cricket Harbeck boarded a C17 cargo plane in Christchurch, New Zealand, and headed for Antarctica as a contractor for the Antarctic Heritage Trust, sponsored by the Natural History Museum in London.

Urban renewal
The Rev. David Shields believes he has experienced a bit of divine intervention. Without a debilitating disease that struck him about two decades ago, the Jesuit priest might never have come to Milwaukee and created Casa Romero Renewal Center, a bilingual retreat on Bruce Street that offers spiritual programs to the Latino community.

All things mommy
For an hour each Saturday, Kevin Tock proudly watches his 5-year-old son, Bryce, smile and laugh as he plays soccer, though Tock has a different perspective on the game than most parents.

Band of brothers
As a co-founder of Guitars for Vets Inc., vice president and executive director Patrick Nettesheim sees something amazing happen when a veteran picks up a guitar.
Science guy
Science, says Elm Grove teenager Liam McCarty, "isn’t static." McCarty may be poised to make his own contributions to the changing world of science after winning a recent nationwide competition.

Glee, Milwaukee style
"Hey, kids, let’s sing and dance!" That’s just what First Stage Children’s Theater has a hard-working group of kids doing for fun ... and learning. Founded in 1987, the company has blossomed from a small theater for young audiences to a nationally renowned organization.

Making a 180
Read about three Milwaukee area residents and how they changed their lives to become an Ironman triathlete, a heart attack survivor who now lives for the gym, and a once morbidly obese mom who lost 110 pounds by walking, eating better and a yoga habit that still won’t quit.


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