Strung along for decades

Parsley has passion for early music

Feb. 15, 2011

As a college student in the 1970s, Joan Parsley was touched like nothing else by the centuries-old music of classical composers Antonio Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach.

"When I got into it, it was a whole other planet, a whole other world," said Parsley, 58, a palpable wonder still in her voice. "I was fascinated. Nothing else had grabbed me like this music. It was like love at first sight."

That love led Parsley to abandon a comfortable career in public relations. She was a wife and mother by then, but her husband supported her choice to study so-called "early music" in its birthplace - Europe.

The chance to study privately among European players was well worth the juggle.

"I got to hear the greatest music ever being made," Parsley said.

Two years later, once again settled in the Milwaukee area, Parsley planted the seeds for what would become the Ensemble Musical Offering, a group of more than 15 musicians who play the works of Vivaldi, Bach and others on original string, wind and keyboard instruments.

Nearly 30 years after that effort began, the Milwaukee-based ensemble has started building a home in Wauwatosa, where Parsley and her husband, Sy Kreilein, a German teacher at Marquette University High School, have lived for years.

"We have made a commitment to this neighborhood, to this community," Parsley said. "And as long as we have done that, we want to be able to share our talents in the Wauwatosa community."

After years of playing mostly at the Cathedral Church of All Saints in Milwaukee, the ensemble performed at the Wauwatosa Woman's Club. And, Parsley said, the group plans to continue performing there.

Parsley also hopes to develop a relationship with the Wauwatosa School District.

The ensemble, which has worked with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's Arts in Community Education program, has developed a 45-minute program for third- and fourth-graders called "Bach Building Blocks."

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Just the facts

NAME: Joan Parsley

AGE: 58

KNOWN FOR: Ensemble Musical Offering


PEARL OF WISDOM: "Not all musicians believe in God, but all musicians believe in Bach."


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