Why I support...

Hear from our donors and benefactors on what Milwaukee Ballet means to them and why they choose to support our mission and work.

  • Donna & Donald Baumgartner

    Donna and Donald Baumgartner have been close members of the Milwaukee Ballet family for decades. In 2017, their lead gift spurred the creation of the Capital Campaign to create our new home, Baumgartner Center for Dance. We chatted with longtime Board member Donna Baumgartner about what drew her to our artform, and why she chooses to support Milwaukee Ballet.

    MB: What is your background with ballet? How did you come to be involved/interested?

    DB: Sometime in the 1960s my mother and I went to see Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in Giselle at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. I wept and my mother hooted and hollered like she was at a football game. It was odd that one moment or movement could illicit such diverse responses and I was charmed. Ballet is everything wrapped in one package, the ultimate collaboration of art forms and crafts. The art of storytelling, music, historical and/or contemporary links, the tremendous athleticism and grace that can convey both great hilarity and great tragedy with the flick of a wrist that captivated me.

    MB: How did you first get involved with Milwaukee Ballet?

    DB: When I first moved to Milwaukee in 1979, [my husband] Donald was already a donor. We bought season tickets for Friday date nights with another couple. We went to the first Ballet Ball at the newly acquired Tivoli Palm Garden, that later became the Jodi Peck Center. I joined a committee to help strategize a series of dinners known as “Dinner for Tutu.” We hosted several over the years at our house with Danny Forlano, the conductor of the Ballet Orchestra, as the featured chef and us as featured servers.

    I was invited on the Board. I mostly centered around special events and development. I served on the search committee for the Artistic Director, first for Simon Dow, who started the choreographic competition, and two years later, a new search culminated in (our hero) Michael Pink.

    MB: What is your favorite Milwaukee Ballet production and why?

    DB: I would love to see [Michael Pink’s] La Bohéme again, and Dracula is always a thrill.

    MB: What do you wish more people knew about Milwaukee Ballet?

    DB: Milwaukee Ballet has become so much more a part of the community through its outreach and engagement programs. Tour de Force shows the best side of the ballet family. The commitments from the dancers to share their time and their love of movement with differently abled children is a priceless gift to the families whose children find joy and inspiration to move in ways that are difficult for them. This program, along with the sensory-friendly Nutcracker performances, exemplify the generous spirit of Milwaukee Ballet.

    MB: What does Milwaukee Ballet mean to you?

    DB: The Ballet has become part of our lives and our travels… Donald and I have had the good fortune to be able to help support the vision of Milwaukee Ballet and hope through our efforts to encourage others to support its continued growth in our community.

    Thank you Donna and Donald, and the Baumgartner family, for your past and continued support!

  • Jason Fricke

    Jason Fricke has been a longtime dancer sponsor, resident in-studio artist, and a member of the Milwaukee Ballet family for decades. We chatted with Jason about what drew him to our artform, and why he chooses to support Milwaukee Ballet. 

    MB: Briefly, what is your background with ballet? How did you come to be involved/interested?

    JF: I was watching a rehearsal in the studios of the Stuttgart Ballet in 1974. I had a sketchbook with me and began to draw. I am still drawing.  Ballet has brought passion and purpose and inspiration into my life.

    MB: How did you first get involved with Milwaukee Ballet?

    JF: At the university, we would get student tickets to the dress rehearsals. In a way, we were shown what could be possible for us as artists if we followed our vision. Years later, I was able to use the income from my art sales to support and thank the artists who so inspired me.

    MB: What is your favorite Milwaukee Ballet production?

    JF: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet have always been fantastic! Troy Game at the Pabst Theater was a once in a lifetime performance. So many others.

    MB: Why do you choose to give to Milwaukee Ballet?

    JF: I give to acknowledge the profound impact that art has had on my life and to empower the Milwaukee Ballet to enrich our community and to inspire new artists in the years ahead. The dancers of the Milwaukee Ballet always encouraged me to follow my own dreams, to challenge myself, to persist through adversity, and to always reach for the brilliance that lives within us all.

    Thank you Jason for your wonderful support and for inspiring us with your art!

  • Dr. Suzanne Martens

    Dr. Suzanne Martens is a long-time supporter and member of the Milwaukee Ballet Family.  In addition to her support as a Board Member and proud sponsor of Company Artist Itzel Hernandez, Dr. Martens has been indispensable in helping us navigate the COVID-19 pandemic as an advisor on our Health & Safety Committee. Her commitment and love for our organization is evident, and we asked her to share a bit about why she chooses to support Milwaukee Ballet.

    MB: How did you first get involved with Milwaukee Ballet?

    SM: Throughout college I took advantage of the student discount seats that are available just prior to performances. I could not afford much, but I stood and applauded until my hands went numb. I attended regularly enough to be added to mailing lists, and eventually received calls about being a subscriber. My reply was “When I have a real job, I will have season tickets to opening night and box seats.” When I returned to Wisconsin after residency and fellowship training, I bought season tickets for opening night in box seats. I have been there ever since.

    I eventually met many of the staff and dancers and was introduced to the idea of being a sponsor. Then, in 2018 I was invited to interview for a position on the Board of Directors. This has been a fascinating experience to discuss and support the business side of the Ballet. Little did anyone know that my training in emergency medicine, disasters and public health, would turn out to be quite useful as I joined the newly formed Health & Safety Committee.

    MB: What is your favorite Milwaukee Ballet production and why?

    SM: I knew this question was coming, and it is impossible to answer. Dracula, Peter Pan, Mirror Mirror, Beauty and the Beast, La Bohéme, Swan Lake, Giselle, Dorian Gray are all fabulous productions with the dancing and acting. I also really love the Genesis performances and other opportunities for the Company to explore with guest choreographers. And I just saw a vintage photo from The Virgin Forest, which was one of my favorites back in my student discount days. So many great memories!

    MB: What do you look forward to with Milwaukee Ballet each year?

    SM: The opportunities for Company members to choreograph and produce pieces. The MBII MOMENTUM show. And, of course, I bring as many people to The Nutcracker as I can.

    MB: Why is it important to you that the arts are supported in Milwaukee?

    SM: In appreciation of live performances, I love to hear the stories about what did not go quite right, and what was done to fix or adjust to the challenge. The arts teach life skills, such as concentration, perseverance, teamwork, leadership, planning, organization, the courage to be creative, and the fortitude to move forward when things don’t go your way.

    Thank you, Suzanne, for your generous and unwavering support!