The United States women’s national soccer team made an undeniable statement this year winning their 4th straight world cup and setting a staggering 20 new records in the process including scoring more points in one game against Thailand than the United States men’s soccer team had scored in ALL of their games from the 2010 and 2014 world cup’s combined! The chant of “Equal Pay” catapulted a sports victory into a sharp debate over inequalities and obstacles that women still face in 2019.
Now imagine the year 1973. Watergate, the 1973 oil crisis, the 1970s energy crisis and the end of the Vietnam War were among the major events dominating culture in the US. Women had just been permitted to run in the Boston Marathon the year before and it would still be another 5 years before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 which blocked employers from being able to fire women from their job for being pregnant. Roe v. Wade was the landmark case in 1973 and for the first time ever, women in the US Open would receive the same prize money as their male counterparts. Well apparently, no one told Marlys that the idea of a woman in charge and starting her own organization in a male-dominated field just wasn’t possible because that is exactly what she did.
Marlys continued to sing with the Chicago Baroque Ensemble under the baton of Victor Hildner in Chicago, but once kids came into the picture the commute to Chicago became too much. Marlys joined the Lutheran A Capella choir in Milwaukee directed by Eldon Balko who upon hearing her voice encouraged her to become a soloist. Marlys began singing all over as a mezzo-soprano but always had a longing to sing the Baroque repertoire she had been performing in Chicago. Ralph seeing Marlys’ passion for music and the amazing impact her voice made on others took charge of holding down the homefront and encouraged Marlys to go back and pursue a master’s degree in vocal performance.
With each accomplishment and the steadfast support she received from Ralph, Marlys became a well respected and revered musician and ambassador of vocal music in Milwaukee. Taking her experience with the Chicago group, the talented local singers she met through the Lutheran A Capella choir, and an unwavering desire to elevate music in the greater Milwaukee area Marlys became the Music Director and founder of the Schütz Choir named after Heinrich Schütz a German composer and organist regarded as the most important German composer before Johan Sebastian Bach. This would lay the bedrock for what would eventually become the Master Singers of Milwaukee.
Marlys had a presence about her that transcended gender and those who met her could not help but feel deep respect and admiration for her. With an amazingly supportive husband urging her to chase her dreams she broke with societal stereotypes and her peers loved her for it. Rather than settle for what was available to her or compromise her passion she went out and created what she envisioned and took a passionate and talented following with her. She didn’t break 20 world records but she created something brand new and unique from nothing but a dream and a drive to see it through.
Next we will continue our story with the beginnings of the Schütz Choir and how it culminated in becoming the Master Singers of Milwaukee. We invite you to share your comments and memories over the years of what the MSM has meant to you. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss any installments of the History of the MSM as we build-up to the start of our 47th season.
A special thank you to all of those who have reached out sharing personal memories and photos. We have the best fans in the city as you prove time and time again.