Category: Music

Michigan Tech Choirs to perform benefit concert, “Music for a Sacred Space” in Lake Linden Houghton, MI

The choirs of Michigan Tech will combine to perform a concert entitled “Music for a Sacred Space” to benefit the local chapter of St. Vincent de Paul. The concert will be held on February 26, 2023 at 7:30pm at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Linden, MI. The concert is open to the public. A free-will offering opportunity in support of St. Vincent de Paul will be available at the door. Learn more at

The concert will feature performances by the Michigan Tech Concert Choir and conScience: Michigan Tech Chamber Singers. Music to be performed will include the premiere performance of My Prayer, by David Brown. Other selections include a setting of Lux Aeterna based on the Nimrod variation from
Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge, Sarah Rimkus’ Shall we Gather at the River, and Undine Moore’s Walk Through the Streets of the City.

“St. Joseph’s is one of the gems of the Copper Country and is a wonderful place for choral singing,” says Dr. Jared Anderson, director of both choirs. “This is the first time that the choirs have been able to sing in the space for a live audience since the pandemic. This concert has become a great tradition in the community and we have been able to raise important funds for an organization that is active in providing resources for so many individuals and families in need in our area.” Individuals interested in hearing choral music in St. Joseph’s are encouraged to view the 2021 project, Music in Sacred Spaces at

Accessibility note: The elevator at St. Joseph’s church is currently not operating. There are three steps to go into the church after entering from the external doors. We apologize for the inconvenience and are happy to provide assistance navigating the steps as needed.

Songs for the Moon — Friday, December 9

Join the Michigan Tech Choirs for a concert that celebrates the beauty of moonlight and wintertime, Songs for the Moon. The concert, presented by Michigan Tech Music will include performances by the Michigan Tech Concert Choir and conScience: Michigan Tech Chamber Singers.

Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts
Friday, December 9 at 7:30pm

Get your tickets online, at 906-487-1906 or at the Rozsa Box Office from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

TUBACHRISTMAS — Sunday, December 11

This annual December event occurs around the world in honor of the first truly great tuba virtuoso, William “Bill” Bell, who was born on Christmas Day. Tubists gather yearly in mass numbers around the globe to play songs of the season in performances free to the public. TUBACHRISTMAS concerts are presented with permission from the Harvey Phillips Foundation.

TUBACHRISTMAS — Sunday, December 11 at 7pm
Rozsa Lobby
Presented in collaboration with Michigan Tech Music

There are no tickets for this free event, and all are welcome to join the fun!

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2, Saturday, December 10

The Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra performs an eclectic array of British symphonic music, Black Sabbath metal arranged by KSO Director Joel Neves, and the world premiere of a piece by Jazz Professor Emeritus Mike Irish. Featuring Adam Meckler on trumpet and flugelhorn. Headlined by history’s most romantic piano concerto: Rachmaninoff’s Second with Lindsay Garritson as soloist.

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 — Saturday, December 10 at 7:30pm
Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts
Presented by Michigan Tech Music
Performed by the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra

Get your tickets online, at 906-487-1906 or at the Rozsa Box Office from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Concert: ‘Hygge – Music of Scandinavian Composers’

After your wood-stacking and sauna, please join the Superior Wind Symphony under the baton of Mike Christianson, director of bands at Michigan Tech, for an evening of music from the most upper of peninsula: Scandinavia! Rest in warm assurance that the composers will be Scandinavian, and at least some of the music will represent events/feelings that happen in winter.

The lineup for “Hygge – Music of Scandinavian Composers” will include a sneak peek into the Michigan Tech Theatre’s spring musical — “Chess,” written by two members of the Swedish supergroup ABBA — and pieces by Finnish, Danish and Norwegian composers. Christianson also snuck in a cozy holiday song or two to fill out that hygge feeling!

The Superior Wind Symphony is an auditioned ensemble of winds and percussion that performs the music of composers spanning five centuries, living and not, from all genders, ethnicities and genres. Members come from disciplines across campus, with this concert’s performers representing the College of Engineering, College of Sciences and Arts, and College of Computing.

Get Tickets
Get tickets online, by calling 906-487-1906, at the Rozsa Box Office from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, or for one hour before shows in the McArdle Box Office. Michigan Tech students can reserve free Experience Tech tickets online and Student Rush will be available at the door.


What: “Hygge – Music of Scandinavian Composers” performed by the Superior Wind Symphony
When: Saturday, Dec. 3, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: McArdle Theatre (located on the second floor of the Walker Arts and Humanities Center)
Cost: $15 Adults | $5 Youth Under 18 | Free Student Rush

Mike Christianson and Students to Share Band Experiences

What are you doing this Monday night 10/24 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Mike Christianson, Associate Professor, Visual and Performing Arts and Director of Bands at Michigan Tech. Joining in will be two members of the Huskies Pep Band and Superior Wind Symphony, Matt Bettwy (mechanical engineering) and Laura Bufanda (theatre and entertainment technology), both who will be graduating with their bachelor’s degrees in December. They are the featured guests on Husky Bites, Tech’s free, interactive webinar series. Learn something new in just 30 minutes or so, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at

Read more about Mike, Laura, Matt and Husky Bites on the College of Engineering blog.

VPA Welcomes New Sound Faculty

Visual and Performing Arts announces two new sound faculty that have joined the department. Jeff Sherwood, Assistant Professor of Sound, and Michael Maxwell, Assistant Teaching Professor.

Jeff Sherwood (he/him) is a professional theatre artist and educator specializing in sound design, music composition, and audio engineering.  He strives to bring original and innovative ideas in collaboration with creative teams in the art of storytelling.  He has worked in New York City at Off-Broadway theatres including The Public Theater, The New Group, Signature Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, Roundabout Theatre Company, and others.  During the past few summers, he has worked as Audio Supervisor at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut, where his affinity for sound design for new puppetry, music theatre, and play development continues to grow, and where he will be returning this year as the Resident Sound Designer for the National Playwrights Conference. 

Assistant Professor Jeff Sherwood

He is thrilled to be joining the sound program at Michigan Technological University as an Assistant Professor of Sound in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts and is eager to collaborate with colleagues and students on future projects.  He enjoys mentoring and fueling the passion of the rising generation of sound artists and engineers, and is regularly invited to teach sound design masterclasses and workshops at the National Theater Institute.  He previously held the faculty position of Teacher-Scholar Postgraduate Fellow in Sound Design at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.  He received his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Theatre Sound from Purdue University, and his Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Theatre Design and Production from Oklahoma City University.

Recent awards include the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) Robert E. Cohen Sound Achievement Award for Young Designers, Managers, and Technicians in the Performing Arts, as well as the Purdue University Excellence in Teaching Award for Graduate Teaching Assistants in 2020.  He was also a national finalist for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in 2012 and 2014.  He is an active member of the USITT Sound Commission, Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association (TSDCA), Audio Engineering Society (AES), and is an Associated Crafts and Technicians (ACT) member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).  His Korean American heritage inspires his interests in traveling, exploring new cultures, and keeping local restaurants in business.  View and hear his work at

We are excited that Jeff Sherwood is bringing his expertise in composing with virtual instruments as well as in depth experience with New York City theatrical production to Michigan Tech. We are extremely lucky to have attracted new faculty with this level of creative and technical skill and experience.  

Christopher Plummer, VPA Professor of Sound

Assistant Teaching Professor Michael Maxwell

Michael Maxwell, MFA

Michael Maxwell is a sound/media artist, audio engineer, and educator with an interest in audio/visual synthesis, music and sound effects recording, mixing, and media art installation. Maxwell received his Master of Fine Arts in Mass Communication & Media Arts from Southern Illinois University and is an Academic Leadership Fellow through University of Central Oklahoma’s Educators’ Leadership Academy.

Maxwell has worked in post production audio for SyFy Channel, Historia Pictures, and various independent filmmakers with works shown in dozens of film festivals internationally. Recently, Maxwell has been a live sound mixer for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, John DaVersa & His Small Band, Emily Rhyne & The Oklahoma Legacy Band, and AdaFest Music Festival. Current media art pieces include Aggregate Voices, an audio installation series shown in the Pogue Gallery in Ada, OK and After Hunts Spiral, which was installed in the Over the Structures Exhibition at Czong Institute for Contemporary Art, Gimpo-si, Gyeonggi-do, Korea. Portfolio Link

Mike Maxwell brings experience in synthesizers, art installations, and video broadcast to the VPA department.  This will provide our students with more creative opportunities and expand on numerous cross campus collaborations. 

Christopher Plummer, VPA Professor of Sound

Engineering the Video Game Music Ensemble

Image of the Video Game Music Ensemble performing on March 18, 2022 at the Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Concert at Michigan Tech
The Video Game Music Ensemble performs on March 18, 2022 at the Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Concert at Michigan Tech.

Turning a Love of Video Game Music into an Ensemble

What happens when you have a love for jazz/funk/fusion and video game music? Naturally you form an ensemble. Ryan Briggs and Sean Hanson formed theirs in the fall of 2019; the Video Game Music (VGM) Ensemble. The ensemble is now a student-run group of thirty musicians who like to arrange, rehearse, and perform songs from various video game franchises. 

Video Game Music Creates an Emotion and Heightens Interest in the Genre

Image of Ryan Briggs playing base in the Video Game Music Ensemble at Michigan Tech
Ryan Briggs plays stand-up bass in the Video Game Music Ensemble.

Video game music was always front and center. It spoke to them. “It’s similar to the interest with film music, when you hear the initial Star Wars theme music with the title screen, it elicits a very strong feeling of excitement, adventure, and grandiose. It’s the same thing with video game music, the difference is that each piece from a video game isn’t the theme of a story that you’re watching unfold, it’s the theme of your story as the player. It’s a very impactful and personal medium,” says Ryan. “I love the way music can manipulate emotions and make us feel…. It’s just really fascinating to me.”

Sean relates. “Soundtracks are probably the feature of games that enhance it the most for me – since it can really amp up an action or bring the emotion for a sad scene – almost cinematic in a way. And there’s such a huge diversity of music featured in games today as well – a forest might have a somber composition with flutes, piano, and violin – a beach/ocean setting might have groovy Latin percussion and ukulele/classical guitar – a snowy/ice setting might have twinkly glockenspiel and triangle – and a fiery/volcanic setting might have driving drum patterns, heavy electric guitars, and powerful low brass. While these cliches are common in video game compositions – they nonetheless are extremely effective in establishing the setting of a game – and that’s just from an orchestral point of view.”

Online Influencers Show What’s Possible

Online influencers helped to grow Sean’s interest. He started to get involved with the YouTube VGM community. A YouTuber named Carlos “insaneintherainmusic” Eiene played jazz arrangements of popular video game songs (notably Nintendo games). “He basically did everything I’ve always wanted to do – arrange, play, and mix his own arrangements on YouTube, organize an ensemble to playing and recording VGM at his college, although he graduated from Berklee – which is obviously a lot different than MTU, and perform at concert venues and convention centers,” Sean says. Carlos is one of the figureheads of the VGM scene.

The Pixel Mixers community is another key influencer. Sean describes it as “a tight-knit group of musicians of all instruments, genres, and countries of origin dedicated to making collaborative albums dedicated video games/franchises. Everyone here is super supportive of one another, and internet collaborations are very common.” Sean has used Pixel Mixers to collaborate on piano and percussion with dozens of people around the world in a fun and safe environment.

Image of Sean Hanson, founder of the Video Game Music Ensemble at Michigan Tech, playing keyboards.
Sean Hanson, founder of the Video Game Music Ensemble at Michigan Tech.

An Ensemble is Born at Michigan Tech

Thanks to Ryan and Sean, video game music took root here. Now there’s thirty active members. There’s another seventy interested people on Discord. To Ryan, “It’s a great intersection of interests, so when I found someone else (Sean) with the same interests, it was only natural to want to make fun music with like-minded people.”

Adam Meckler, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at Michigan Technological University says “The formation of the VGM Jazz Ensemble is a great example of how creative, resourceful, and motivated our students are here at Tech. All of the credit for VGM’s success and growth goes to Ryan and Sean, who organize all of the rehearsals, arrange all of the music, and rehearse the band in preparation for performances. I am just glad that I have a platform to give them performance opportunities so they can show off all their hard work. Bravo Ryan, Sean, and band!”

So how did it begin? According to Ryan and Sean the VGM Ensemble happened spontaneously. After a Research & Development (R&D) Jazz Band rehearsal, Sean was playing “Space Junk Galaxy” on piano from Super Mario Galaxy. Ryan Briggs (the R&D bass player) took notice of this, and came over to talk about it. The conversation turned to their favorite game soundtracks (Ryan’s primarily The Legend of Zelda and Sean’s primarily Pokemon). Next they were talking about forming a small group. They sought the advice of Adam Meckler.

Sean continues “We decided to choose Thursday nights as our main rehearsal day since the band room was usually open then and also didn’t interfere with any other of the ensembles at MTU. We also asked Zane Smalley to play drums for us – and we’ve since learned that drummers are the ones who control the rehearsal schedule. A few more people joined in (trumpet, trombone, alto sax, and tenor sax), and we mostly just played a few video game songs casually. VGLeadSheets is an extremely helpful database full of fan-arranged lead sheets of various VGM pieces, so we mostly played these for the first few months. At this time, we didn’t really have any end-goals or performances in mind – I was just happy to have a chance to play some of my favorite songs from games with other people. Unfortunately, in March 2020 we all know what happened, and then COVID made us go on indefinite hiatus.”

By Spring 2021 COVID restrictions eased. The VGM Ensemble started using the band room. Advertising on the MTU student Discord, subreddit, and word of mouth helped with recruitment. Ryan and Sean began to create their own arrangements which the ensemble rehearsed. The ensemble got its big break in March  2021. Adam Meckler offered to let them perform between bands at the Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Concert in March 2021 (performance timestamps are at 28:46 and 1:10:53). The band also opened the 2022 festival in March 2022. And Sean recorded a session for an album in April 2021 which he plans to release soon.

By Fall of 2021 membership in the band essentially doubled thanks to interest from freshmen. Ryan and Sean decided to organize their own concert and worked with George Hommowun (Rozsa Production Manager) to get it scheduled. In November 2021 they had their  first concert and filled their allotment of seats (don’t forget, capacity restrictions were still in place). 

“Hands down, our November concert “Playing With Power!” was my favorite moment of the ensemble.” Sean adds, “Doing something like this has been a dream of mine since my senior year of high school, and seeing it become a real thing actually made me tear up a bit. Seeing a full house audience also surprised me, considering we only had our concert information finalized and advertising ready less than a week before the performance – on top of it being right before Thanksgiving break when people were heading home.” Sean graduated soon after. He continues to write arrangements for the ensemble. Ryan has taken on the primary leadership role.

Video Game Music Ensemble Helps Sean and Ryan Grow

Leading the VGM Ensemble is not without its challenges. For Ryan, it has been learning how to play music while leading at the same time. Being aware of what others are playing while you are trying to play your notes can be a multi-tasking nightmare. And doing it while not having a background in music education is an added challenge. As Ryan relates, “I have no background in running and teaching an ensemble. I always took this aspect of it for granted. Band directors made it seem easy, partly due to their experience. They always had a plan.”

Sean supplements, “I’ve learned that there’s a LOT more that goes into organizing an ensemble than just the stuff we see on the surface. Even something as simple as organizing rehearsal schedules can be a lot of work – since we had to account for everyone’s personal schedules, the times the band room is actually available, and even times when parking is enforced or no. I also mentioned earlier that the drummer is truly the person who decides the rehearsal time – since if they can’t make it… you’re not having an ensemble.”

He also learned how to be flexible and to work with the strengths of the team to create success for all. “Since we’re not a music school, we have to account for the different skill levels of musicians here. Since we wanted our ensemble to be available to everyone regardless of proficiency and instrument, writing arrangements that everyone can play while still having fun can sometimes be difficult – I found that out the hard way last year when I arranged “Guile’s Theme” from Street Fighter II in its original key (concert C# minor)… yeah, safe to say some of the wind players were not happy with me. But at the same time, this opens up creative possibilities for arrangements. One of the best examples I can use is our arrangement of “Big Blue” from F-Zero. The original track is very obviously written and played for a computer/electronic instrument with triplet runs at 210 beats per minute. Since these are clearly not playable for most humans, we decided to slow things down into a funk arrangement instead – which everyone enjoyed and appreciated,” Sean says.

Sean Hanson, founder of the Video Game Music Ensemble at Michigan Tech has arranged many video game scores.
Sean Hanson’s arrangement of Monster House.

Why Does Music Thrive at Michigan Tech?

Michigan Tech has a supportive environment for students passionate about music. As Ryan observes, “Tech has a concentrated community of passionate people who are drawn to each other and want to help each other, build each other up. There is no music major here which helps to reduce competition. We’re all in it together and building each other up. It’s a great environment for getting feedback too.” And music runs much deeper for students like Ryan. He invokes a line he often heard from his mother, “While I am in Engineering I will be able to feed my family. But music will feed my soul.” Ryan hopes to continue to cultivate his passion for music.

With nine different bands and ensembles, two choirs, a symphony orchestra, practice facilities, a sound lab and a recording studio, the McArdle Theatre, and the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts, Michigan Tech has great facilities to let students exercise their creative muscles and hone their craft. Ryan has taken advantage of the variety of opportunities in music at Michigan Tech. As mentioned earlier, he plays in the R&D Jazz Band. He also plays in the Campus Concert Band and serves as one of the trumpet section leaders for Huskies Pep Band. “Pep Band is so much fun! There is no band like it,” he beams. “Pep Band was my first group of friends on campus. Everyone is looking for a group to belong to when they step foot on campus. Some of my best friends are from pep band.”

Image of the Michigan Tech Huskies Pep Band
Ryan Briggs (back row, upper left) and the Huskies Pep Band.

Sean points out other opportunities for music such as informal jam groups that pop-up around campus. “There’s also a surprisingly active local music scene for those who would rather play independent of the school – and several venues such as the Orpheum in Hancock and Bonfire in Houghton. And then if you’re an electronic musician/producer, there’s a student Discord server full of electronic musicians to discuss ideas and share works. There’s definitely more than you would expect from a small town like Houghton.”

Music and Sound As Part of Their Future

What does the future hold for Ryan and Sean? Ryan is currently president of the Theme Park Engineering Group at Tech and dreams of a career in theme park entertainment. He’s more succinct about his five year goal. “I want to be working on one of the coasts. I want to be a Disney Imagineer.” He wants “to work on something that makes someone smile.” Combining his engineering skill with his passion for music is a great recipe for creating a satisfying theme park experience.

Sean graduated and has started his career at an architecture firm in St. Paul, MN. He designs systems (e.g. HVAC and plumbing) for government contracted buildings (schools, hospitals, police stations, etc.). At Tech he discovered he enjoyed working with acoustics and sound. “I took Acoustics and Noise Control as a technical elective in Spring 2021. It was hands down the coolest class I’ve ever taken in my college career – since I got to geek out STEM-wise and audio-wise at the same time. I’m especially interested in room acoustics and studio design. So when I interviewed for the company I’m currently at, I brought up my music background and how a healthy noise environment can enhance a building space (they liked it enough to give me a job, so there’s that). I don’t work with acoustic-related information very often, but I do occasionally use simulation programs to see how much noise an HVAC duct is making in a room – and if there’s any changes that need to be made accordingly.”

Sean continues to be involved in music as a side career. His personal VGM covers are available on commercial streaming services and stores (Spotify, Apple Music, etc.), which generates a small amount of revenue every month. “While it isn’t nearly enough to sustain me as a career, it’s nice to receive an extra $20 every now and then.”

Making Music Part of the Michigan Tech Experience

As Ryan and Sean’s story shows, music is a fun and rewarding part of the Michigan Tech experience. This is the place where you can find people who share your passion in music. Where you can partake in a variety of music experiences and genres. Hone a craft that allows you to exercise your creative muscle. 

Ryan shares, “People that are here are here because they want to be here. They love what they are doing. You can come here and do your own thing. You have a special musical interest, you can start your own ensemble. We have a pirate choir. If you have an interest and it’s not already here, you can start it.”

Anyone want to start up a Folktronica, Pirate Metal or Math Rock Band?

Jazz Cabaret at the Rozsa

The annual Jazz Cabaret is back in person this weekend! Get your tickets to see Michigan Tech jazz combos, including Jaztec, Michigan Tech’s premier jazz ensemble, perform backstage at the Rozsa.

Jazz Cabaret — 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 28, and Saturday, January 29.

Tickets: $15 for adults and $5 for youth. Michigan Tech students can attend for free and bring a friend with the Experience Tech Fee.

Face coverings are required for volunteers, staff, and audience members at these events. Please visit the Rozsa COVID-19 Policies for the most up-to-date information.

Tickets for these events are available by phone at 906-487-2858, online or in person at the Central Ticketing Office in the Student Development Complex. The Rozsa Box Office will also be open for ticket purchases one hour before performances.

MTU Superior Wind Symphony Releases New Album, ‘iFiesta!’

by Lisa Gordillo, Visual and Performing Arts

The Michigan Tech Superior Wind Symphony has released a new album, iFiesta! The album contains original music by Guatemalan singer-songwriter Raúl López Colibrí, arranged by Mike Christianson.

Based on the children’s book of the same name by Hugo Gordillo, “iFiesta!” is a joy-packed, magical ride of Latin-American beats that will have you strumming, drumming and tap-tap-tapping.

Local children sang in the original concert and appear on the album, which also includes studio sessions, poetry readings and interviews.

“iFiesta!” is available as a hard-copy CD at the Michigan Tech bookstore, K.C. Bonkers and Black Ice Comics. It can also be found on Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music, or by visiting HearNow.

Song lyrics in Spanish and English can be found online.