Author: Tanya Maki

Don Keranen Jazz Awards

Each year, excellence in Jazz is recognized by way of the Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Scholarship. Two students are chosen by their peers in recognition of improvement, excellence, and leadership. Our award winners this year include one of the drummers from R&D Jazz Band, Eira Techtmann, and The Jazz Lab Band’s lead trumpeter Michael Tarske.

These students all showed leadership, dedication, excellence, and improvement this year. I am grateful for them, and wish them continued success in the coming years. 

Director of Jazz Studies, Adam Meckler

Eira is a drummer, percussionist, and videographer/photographer for Michigan Technological University. They play in a total of 5 bands, including the R and D Jazz Band and Video Game Jazz Ensemble. With drumming influences from Jojo Mayer, Max Roach, and JD Beck, they try to play with a mix of traditional and new jazz whenever they can.

Michael Tarske is a Trumpeter that has been playing Jazz since High School. At Michigan Tech he is an Electrical Engineering Technology major with interest in automation. He started his music journey at Tech by sitting in on an R&D Big Band rehearsal and quickly found interest in the Jazz program. Regardless of where the future takes him, Michael plans to keep Jazz music a prominent part of his life.

Visual and Performing Arts Student Awards

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.

Jos Olson smiling

Student of Promise: Jos Olson

Jos just finished his second year at Tech as an Audio Production and Technology Major. He is honored to receive the Student of Promise Award. He can also be found playing drums in the jazz program, and working in the Rozsa Center as the Head of Living Streaming. 

Allison Lewis

Art Award: Allison Lewis

Allison Lewis is a second year Theatre and Entertainment Technology major with a minor in Art. She enjoys creating and sharing her artwork, with her favorite subject being people. She’s worked with paint, sculpture, and traditional drawing but plans to explore many more mediums. During her time at Tech, she has been a Carpenter, Lead Painter, and is a soon-to-be TA for Scenic Art and Illustration. Allison plans to one day become a scenic artist and muralist. In her spare time she enjoys listening to music, hiking, and kayaking.”

Elijah Sierra

Music Award: Eli Sierra

Eli is a Senior at Michigan Tech majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Aerospace Engineering. He loves music and has been a percussionist for almost a decade. 

He works in the Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (PSTDL) completing research for NASA’s Artemis program. And in the summer of 2024 he will be a mechanical engineer intern on the Starlink program at SpaceX. 

Eli also enjoys the outdoors and partakes in sports such as: running, mountain biking and hiking. 

Cora Moyers

Sound Award: Cora Moyers

Cora is a 5th year and graduating Sound Design student. Cora has spent her time at tech growing the SoundGirls MTU Chapter, and has served multiple e-board positions, but currently serves as President. Cora has worked on multiple productions while at tech including The Haunted Smelter, A Christmas Carol and The One Act Festival. She is very honored to have received the VPA Sound Award. 

Theatre Award: Audrey Schulte

Audrey is completing her fifth and final year this spring as a Theatre and Entertainment Tech major here at MTU. Throughout her time spent here, she has gained incredible experiences and friendships within this department that have set her up for great success after graduation. She is extremely excited to take a step forward into the next chapter and owes a lot of gratitude to her classmates, professors, and colleagues for the work on all the shows and displays she has been a part of. Audrey has excitedly accepted an intern position at Walt Disney World this summer and can’t wait to put all the skills she has gained from MTU to work!

All Arts Award: Aidan Conrade

Aidan Conrade is a fourth year Sound Design student with a minor in Music Composition. They enjoy putting their knowledge of sound design together with their music to create unique and creative pieces for all types of projects. On top of this, they also play bass guitar and upright bass in a variety of groups at Michigan Tech, including the Playtesters, MTU’s video game jazz ensemble, which is a student-lead group that specializes in arranging their favorite video game tunes into various styles of jazz and adjacent genres to grow as musicians! When they are not working on a project or writing/listening to music, they are exploring the outdoors or discovering the latest indie games. Their goal after university is to join the video game and/or film industries as a sound designer and composer, where they will work to curate immersive and expressive experiences for others to enjoy!

Irish Award for Environmental Art: Connor Ford

Connor Ford is a College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (CFRES) student graduating with his bachelor’s in Applied Ecology this Spring. After years of traditional STEM coursework, he had an opportunity to enroll in “Art and Nature”, a contemplative photography course taught by Professor Anne Beffel in the Visual and Performing Arts Department. Upon taking the class, he soon realized the benefits of learning skills about mindfulness and its interplay with visual analysis.

Working to apply this knowledge, Connor created two works of art that guide viewers along an immersive photographic journey across the Keweenaw Peninsula. His photos are accompanied by audio tracks rich with environmental insight, adorned by poetic titles, and analyses of the work using the language of visual principles and elements (gestalt principles of visual interaction and Getty elements of art).

In addition to communicating the science behind the beauty in nature spaces, Superior Influence is Connor’s attempt to better grasp how gestalt principles can inform our perception of ecosystem function and reveal aspects of personal emotion in relation to the land. With assistance from the University, his project was temporarily installed in Wadsworth Hall during the Spring student art show, but it can also be accessed online through a website he created for the general public. Looking ahead, he’s excited for new opportunities in ecological research and watershed management, and can’t wait to further explore and incorporate these art practices into his work. In the meantime, you might find him wading in a stream, rock hounding, staring at a bug, or simply enjoying a quiet moment at the beach.

Milt Olsson Music Award: Benji Doerr

Benji is a Biochemistry student at Michigan Tech. He loves making music and has been playing violin and singing in choirs since he was young. In the summers he is a summer camp photographer, and he loves spending time outdoors with the kids. He’s the third in a family of 8 kids who all also love music.

Tomorrow: KSO, Michigan Tech Choirs Closing Rozsa Season with ‘Mosaic for Earth’

by Michigan Tech Music | Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts

The Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra and Michigan Tech Choirs, conducted by Jared Anderson (Visual and Performing Arts), will close the 2023/2024 Rozsa Season tomorrow (April 20) at 7:30 p.m. with the spectacular Great Lakes premiere — and second performance ever — of Dwight Bigler’s “Mosaic for Earth.”

Over 150 local musicians will gather on the Rozsa stage for this awe-inspiring performance by the KSO and Michigan Tech Choirs. The concert will also feature the Houghton Area Children’s Chorus, prepared by Hillary Arundel, and guest soloists Soren Schmidt, Lara Neves, Kathryn Summersett and Drake Dantzler.

Throughout the 100-minute concert, audiences can expect to be swept away by breathtaking visual scenes designed to accompany the music. Together, they showcase the beauty of our planet and our responsibility to protect it.

Concert Details:

Jeff Sherwood’s Professional Theatrical Sound Design of Million Dollar Quartet

Congratulations to Jeff Sherwood, Assistant Professor of Sound, on his professional theatrical sound design for the ACT of Connecticut production of Million Dollar Quartet in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The musical was directed by Broadway actor and director Hunter Foster, who was an original cast member of the Broadway production.

The production opened on Saturday, February 24, 2024 and from the overwhelming response of the preview audiences, the show run was extended an extra week, now through March 23. The musical revolves around the historical twist of fate on December 4, 1956 that brought together Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley.

This creative activity and research in theatrical sound design continues to elevate the reputation of Michigan Tech to audiences around the country as well as potential future employers of Michigan Tech students and alumni.

VPA Students and Faculty attend Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival

By Visiting Assistant Professor Terry Dana Jachimiak

From January 9 to 13, several faculty and students from the Department of Visual and Performing Arts embarked on an exciting journey to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for Region III. This festival, widely known as KCACTF, stands as a beacon for emerging talent in the realm of theater arts. It’s a vibrant stage where students get to shine, compete, and nurture their artistic skills on a regional platform.

Behind the scenes, two VPA faculty members, Associate Professor Kent Cyr and Assistant Professor Jeff Sherwood, played integral roles in the festival’s planning and execution. Cyr, with a remarkable six-year stint as the Festival Technical Director, provided invaluable support to numerous college theater productions within the region. His expertise ensured the seamless execution of performances on the festival stages. Sherwood, in his capacity as Co-Vice Chair of Design, Technology, and Management, contributed to the festival’s success by overseeing various technical theater aspects, including the National and Regional Design competitions, Design Storm, and Stage Management Fellowship and Initiative. To add to their contributions, Sherwood, Cyr, Distinguished Professor Christopher Plummer, and Visiting Assistant Professor Terry Dana Jachimiak II led workshops for eager students hailing from Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and parts of Ohio.

For the attending students, this festival was a treasure trove of experiences. They had the opportunity to participate in professional workshops, attend juried shows, network with professionals from all corners of the country, and showcase their own work in various competitions. It was a whirlwind of creativity and camaraderie.

The accolades poured in for our Michigan Tech University students, validating their exceptional talents. Evelina Cremeens earned the Regional Sound Design award for her outstanding work on *Hamlet*. Conner Pierson, collaborating with a talented team from different colleges and universities, clinched an Honorable Mention in the Design Storm category. Sommerdai Kier and Riy Dalman dazzled everyone by winning multiple awards, including the Fastest Sound setup and the coveted Gold Award in Tech Olympics. Tara Estrada’s swift knot-tying skills also earned her a first-place finish in the Fastest Knots section of Tech Olympics.

Christopher Plummer was also recognized at the festival and received the 2024 KCACTF Region III Michigan Faculty Service Award.

The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival showcased the incredible talents of our students and highlighted the dedication and expertise of our faculty members. It was a celebration of creativity, innovation, and the thriving theater community at Michigan Tech.

The Rozsa Heats Up a Chilly Week, Announcing Three Hot Upcoming Shows

The Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts is injecting a spark of excitement into this blustery week by announcing three thrilling events: a rollicking Mardi Gras feast fueled by New Orleans jazz, a play directed by Michigan Tech Theatre’s newest faculty member, and a bespoke museum experience crafted just for the Keweenaw. Tickets are on sale now!

Michigan Tech Music presents “Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday” — Get ready for an epic Fat Tuesday, fueled by live jazz and a New Orleans-inspired dinner hosted by Michigan Tech Jazz’s own Workshop Brass Band, freshly back from their NOLA tour! The party starts February 13 at 7:30 p.m. backstage at the Rozsa.

Michigan Tech Theatre presents “Imagining (Im)Possibilities: Museum Explorations” — Experience a captivating 30-minute tour through the world of immersive museum exhibits. Explore the magic behind museum design and dive into spectacular sets crafted by talented theatre students, each one transporting you to a unique space through interactive displays. Tours run February 15-17 from 7-9:30 p.m. in McArdle Theatre.

Michigan Tech Theatre presents “Purple Hearts” by C.S. Wallace, directed by Nich Radcliffe — Witness the heartbreaking, inspiring and sometimes funny story of three men who, in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, find themselves trapped aboard the now-sunken USS West Virginia. Inspired by true events, this award-winning play directed by new Michigan Tech faculty member Nich Radcliffe (VPA) is sure to move you. Attend the show April 10-13 in McArdle Theatre.

Get Tickets
Don’t miss your chance to experience these exciting events! Tickets for all three are available online 24/7, or at the Rozsa Box Office in person or by calling 906-487-1906 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tickets are part of this season’s new Pay As You’re Able ticketing.

To learn more, visit the Rozsa website, email or call 906-487-1906.

Auditions for Purple Hearts – January 29 and 30

Auditions for Purple Hearts by Burgess Clark, Directed by Nich Radcliffe, will be held January 29, 30 with callbacks February 1.

Monday, January 29 – 6-9pm.
Tuesday, January 30 – 6-9pm.

Performance Majors: Prepare two contrasting monologues.
All Others: Prepare one monologue two minutes or less.

Don’t have a monologue? No problem! We’ll give you something to read. Email Nich Radcliffe <> with question or to book an audition time!

Audio Engineering Society Student Recording Competition Finalists!

Three Michigan Tech Students were selected as finalists in the Audio Engineering Society (AES) Student Recording Competition. They will present their recordings at the AES Conference in NYC on October 26th.

Spencer Beasley (Audio Production and Technology) was selected as a finalist in the Modern Studio Recording & Electronic Music category for his recording “Glass Air”.

Matthew Fisher (Sound Design) was selected as a finalist in the Sound for Visual Media category for his recording “Alarm”.

Rowdy Vyverberg (Sound Design) also was selected as a finalist in the Sound for Visual Media category for his recording “RPG Audio Implementation”.

Finalists in the music mixing competition were students from major international universities, including the Peabody Institute (Johns Hopkins), University of Toronto, Hochschule Düsseldorf, McGill University, Indiana University, and Arizona State University. Michigan Tech was the only school with three student finalists in the competition. Congratulations!

Midwest Arts XPO Conference Report

Kier Birondo (Rozsa Marketing Manager) and Hannah Rundman Lowney (Rozsa Audience Manager) recently attended the Midwest Arts XPO in Indianapolis, IN. They served on four panels that tie directly to the mission of Michigan Tech: launching new technologies through innovation.

Traditional Media, Social Media, and AI: Rozsa digital programs were a popular topic of discussion. Many people were interested in connecting with Kier to learn more about the implementation and the performance of digital programs at the Rozsa Center.

Presenting in Rural Communities: A participant told Hannah after the session that the Rozsa Center and the many ways it operates and the things that are happening there was their primary takeaway from the entire conference, confirming the positive and noteworthy reputation of the Rozsa Center.

Ticketing Systems & Data Management: Many session attendees were there specifically to learn about the Pay As You Are Able (PAYA) ticketing initiative at the Rozsa Center.

Making Your Events More Earth Friendly: This session highlighted the sustainability strategic initiatives implemented at the Rozsa Center, resulting in paper and waste reduction and saving Michigan Tech thousands of dollars.