And the Band Played On – ‘MTU Jazz: Quarantined’ Livestream Concert

Adam Meckler (Visual and Performing Arts), Michigan Tech’s director of Jazz Studies, and his students in three Michigan Tech jazz ensembles refused to let the quarantine stop the music.

Meckler’s students, from wherever the quarantine found them, teamed up via shared videos to undertake an experiment to blend music and dance, with similarly home-bound dance students at State University of New York-Brockport, for a one-of-a-kind dance and music collaboration.

That collaboration has allowed a hybrid event of sorts to take shape as the final product of their experimentation. A livestreamed concert, “MTU Jazz: Quarantined,” will take place on the Rozsa Center’s official Facebook page at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 13.

Meckler said the idea of a jazz/dance collaboration began to take shape when he and Greg Woodsbie, lead professional staff accompanist and music instructor at SUNY-Brockport, were undergraduates at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, nearly 20 years ago.

The ensembles involved in the online concert are the Workshop Big Band, R&D Big Band and Jazz Lab Band. Calling it a first-of-a-kind event at Michigan Tech, Meckler said the concert grew out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Michigan Tech was on spring break when the order came to stay at home and stay safe. It was at that moment that Jazz students at MTU knew that they’d have to get creative in order to continue to make music together,” he said. “Each of our three big bands decided to remotely record and video one song that we had been working on during the spring semester. Additionally, 11 members of MTU’s Jazz program teamed up with 11 dance students at SUNY-Brockport and collaborated on making music and dance videos.” (View one of the videos).

Students created music for these videos in a variety of ways, including solo improvisations, multilayered songs and electronic music. The results of these collaborations will be premiered during the “MTU Jazz: Quarantined” concert, along with each big band’s final recording/video project.

Meckler will present these videos live from the Rozsa Facebook Page, and will also be available for a live Q&A session during a short intermission.


VPA Student Awards and Scholarship Recipients

The Department of Visual and Performing Arts has announced its student award and scholarship recipients. Each year, a nomination and selection process is conducted by VPA faculty and staff with input from department students to identify outstanding student achievement. Below is a list of recognized students.

Department Scholar: Maddy Hunt

Maddy is always producing incredible work, willing to teach others, and excited about new opportunities in sound. She keeps a positive attitude and is simply kind to others. She is Vice President of Soundgirls, involved with Sound and Lighting Services, Huskygames, and Pep Band! She was recently a regional winner of the Sound Design Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival sound design in the Tech Theatre production of Eurydice. She always stays organized, comes through on her commitments, and communicates when she needs a hand. She has a very positive way of encouraging others to improve the quality of their work and to get everyone on board with deadlines and working earlier and more regularly rather than in last minute scrambles.

Women of Promise: Ally Southgate

Ally is a person of theatre. Although she is a Theatre and Entertainment Technology major, she is an actress and singer as well. She wants to know how everything works together; so, she cheerfully takes each new job that comes her way, thereby, excelling in stagecraft, scene painting, and management. She has recently appeared in Tech Theatre productions of Sunday in the Park with George and Eurydice.

In advanced acting, she demonstrated her ability to play against type. She is tenacious and meticulous. The acting profession places great stock in taking emotional risks. During auditions, I asked her to use her body tension as the foundation for her voice and the motivation of the character. She went very still, thinking. Then her demeanor shifted. She became focused. She whispered very quietly; “This is hard.” Then she did it. She became a very different person right there, quietly, intensely. She finds value in trying new experiences. She is a Woman of Promise, the “real deal” all around.

All Arts: Aaron Christianson

Aaron is a Theatre and Entertainment Technology major, a Music minor, and an Art minor. He is dedicated and active in all three areas. His work is dynamic and thoughtful – he often makes projects that balance craftspersonship and concept, and he enjoys making works of art that have a playful edge.

Aaron is a considerate collaborator: he brings strong ideas to the table and he is open to (lots of) change. He is often seen working in the theatre scene shop, or backstage, for productions. He is passionate about all forms of art. Aaron is a leader to whom the other students often look to for guidance. He’s been an asset to the music ensembles and particularly the Jazz program. We will miss him when he graduates!

Art Award: Kassie Baril

Kassie is a Theatre and Entertainment Technology major, an Art minor, and Lead Student Gallery Assistant for the Rozsa Gallery. In her time as the Rozsa Gallery Assistant (2017-present), she has installed eight exhibitions and supervised four undergraduate peer gallery assistants. Kassie is an exceptionally hard worker with a keen eye for artistic quality. Her attention to detail, and her care in handling fragile works of art, has allowed faculty to delegate special projects to her with confidence.

Collaborators note that she is calm, clear and organized–student actors and technicians likewise respect her very much. It’s important to her to take good care of a production as a whole. She is detailed, friendly, considerate, thoughtful, careful, specific, and always working to improve. We have been tremendously impressed by her dedication to her creative work and to the department.

Music: Sean Hanson

Sean Hanson is the go-to mallet percussionist in the Superior Wind Symphony, and can work out any part (including the transcribed guitar solo from Steely Dan’s “I Got the News”). We have witnessed him organizing recording sessions where he plays piano in a jazz combo, which records his original compositions. He is also a member of the Pep Band, and so plays many events, on drums.

Sean is a fantastic person and budding jazz piano player and composer/arranger. He took it upon himself to start a video game music ensemble along with fellow jazz musician Ryan Briggs that met regularly on Thursday nights. They rehearsed a large amount of music, and gave a performance. He’s a go-getter, works hard, and adds to whatever he’s involved in a positive way.

Sound Award: Drew Stockero

Drew has been widely active in the VPA department as a Sound Design major. Early in his MTU career he took a leadership role in developing helpful content for the VPA Hub website and working with the Husky Game Enterprise. He helped the Husky Game Enterprise develop more professional workflows and helped the organization to use professional middleware that allows more sound students to be involved in the enterprise–because it no longer requires putting sounds directly into the code. He instituted many of these changes as the head of the Husky Games sound department. He is now President of the organization, not ‘just’ sound.

Drew also applied for and got a SURF Grant that funded his undergraduate research project on sound pollution of Keweenaw Land Trust sites. His research clearly showed holes in the soundscapes of locations close to the roads–where the roads were occupying that portion of the frequency spectrum.

Theatre: Makenzi Wentela

Makenzi is a Theatre and Entertainment Technology major and has been involved in numerous VPA productions at Michigan Tech. She has worked her way from stage crew for West Side Story through scenic artist for Sunday in the Park with George. She has been an electrician, a props artisan, stage managed 3 shows, and designed lighting for I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change for which she received a certificate of merit from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region III. She is a national honor society member, as well as president of the Alpha Psi Omega chapter at MTU, and received the Don Childs Stage Institute of Las Vegas award through KCACTF region III.

Marian and John Irish Art Award: Alexander Pohl

Alex graduated in December with a degree in Biological Sciences. He has been active in visual art since 2016, when he enrolled in Anne Beffel’s courses, Color and Meaning, and Art and Nature. Alex’s effort is born of his curiosity about creative processes and his appreciation for their potential to make us more conscious of our relationships with our environment. His work was featured in the 2017 Michigan House of Representatives Art Exhibition. He has volunteered many hours to art initiatives in the department including the community art project, Every Color of Eyes.

His art career at Tech has culminated in the first-of- its kind installation of student work on the fifth and sixth floors of the Chemical Sciences and Engineering Building, a site thoughtfully chosen for his work using pigments found locally in nature: blackberries, acorns, and iron acetate. The installation will continue on through the 2020-21 school year.

Milton Olsson Music Scholarship: Ry Swaty

Ry Swaty has been an active participant in the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra where he is an important member of the cello section and conScience: Michigan Tech Chamber Choir. He brings strong technical skill and fine musicianship in all that he does and is eager to collaborate with other musicians. The Milton Olsson Scholarship is awarded annually to a student who has made contributions to the choirs and orchestra at Michigan Tech.

Pep Band Endowed Scholarship: Noah Ekdom

Noah Ekdom is extremely valuable, both as a musician (a fine Concussionist), and as the Pep Band Equipment Manager. Given the roughly 70 times per year that the band is asked to play in environments that are not the Walker/Rozsa Complex (which is where all of the instruments are stored) the band always needs a calm, detail-loving person to align the needs and requirements for all ten sections of the Huskies Pep Band, so that those instruments can can be sent back and forth, up and down the hill, with no errors, so that in turn the band may: encourage, support, entertain, distract and annoy to the best of its abilities, no matter what the environment.

Don Keranen Jazz Awards a separate announcement was made for the students listed below.

Most  Valuable Player
Alek Ertman, Bass – Jazz Lab Band

Most Valuable Player
Ryan Briggs, Bass – R&D Big Band

Most Improved Player
Steven Turnbull, Trumpet – Workshop Big Band


Weekly Trumpet Hang This Morning

Join MTU’s Director of Jazz Studies Adam Meckler for his weekly Michigan Tech Trumpet Hang from 10 to 11 a.m. today (May 27). Each Wednesday’s virtual program will be different and will cover a variety of subjects such as warming up, building strength, playing both classical and jazz repertoire, how to navigate jazz chord changes, how to use the metronome, and more.

Attendees will be encouraged to play along, and even perform for the group. The material will be provided either by PDF or by ear. Request the Zoom link by emailing abmeckle@mtu.edu.


#q: sculpture under quarantine

Art Professor, Lisa Gordillo has announced the opening of #q: sculpture under quarantine, an online gallery created by students in Advanced Sculpture Studio in the Visual and Performing Arts.

Students in this class developed works of art while social distancing in their homes. Although their projects are much different than students had originally planned, their work shows just how adaptable and resilient Michigan Tech students are, and the power of art to connect us during uncertain times. 

“a coronavirus adventure” by Tyler Flaningam


“Intertwined” Art Exhibition

Art continues to thrive, even in the most difficult times. Our very own Lisa Gordillo is part of an exhibition in Dayton, OH, from the Dayton Society of Artists. According to Gordillo, “Intertwined” features fiber art and brings together 32 artists from across the US together into one space. Using traditional methods in innovative ways, these artists explore voice, reactions to change of environment, women’s issues, creating individual spaces, and the passing on of art, craft, and culture. Curated by Heather Jones.

Art piece
Cotton thread, Guatemalan quetzales, wood
Lisa Gordillo
Trenzando (Braiding)
Cotton thread, Guatemalan quetzales, wood

Outdoor Sculpture – Online FA2110 for Track B

Visual and Performing Arts Professor, Lisa Gordillo will be teaching Outdoor Sculpture during summer track B, which will be completely online. You can take the class from anywhere!

The class focuses on making works of art outside. And — because of the world we’re in — it will also include many opportunities for creating connections with community (even at a distance). We’ll learn from environmental artists and from artists whose work brings people together, and you’ll make your own works of art, wherever you are.

There are no prerequisites. No experience is necessary, and very few tools are required. This is a HASS class. Everyone is welcome.


Student Jazz Award Winners Announced

Director of Jazz Studies, Adam Meckler, has announced this year’s student recipients for the Don Keranen Endowed Scholarship Awards.

This fund provides cash awards to students for Outstanding Jazz Musician and Most Improved Jazz Musician. Individuals who participate in the Jazz Lab Band, the Research and Development Big Band, and the Workshop Big Band are eligible.

Most Improved was awarded to Steven Turnbull, while the Outstanding Jazz Musician was awarded to two students – Alek Ertman and Ryan Briggs.

These awards were slated to be announced during the Don Keranan Memorial Jazz Concert on March 20th, but was cancelled.

Jazz Award winner Steven Turnbull
Steven Turnbull is a first year student pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and a minor in Technical Theatre. As a trumpet player, he loves listening to and playing in all kinds of bands, especially jazz. Although he thinks mathematically, he is able to express his artistic side through music. He takes his education seriously and loves to learn new things from any kind of subject.
Alek Ertman is a third year student at Michigan Tech. He is an Electrical Engineering major with a focus in Automation and Controls. In addition to his studies, Alek also plays bass in the top jazz ensemble, and top jazz combo. Some of his musical influences include Stuart Zender, Paul Chambers, and Charlie Haden.
Ryan Briggs jazz award winner
Ryan Briggs is a first year Computer Engineering
student also pursuing minors in Mathematics and Music Composition. Here at Tech, Ryan is the Bassist for the R&D Jazz Band, a Huskies Pep Band ‘Rumpet, and co-founder and bassist of a student run Video Game Music Jazz Ensemble. While he enjoys studying engineering, his other passion lies in music. He hopes to one day compose music professionally on the side. 


Isolation, Collaboration and All That Jazz

Despite the challenges of social distancing and virtual instruction, the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired some creative collaborations that span not only academic disciplines, but hundreds of miles. Adam Meckler (VPA), Michigan Tech’s director of jazz studies, recently connected with a former college classmate and both brought along students for the collaboration.

Adam Meckler

The project is a video/audio exchange between Meckler’s jazz students at Michigan Tech and students from the Department of Dance at the State University of New York-Brockport. Meckler’s partner at SUNY-Brockport is Greg Woodsbie, lead professional staff accompanist and music instructor. Meckler said the idea of a jazz/dance collaboration began to take shape when he and Woodsbie were undergraduates at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, nearly 15 years ago.

“We played in many bands together over the years, but the first was a 12-piece salsa band when we were students at Lawrence,” Meckler said. While the salsa band spent many hours rehearsing, they didn’t “get it” until their first gig. “There were dancers there. It was then that we recognized how the dancers elevated the music and likewise how the music elevated the dancers.”

It is this mutual elevation that Meckler and Woodsbie’s students are exploring, even though they are more than 800 miles apart. “Each Tech student is paired with a dancer,” Meckler explained. “Our jazz students will send over 30 seconds of recorded music and the dancers will send over 30 seconds of dance.”

The guidelines are simple — there aren’t any. “The music can be anything the students can dream up and execute,” he said. “Some will improvise on a trumpet, trombone or saxophone while some might record multiple layers and instruments.” The same goes for the dancers — their contribution can be virtually anything.

Once the students exchange material, the fun begins. “The musician will record music over the dance video and the dancer will do some kind of choreography to the music sent in the exchange,” Meckler said. Following a dialogue to discuss what worked and what didn’t, the students will vote on their favorite collaborations, with the winners forming a single video to be released on social media.

Meckler said he and Woodsbie feel the collaboration goes to the heart of the two art forms. “Historically, music and dance are not two separate art forms, but one. We are well-served to explore these folkloric roots, in turn integrating art into our lives and culture.”

At the same time, it’s also a fun and healthy form of symbiosis — musicians and dancers complementing each other. “The dialogue between music and dance elevates both parties,” he said. “Dancers deepen the practice that is crucial to artists — developing an intimate relationship with your materials. Musicians are reminded of the body and that music ultimately comes from movement.”

Meckler, Woodsbie and their students are proving that creativity and art can flourish, even in the time of social distancing. As Meckler puts it, “The dialogue between the dancer and the musician will teach both parties the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary collaboration. The participants will observe these benefits and challenges and will discuss perceived successes and failures in dialogue throughout this process.”


Gordillo Teaching Award Recipient

In order to provide special recognition to instructors who have been nominated as finalists for the Distinguished Teaching Award four or more times, the Provost’s office has initiated a new teaching award this spring.

Four instructors have been identified to receive the inaugural Provost’s Awards for Sustained Teaching Excellence. They include:

Provost Huntoon, in collaboration with the Deans, initiated this award because “It became clear that we had a group of instructors consistently delivering exceptional instruction to their students over many years, who are worthy of special recognition.”

The award consists of a plaque and $1,000 in additional compensation. Each of the recipients of the new award will continue to be honored on an annual basis as members of Michigan Tech’s Distinguished Teaching Academy, an elite group with an established reputation for excellent teaching.

Please join the Provost and the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in congratulating these recipients!


Public Performances and Receptions at the Rozsa and McArdle Cancelled

As you are likely aware, Michigan Tech is carefully following guidance from the recent Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order issued by Governor Whitmer.  Campus is closed to the public, except for critical services, and faculty and staff are working from home.  We were sad that the current COVID-19 situation necessitated cancelling or postponing the rest of our arts season at Michigan Tech, but we are hopeful that measures that we are taking now will make a big difference in keeping our community safe and healthy.
With the cancellation of the remainder of the season we will provide three options for all single tickets and pro-rated package tickets purchased to the following Rozsa/VPA events that were cancelled or postponed.  These include:

Option #1 Contact the SDC Ticket Office at tickets@mtu.edu for a refund of your concert tickets.  Season Subscriptions, Pick-6, and Pick-3 packages will be pro-rated.

Option #2 Tickets may be traded for an equivalent performance in the 2020-21 Season.  Some Presenting Series Events have already been rescheduled for next season, including:  Manual Cinema (Sept. 4, 2020), Audiopharmacy (March 19, 2021), and Vieux Farka Touré (March 20, 2021).  Tickets Visual and Performing Arts Department student concerts (Tech Theatre, KSO, Choirs, Bands, Jazz) can be redeemed for a performance in the 2020-21 season by contacting tickets@mtu.edu.

Option #3 Unrefunded or untraded tickets refunds may be donated to the Friends of the Rozsa Fund.  This gift will be tax-deductible and will be acknowledged by the Michigan Tech Fund.  This can also be done by contacting tickets@mtu.edu.

We appreciate your patronage over this past season and look forward to announcing our 2020-21 season.  Details about next season will come soon.  Please visit the Rozsa website for more information, www.mtu.edu/rozsa