Author: Tanya Maki

Hip-Hop Dance Pioneer in Virtual Residence

Hip-Hop Dance Pioneer in Virtual Residence at Michigan Tech
to Explore Breaking, Jazz and How Artists Age

World-renowned hip-hop and breakdance artist Raphael Xavier will begin his virtual residence at Michigan Tech on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with an exploration of the ways maturity can alter both performer and performance in dance and jazz. 

“Raphael Xavier: Behind the Scenes of Sassafrazz, From Roots to Mastery” is the first in the series of virtual performances and events for the community. “Sassafrazz,” originally intended to be seen live before the pandemic, is a 20-year exploration of the life of a breakdancer and explores birth, life and death through three breaking styles: top rock, footwork and ground text.

Xavier’s long career and breakdance research led to the development of ground core, a style that is said to give artists a better understanding of the body that is useful in all dance forms.

Mary Jennings, director of programming for the university’s Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts, said that since the pandemic made an in-person performance of Xavier’s planned tour impossible, the Rozsa team worked with Xavier’s team to build the virtual residency, which also includes a “Creative Jam Session” performance on April 13 from noon to 1 p.m.

“Together with his team, we didn’t want this to be just another virtual performance,” Jennings said.

Both the Thursday and April 13 performances are open to the public. Registration for the livestream can be completed at the Rozsa Center website.

Xavier and his company will improvise movement while accompanied by music and poems composed by Michigan Tech students. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Jennings also wanted the greater community to be able to access Xavier’s wisdom, so he will also be making a special virtual visit to Hancock’s Superior School of Dance. She credited his team for being so willing to explore the virtual residency concept.

“They were great to work with, and it’s just wonderful we have this extended access. Raphael is a true genius,” she said.

Xavier is an alumnus of the pioneering hip hop dance company Rennie Harris Puremovement. His solo and ensemble choreographic dance works have been performed worldwide. He is also a 2013 recipient of the Pew Fellowship, a 2014 MacDowell Fellowship, and a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Xavier lives in Philadelphia and is a professor at Princeton University, where he teaches “History of Hip Hop Dance and Culture” and “Intro to Breaking” courses.

The presentation of Sassafrazz: From Roots to Mastery was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

What: Raphael Xavier: Behind the Scenes of Sassafrazz: From Roots to Mastery
When: Thursday, April 8, 2021, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Virtual event – Register Here

What: Raphael Xavier: Creative Jam Session With Music by Michigan Tech Students
When: Tuesday, April 13, 2021, noon-1 p.m.
Where: Virtual event – Register Here

This press release created by Chris Clonts, communications director for the College of Sciences and Arts at Michigan Tech. 


Adam Meckler: Making it in the New Music Economy

Adam Meckler, assistant professor of Visual and Performing Arts and director of Jazz Studies, shared his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this past Monday, April 5th.

Prof. Meckler talked about the shift of the music economy from selling albums to streaming, tools for young musicians looking to build a career in music, and ways for musicians to carve out passive income so they can focus on the music.

Jared Anderson, chair of Michigan Tech Visual and Performing Arts also joined in for Husky Bites. Prof. Anderson conducts conScience: Michigan Tech Chamber Singers, and the internationally-touring Michigan Tech Concert Choir. 

Please visit the College of Engineering Blog post for the rest of this great article.


Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Concert this Saturday

Michigan Tech Jazz Ensembles to Perform Saturday in Annual Keranen Memorial Concert – Press Release by Chris Clonts

The Michigan Tech Jazz Ensembles will be performing classic and original music on Saturday (March 27) at 7:30 p.m. in the annual Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Concert at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts.

The Workshop Brass Band will play original music written by the students as well as New Orleans-style songs. The R&D Big Band will perform an original tune composed by the students and a mix of music by Tito Puente, Sly Stone, Count Basie, and MTU Director of Jazz Studies Adam Meckler.  MTU’s premier Jazz Ensemble the Jazz Lab Band will perform works by Bob Brookmeyer, Thad Jones, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Charles Mingus and more.

Meckler said a variety of music is planned for the performances.

“The night features vocalist Jana Nyberg, New Orleans-Style Brass Band music, and classic big band swing and funk. Attendees will also hear some original music collectively composed by Tech students,” he said.

And for a change of pace, the student-led Video Game Music Ensemble will provide interlude music. Please join us for what is sure to be a great night of Jazz!

Limited socially distanced seats will be available for students and the general public. Patrons will be required to wear a facemask and fill out a symptom monitoring form in order to attend. Follow this link to fill out a ticket form the Michigan Tech Ticket Office to request tickets. Due to pandemic restrictions the ticket office will first take ticket requests and then will contact audience members with more instructions on seat placement and payment ($15 adults/$5 youth).  The performance also will be streamed live from the Rozsa Center website

The annual event pays tribute to the late Don Keranen, founder of the Michigan Tech Jazz Studies Program.


The Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra presents: Orchestral Miniatures

The Department of Visual and Performing Arts and the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts are pleased to announce “Orchestral Miniatures,” a live-streamed concert of music performed by the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra (KSO). 

The concert will originate from the the Rozsa Center at 7:30 pm on Saturday, February 27.  Due to current coronavirus restrictions, the concert will only be available virtually to the general public, by visiting mtu.edu/rozsa or the Rozsa Facebook page.

Joel Neves conducting a past performance of the KSO.

The Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra presents a potpourri of sensational orchestral “miniatures” appropriate for a smaller, socially distanced orchestra. On the menu is delightful music from Italy, Russia, France, Hungary, and England.  “We are beyond excited to perform live orchestral music in the Keweenaw during the pandemic,” says music director, Joel Neves. “Our concert will feature a variety of sublime smaller works, including Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien, Vaughan Williams’s Wasps Overture, and ‘March to the Scaffold’ from Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.” 

For the latest news and events, please join our Rozsa newsletter, check our website and Facebook page frequently, and stay informed as we announce new events each week.

Michigan Technological University is an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution/Equal Opportunity Employer that provides equal opportunity for all, including protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.


Jazz Cabaret: Backstage at the Rozsa

The Department of Visual and Performing Arts and the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts are pleased to announce “Jazz Cabaret: Backstage at the Rozsa,” two evenings of live-streamed concerts of Jazz music written for small combos. The concerts will originate from the stage in the Rozsa Center, and will be presented at 7:30 pm on Friday, February 12 and Saturday, February 13. Due to current coronavirus restrictions, the concert will only be available virtually, by visiting mtu.edu/rozsa or the Rozsa Facebook page.

The Jazz program at Michigan Tech has a long history spanning over 50 years, and is now led by Jazz trumpeter and Director of Jazz Studies, Adam Meckler. Meckler and Michigan Tech Instructor/saxophonist Patrick Booth have been meeting regularly with small student Jazz combos throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The intimate nature of the Jazz combo has allowed students to continue to make music safely, all while adhering to mask and social distancing guidelines.

Adam Jamming with Students

“To say that we are excited to be making music in person, in real time is an understatement. Over the last year, our students have sacrificed over and over again to remain healthy, follow protocol when asked, and keep MTU running smoothly. They’ve done great work this year with Jazz music that spans more than a century. We hope you will join us to witness the great work MTU Jazz students are doing!”

Adam Meckler

Michigan Technological University is an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution/Equal Opportunity Employer that provides equal opportunity for all, including protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. For the latest news and events, please join our Rozsa newsletter, check our website and Facebook page frequently, and stay informed as we announce new events each week.


Meyer Featured on Ears to the Earth Podcast

Libby Meyer (Visual and Performing Arts) was the focus of a recent episode of the Ears to the Earth podcast with Luke Helker. The interview focused primarily on the influence of nature and sense of place on Meyer’s music.

Meyer and Helker also discussed the Keweenaw Soundscape Project a collaborative project documenting the sounds of the Keweenaw and surrounding area. 

Listen to the podcast.


Dean’s Teaching Showcase

Written by David Hemmer, dean of the College of Sciences and Arts

Mary Cyr, lecturer in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, has been selected as our first spring Dean’s Teaching Showcase member. In making the nomination Hemmer said “The costume shop is next to my office in Walker, but until recently I had no real idea the incredible work that Mary does there. Our classroom students and student performers are fortunate to have her talent and creativity on campus.”

Cyr’s courses in costume technology, design and crafts are typically hands-on requiring very up-close and meticulous work such as: sketching and rendering of the human form; pattern drafting, marking, and alteration; machine sewing and hand sewing techniques; along with dyeing and other fabric manipulation techniques.

For the sudden shut-down in the Spring 2020 semester, Cyr quickly assembled appropriate level kits, to be picked up or mailed, for both FA1703 Costume Technology and FA 3703 Advanced Costume Technology. These included the projects the students had been working on as well as the remaining projects for the semester, which had to include basic hand sewing tools and materials for FA1703 and next level patterns, fabric, drafting paper, and hand-drafting tools for FA 3703.

Using document cameras and creating pictorial tutorials, she taught the students the necessary techniques while also introducing the proper use of the tools. Then the students remotely shared their works in progress for guidance and finished projects for critique and evaluation.

Cyr expanded and enhanced these methods for Fall 2020 to begin with face-to-face classes that had to be ready to go remote at a moment’s notice. She used a document camera and large monitor in the costume shop to demonstrate close work while maintaining appropriate distances from and between the students who could also show their minute work using the same.

Cyr also chose to teach two sections of FA1703 so a typical number of students could take the course while maintaining social distancing in the costume shop. With time to plan, she researched patterns all would be able to understand and use whether remote or in-person. She expanded the supplies and tools to function in class and transition easily as potential take-home kits.

Cyr searched out very small but fully functional sewing machines, small irons, and good quality fabric shears to effectively create a portable costume shop for each student. In addition to her classroom responsibilities, she is the costume designer for all of the theatre productions. She also oversees the work of the costume shop as they build the costumes for the theatre productions.

She is imaginative in her designs and consistent in meeting all deadlines for costuming the shows. VPA Chair Jared Anderson said “Mary has been a vital part of the Visual and Performing Arts Department since she arrived in 2015. She has created new courses that have expanded opportunities for students to work in costuming and has been especially innovative and flexible in the ways that she has delivered a hands-on curriculum during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is always dependable in her work, meeting important deadlines and overseeing student workers in the costume shop. She is beloved by students who work with her. It is a pleasure to have her on the faculty in the Visual and Performing Arts Department.”

Cyr will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for next year’s CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.


The Rozsa Center Presents a Digital Version of Class Acts Programming with “Smart Art Bites”

The 2020-21 school year has been full of challenges, flexibility and innovation for students, educators and families. At the Rozsa we typically host performance field trips for K-5 classes through our Class Acts program, but this year we’ve brainstormed something different … and digital.

Introducing Smart Art Bites! Smart Art Bites is a five-episode digital series that offers bite-sized art lessons for K-5 students, families and teachers to incorporate the arts into everyday learning. Each episode focuses on a different art skill taught by a professional artist.

We will release new videos over the coming weeks, and we’ve partnered with the Portage Lake District Library to bring you reading lists tailored to each Smart Art Bites episode.

Our first episode was released this week and can be viewed on the Rozsa Center Class Acts webpage. In our first Smart Art Bites episode Arthur “L.A.” Buckner teaches a beat using a low sound and high sound that you can play on objects in your home.

Watch as L.A. jams out for a drum set performance and see how the beat evolves. This episode is streaming now on YouTube.

For the latest news and events, join our Rozsa newsletter, check our website and Facebook page frequently, and stay informed as we announce new events each week.


Auditions for “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” Tonight and Tomorrow Night

The Michigan Tech Theatre Company’s next production is “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Auditions will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight and tomorrow night (January 14/15) via Zoom (password: 085217).

Casting is open for three actors. Be ready to improvise. Actors will learn a short scene and memorize it within the audition. Make sure you are able to activate your computer camera and audio and that all parties within your immediate area are aware of your participation so as to not be caught unaware within our silly pseudo-Elizabethan world.

You will be asked to use the space around you, so consider how to position your camera for the best effect. 

“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” will be performed on a Zoom platform and broadcast live February 18-20 and February 25-27.

Rehearsals will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and every evening the week before opening, with a brush-up rehearsal on February 24.

Here is a copy of the script we will use for auditions. Any questions, please contact Trish Helsel at helsel@mtu.edu.


The Rozsa Presents Christmas Carol from Emmy-Winning Manual Cinema

In pandemic-times, the arts become even more creative. Direct to your home, the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts brings an imaginative Christmas Carol blending innovative storytelling, puppetry, cinema, and live performance. Streaming Thursday – Sunday (December 17-20).

The Rozsa Center brings original, creative, groundbreaking arts to the Keweenaw, whether audiences are in person or online. In that tradition, we are proud to host the world premiere live stream of Christmas Carol by Manual Cinema, an award-winning artistic company that has pushed the art and crafts of filmmaking, puppetry, and live performance in an exciting and breathtaking new artistic direction. In this world premiere online event created for audiences of all ages, interdisciplinary performance collective Manual Cinema takes on Charles Dickens’s holiday classic with a visually inventive adaptation made to broadcast directly to your home.

There will be four live showings. Each performance will only be live at the advertised times:

  • 8 p.m. Thursday (December 17)
  • 8 p.m. Friday (December 18)
  • 4 p.m. Saturday (December 19)
  • 4 p.m. Sunday (December 20)

For tickets visit mtu.edu/rozsa.