Day: June 1, 2020

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