Category: Announcements

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.

Department Scholar: Illeana Barragan 

Illeana is a 3rd year Sound Design student from Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. She has worked as a sound designer on the Haunted Mine for the past 2 years. Illeana has also spent this semester working as a sound designer for the Tech Theatre production of She Kills Monsters that will take place next year.

Student of Promise: Isabel Velancia

Isabel is a third year environmental engineering major with a biology minor from Houghton, Michigan. She plays piano in the Jazz Lab Band and the top Jazz combo. She also plays piano, harpsichord, and organ in the Superior Wind Symphony. She always enjoys getting to play awesome music with great people, and is looking forward to having another year of learning and growing as a musician here at MTU.

All Arts: Madi Wentela

Madi is from Stafford, Virginia, and is a second year Theatre and Entertainment Technology major with an Art minor. She came to Michigan Tech to focus on stage management, and in her time here, she has been given the opportunity to both learn about management and delve into her artistic interests in a way she didn’t expect. In her first semester, she worked with a few members of our arts faculty and learned what kinds of art she wanted to engage with, and since then has worked on many department projects. She’s had the opportunity to be a sculptural artist twice in the Rozsa galleries, both for solo and group projects, as well as work as a scenic artist for on-campus murals, and as a costume artisan on a few various theatrical projects. She served as the stage manager for the Tech Theatre production of Talking With.

Art: Emily Wiscz

Emily is from Galesburg, Michigan and is graduating this semester with her B.S. in Psychology and minors in both Math and Art. She is eager to integrate mindfulness, Gestalt psychology and visual art. During her time at Michigan Tech, she has been involved in Psi Chi honor society, Association of Psychology Students, Alpha Gamma Delta, and various other organizations. This past year, she has also been involved in the Cognitive Learning Sciences Research Lab studying aging and motor learning. After her undergrad she will be continuing her studies as a PhD student in the field of Neuroscience.

Music: Ryan Briggs

Ryan is a 2nd Year Computer Engineering student here at Michigan Tech from Brownstown, Michigan, who is also studying for Minor in Music Composition. Despite Engineering being his major, he also has a passion and love for music. Ryan is on track for the Music Composition Minor which has given him the opportunity to compose for many talented people including musicians here at Tech, in addition to professional dancers and video game development students. In addition, Ryan is a member of various ensembles. He plays Trumpet in the Huskies Pep Band, Trumpet and Upright Bass in the Campus Concert Band, and Electric Bass in the R&D Big Band and the Game Cabinet Collective, which he co-founded with Sean Hanson to play their own original Jazz Band arrangements of video game music. That ensemble is entirely student run and producing an album for release this summer. Finally, Ryan is the vice president of the Theme Park Engineering Group, as he’d like to enter the themed entertainment industry one day doing engineering.

Sound:  Moira Van Loon

Moira is from West Bloomfield, Michigan and graduated with a B.S. in Audio Production and Technology with a minor in Music Composition. Some of her recent projects include composing the music for a video game project in collaboration with game design students at UW Stout, composing the music for the play Miasma, and serving as recording and mix engineer for the KSO and Choir, and creating an original YouTube channel for her solo music and art project Belly Elf. 

Theatre: Ally Southgate

Ally is from Unionville, Michigan and will be a 4th year Theater and Entertainment Technology student. Ally was the Stage Manager for Tech’s production of Miasma and has received a Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival Irene Ryan Award nomination for her role as Big Eight in Tech’s production of Talking With.

Milton Olsson Music Award:  Chloe Looman

Chloe is finishing her third year as a Biological Sciences major and Psychology minor, with goals of Medical School next. She is from the Grand Rapids area and has been playing the violin since the first grade. She greatly enjoys her time so far in the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra, and pit orchestra for the Nutcracker and Sunday in the Park with George. Outside of the arts she is also an EMT with Michigan Tech EMS and a research assistant in Dr. Yu’s lab studying Optogenetic stimulation of the brain.

Marian and John Irish Award for Environmental Art: Michelle Kline

Michelle is a physics major from Green Bay, Wisconsin. She has always been fascinated by the relationship between art and science. Between climate studies in physics, the beauty of the Keweenaw and the thoughtful guidance of her professors, she became attuned also to the impact of art on our environment. While studying at Michigan Tech, she was able to explore both topics in depth through a variety of media including ceramics and painting. 

The Jazz Award recipients can be viewed here.

Congratulations to the award recipients and best wishes to all of our graduating seniors.

Superior Wind Symphony: Reparations

The Superior Wind Symphony, under the direction of Dr. Michael Christianson, use the unique setting of the 2020-21 academic year to explore the music of Black composers in a series of streaming performances.  You may be familiar with some names: Ray Charles, Duke Ellington…but you are likely less familiar with others like Joseph Boulogne, Will Marion Cook, James Reese Europe, or Alton A. Adams.

Mike has devoted the year to only performing music of Black composers. He has found some very interesting music and this falls right in line with our efforts at diversity.  The Reparations streams will be available through May 31.

Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra to Perform Sheherazade

by Chris Clonts

The Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra will perform Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Sheherazade” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (April 24) at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts, where the show can be seen in person. It will also be streamed online.

“Sheherazade,” composed in 1888 and adapted into a ballet in Paris in 1910, was inspired by “One Thousand and One Nights,” the collection of folk tales from the Islamic Golden Ages, and is being performed for the first time by the KSO. The complex piece sparkles with vivid orchestral color, exotic harmonies and gorgeous melodies.

“We are thrilled to present one of the most technically challenging works in the orchestral canon,” said Joel Neves, the orchestra’s music director. “It’s really a soloist’s paradise, featuring major solos for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, cello and — uniquely — second trombone.” Neves said the most important individual contribution is the recurring violin solo that will be performed by concertmaster Brian Wall. “It represents the mysterious Princess Sheherazade,” he said.

The story, as originally described by Rimsky-Korsakov, is the tale of the Sultan Schariar, who decides to put each of his wives to death in the belief that “women are false and faithless.” Sheherazade, though, prevents her own death by entertaining the sultan with tales for the 1,001 nights in the original collection’s title. Many may best know the composer for “Flight of the Bumblebee,” an interlude from his opera “Tale of the Tsar Saltan.”

The performance will be streamed live. Limited socially distanced seats will be available for students and the general public. Patrons will be required to wear a face mask and fill out a symptom monitoring form in order to attend. A ticket form can be filled out for the Michigan Tech Ticket Office.

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.

Founded in 1971, the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra is the Upper Peninsula’s oldest orchestra and one of five symphony orchestras in the Lake Superior region. The KSO is a college-and-community ensemble composed of Michigan Tech students, faculty and staff, and community musicians.

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 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 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.

Denali: Artists Respond to Music Inspired by Wilderness

by Bethany Jones, Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts

2017 Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival’s Composing in the Wilderness Program composers.

The Department of Visual and Performing Arts and the Rozsa Center are pleased to announce “Denali: Artists Respond to Music Inspired by Wilderness,” an exciting collaboration culminating in both a Rozsa Gallery A-Space exhibit and a virtual event

The project features composers and artists, their music, and the art inspired by it. “Denali: Artists Respond to Music Inspired by Wilderness,” exists in the confluence of two languages — music and visual art.

It features eighteen works of art made in response to original chamber music inspired by composers’ experiences in Denali National Park, in central Alaska. The in-person gallery experience opens in the Rozsa Gallery A-Space on Friday (Jan. 22), and both the live and virtual events will be available through Saturday, April 17.

Gallery hours are:

  • M-F: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. 1:00 – 8:00 PM
  • Saturdays: 1 – 8 p.m.

The Denali virtual event can be streamed anytime from Jan. 22 to April 17 by visiting the Rozsa website.

QR codes, posted with each work of art throughout the gallery exhibit, provide links to the related pieces of music by scanning with a QR code reader on a smartphone.

Musical scores, program notes, artist statements, and biographies of all project participants will be available both inside the gallery exhibit and digitally as part of the virtual experience.

According to project leaders Terri Frew (VPA) and Libby Meyer, (VPA), “What do you get when you set nine composers loose in Denali National Park? You get nine great pieces of music. Give this music to artists as inspiration and you get eighteen great pieces of art!”

In conjunction with the A-Space Gallery exhibit, participants of Composing in the Wilderness, a shared wilderness experience for adventurous composers and members of the Elements Artist Group, will discuss the collaboration, share performances of the music and images of artwork in virtual music and art experience, featuring a series of videos with each composer, their music and artwork related to each piece of original music.

The Elements Artist Group comprises six artists anchored in Alaska including Charlotte Bird, Susan Campbell, Nancy Hausle-Johnson, Mary Bee Kaufman, Margo Klass and Ree Nancarrow.

The nine composers from the 2017 Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival’s Composing in the Wilderness Program include Jesse Budel, Christian Dubeau, Corinna Hogan, Aaron Keyt, Brent Lawrence, Libby Meyer, Christina Rusnak, Dawn Sonntag and Jennifer Wright.

The idea for the project was originally sparked by a painting Elements artist Mary Bee Kaufman rendered while listening to music written by Christina Rusnak in 2012. Their successful collaboration resonated with other Elements artists who were eager to explore a new challenge – making visual art in response to music inspired by a place they all love, Denali National Park.

Stephen Lias, Composing in the Wilderness director, shared the proposal with his Composing in the Wilderness musicians and they enthusiastically said, “Yes.”

In 2017, Lias led nine experienced composers into the backcountry of Denali National Park. They composed original chamber music inspired by their experiences in the wilderness and then shared recordings of their compositions, along with their scores, ideas, and inspiration with the Elements artists. Elements artists created visual responses to the music, generating eighteen works of art – two responses to each of the nine musical compositions. Artists worked in a variety of media including fiber art, ceramic tiles, painting, poetry, and artist books. Denali: Artists Respond to Music Inspired by Wilderness is evidence of the surprising results that emerge when artists collaborate.

The generous support of a Community Arts Development Grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts helped fund the project along with sponsorship by the National Park Service, Alaska Geographic, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, and Composers in the Wilderness.