Madison, Wis. – Overture Center for the Arts announced today that the high school musical theater awards program will be renamed “The Jerry Awards” (aka “The Jerrys”) for local philanthropist and arts supporter W. Jerome Frautschi.

Through the renaming process, Overture considered people in the Madison community who have had an impact on musical theater or the arts in Wisconsin.  “We are honored to celebrate the generosity of and highlight [Frautschi] as the namesake for our program,” said Tim Sauers, Overture’s vice president of programming and community engagement who began the program nearly a decade ago. “His connection and support of the arts in our community, Overture and the program made him a wonderful choice. He and his wife, Pleasant Rowland, have attended the Awards Show for many years and have supported the program through the American Girl’s Fund for Children, among many other events in the building they funded.”

In 1997, Frautschi, a fifth-generation Madisonian, and Rowland commissioned Madison’s new arts center by pledging $50 million to build what he called Overture Center for the Arts. Two years later, he pledged another $50 million. When all was said and done, he had donated $205 million — one of the largest single gifts to the arts in American history to date.

On the wall of the Center’s main entrance, called Rotunda Lobby, it says: “Overture Center, my gift to Madison, continues the tradition of civic pride and responsibility that my family has honored since 1867. It is given in appreciation of the good life Madison has given us.”

Overture’s High School Musical Theater Awards program encourages, recognizes and honors excellence in high school musical theater. Throughout this time, the program has grown into one that is recognized nationally and several recipients have grown into career musical theater professionals.  To celebrate the ten years of the program, alumni of the program will be featured. From Broadway National Tours to entertainment law, phlebotomy to politics, alumni from the program are leading the way in many industries, the ceremony will shine a spotlight on where they are today. The 2017/18 award recipients will be announced to the public in May 2018, in advance of the Awards Show on Sunday, June 10, 2018.

Participation Statistics for the 2017/18 Season:

  • 95 productions
  • 89 schools/community theater organizations
  • 30 counties
  • 35 reviewers (three reviewers attended each production)
  • 450+ students performing in annual awards show in Overture Hall
  • 95,000 people involved in the Tommy Awards through engagement with their local high school musical

As part of the planning for the ten-year anniversary in 2019, internal discussions were had to plan for a timely change of the program name in a process that includes program partners, school communities, program alumni, Overture staff and stakeholders. Directors and their production teams at involved schools as well as program alumni were asked to submit their suggestions for a new name and give feedback about the change.  That feedback provided a starting point and guided Overture Center in the process.

At the inception of this program in 2009, the Overture Center staff approached Wisconsin actor Tom Wopat to use his name and endorsement of the program with the intent to inspire Wisconsin young people that a career in the performing arts was possible. Mr. Wopat agreed to let Overture use his name to lend credibility to the new program. Since that time, he has neither participated nor supported the program financially. In October 2017, the Center announced that the “Tommy Awards” program had severed all ties with namesake Wopat and would change the name.

Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wis., features seven state-of-the-art performance spaces and five galleries where national and international touring artists, ten resident companies and hundreds of local artists engage people in nearly 700,000 educational and artistic experiences each year. Overture.org