Imagination. Creativity. Local and world histories. Art. Theatre. Music. Design. Michigan Tech’s first arts-focused study abroad is an immersive experience. Students from many campus majors are taking part: from Theatre and Sound Design, Humanities, and Chemistry, to Biomedical and Environmental Engineering. The trip focuses on art, theatre, architecture, and culture, with a special emphasis on the Prague Quadrennial, one of the largest theatre design events in the world. Students explore world heritage sites, study works of art in museums and galleries, attend performances, and reflect on local/global history, culture, and connection. The trip is open to all majors and is designed for students whose interests benefit from creativity and new perspectives – in other words, everyone. Follow us on the trip blog and on Instagram.
Director of Jazz Studies, Adam Meckler, has announced this year’s student recipients for the Don Keranen Endowed Scholarship Awards.
Each year, excellence in Jazz is recognized by way of the Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Scholarship. Three students are chosen by their peers in recognition of improvement, excellence, and leadership. Our award winners this year include R&D Bass Player Jay Jamison-Sawicki, Workshop Brass Band Harrison Harland, and Lab Band Lead Tenor Saxophonist Liam Cacioppo.
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.
Michael “Jay” Jamison-Sawicki is a First-Year majoring in a Bachelor’s in Power Distribution Engineering at Michigan Tech. He discovered his love of Jazz, however, his Senior year of High School where he was recruited by the Jazz/Honors Band at Summit Academy North. Ever since his time there, he’s played bass in the Research and Development Big Band at MTU, picking up multiple skills and learning valuable musical lessons that continue to further bolster his musicianship.
Harrison Harland is a second year at Michigan Tech, and a double major in Accounting and MIS. Harrison started playing bass guitar 3 years ago and the MTU jazz program has been an excellent first experience in both jazz music and performing live music! To Harrison, playing music is all about sharing cool ideas and spreading good vibes the whole way!
Liam Cacioppo is a saxophonist that has been playing for 12 years. He is from Ingleside, Illinois but frequent trips to the Upper Peninsula made him become familiar with Tech and its extreme winters. While being an engineer takes up most of his time, he always tries to find some time to continue playing jazz. Alongside playing jazz you could find him skiing, taking a walk around, or wearing a sweater.
The Keweenaw is awash in the sounds of nature. The cold north wind whistling through the birch trees at Fort Wilkins. The waves of Lake Superior slapping the agates along Bete Gris. The water whooshing through the rocks at Hungarian Falls. The loons conversing at dusk against the red and orange brilliance of the sky. It is the place for Libby Meyer, a teaching professor in Michigan Technological University’s visual and performing arts department and director of the music composition program, to create her art. To draw inspiration from her surroundings. “By giving a voice to the landscape and its inhabitants, my hope is to express this fragile relationship that we all share and need to sustain.”
You can hear that voice clearly in her latest CD release To What Listens. The CD project was funded by a grant from the University’s Research Excellence Fund Scholarship and Creativity Grants program. The recordings of choral and chamber works on Albany Records feature performances from the Capella Clausura conducted by Amelia LeClair and the Juventas New Music Ensemble.
The CD opens with “For Johnny B,” an arrangement of a movement from Lakescape, an orchestral work commissioned by the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra and funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. “For Johnny B” celebrates the Keweenaw National Historical Park. The lyrics were crafted from an oral history of Giovanni “Johnny” Battista Perona, a farmer, laborer, custodian, master musician on spoons, bones, and concertina as well as a butterfly enthusiast from Calumet.
In “Melusina Calls to the Loon,” Libby captures the sounds of life on Isle Royale National Park, where she was an artist in residence in 1999. On walks, Libby would make up stories to fit the sounds surrounding her. On one particular walk, she imagined a melancholy conversation between a mermaid and a loon, each enchanted by the music of the other.
The title track “To What Listens” is a set of five poems by Wendell Berry, poet, farmer, and environmental activist. These brief poems give birds a voice and use music inspired by bird songs, reminding us only by being fully present can we appreciate the beauty that is right now. The liner notes encourage, “Habitat loss is causing the woods to become quieter, so it is more important than ever that we listen to ‘the hidden singers.”
From Violin Lessons to Performances to Composition
Her music career started early with violin lessons from her musician father. Passion for music burned. She pursued a degree in music performance at Michigan State, but a broken arm made playing the violin painful. Instead, she started to compose and switched her major to theory and composition.
Composing was never presented to me as an option. It was something other people did and not a lot of other people did it. However, I realized that a bachelor’s in composition was less than worthless, so I decided to apply to grad school and I got in.
Northwestern offered Libby a full ride. “Chicago had great opportunities with lots of music, so it seemed like a great choice,” she says. Libby loved the energy of living in Chicago and the activity the city offered. “There is a lot of concrete in Chicago.”
Libby Meyer Finds Her Home in the Upper Peninsula
It wasn’t long before she decided to trade the concrete of Chicago for the timbers of the Upper Peninsula. “I had the great fortune to be selected as an artist in residence at Isle Royale National Park. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would become a life-altering experience. One that inspired me to leave Chicago without any real plan and move to the U.P. where I now make my home these many years later. Upon arrival at the park, I was immediately fascinated by the novel sights and sounds all around me; so different from the soundscapes of Chicago. It was here that I heard a white-throated sparrow for the first time and was so transfixed that I spent the following weeks trying to identify all the sounds that I was hearing. Each night walking from my cabin I would hear the calls of the loons, the chattering of squirrels, the chirping of frogs, bird songs, and the motion of Lake Superior.”
That the great outdoors has become her muse is no surprise given her introduction to it on Isle Royale. She admits it is hard to separate her work from the Keweenaw, whether it’s bugs in the summer or snow the other nine months of the year. Or the lake. “The lake is my little nirvana,” she says. It inspires her to create new sounds.
New sounds are a welcome addition to the local community of talented musicians. They are always willing to play something new and different. “If I write something I can get it played. The best thing about being a composer is writing something and having someone play it,” she says. It is just one of the joys of being a musician in this place.
The Joys Music Brings to Libby
In talking to her, it is clear music is front and center. She loves to see what she can do with music. Libby creates her own music and sounds, using what she hears in nature for inspiration. Here in Houghton, the inspiration is unencumbered by the white noise of the big city. Plus, Michigan Tech offers other advantages to being a composer. If she writes something she is confident it can be played. And writing something and hearing it played brings her the most joy.
Another joy for Libby is nurturing music in her students; seeing the excitement they get by writing music. She loves how curious and creative the students are; especially since most downplay their creativity. For Libby “Art is less a creation and more an allowing.” Students need that space where they are allowed to create. And particularly here at Michigan Tech where most pursue studies outside of music. “Students here get opportunities to play they would never get anywhere else.” It makes her feel like an ambassador.
Libby loves finishing a piece. When she starts a piece, she never really knows how it is going to go. Seeing it come together is really satisfying. For example, Libby was asked to write a piece to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Frederick Law Olmsted’s (social reformer and founder of American landscape architecture) birth. Given her love of Michigan, she chose to compose a piece about Belle Isle, a park in Detroit designed by Olmsted. While doing the research, she learned Olmsted quit the project. Instead, she decided to focus on the native wildflowers Olmsted incorporated into his landscape designs. It became “Beauty of the Fields.” Listen to Libby talk about Belle Isle and “Beauty of the Fields.”
Finishing To What Listens was a bit of a challenge for Libby. Getting musicians together to rehearse and record in a studio during a pandemic was never going to be easy. However, Libby was patient and determined. And now she can add finishing To What Listens to the list. We cannot wait to hear what new sounds Libby creates and adds to her list of created works.
Michigan Tech Music Presents Old World, New World Concert with Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra on April 22
Michigan Tech Music will present Old World, New World, performed by the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra (KSO) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, 2023, at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. This concert will also stream live for faraway KSO and Michigan Tech Music lovers.
The finale for the orchestra’s 2022/2023 “Season of Premieres,” Old World, New World features the world premiere of Kalaupapa, Music Director Joel Neves’ own work for orchestra. The deeply personal and moving composition is dedicated to Neves’ Native Hawaiian ‘ohana from the “old world” and features Hawaiian sounds including the charm of a ukulele and the call of conch shells.
“My Hawaiian ‘ohana contracted leprosy and were quarantined for life in the government-sanctioned Kalaupapa leper colony on Molokai. Their lives were pain-filled but joyous,” says Neves. ” I wrote a symphonic tone poem that depicts their pain and joy in equal measure, with the joy winning out in the end. Kalaupapa is a kaleidoscopic work for symphony orchestra, ukulele, guitar, and conch shells that paints the lives of my beautiful ancestors. Having recently exited a quarantined existence, I think our patrons will find Kalaupapa to be a compelling, close-to-home experience.”
The concert also explores the “new world” experienced by Czech composer, Antonin Dvorak, when he first visited America, resulting in his nostalgically beautiful New World Symphony. The concert features another piece by Dvorak, Carnival Overture, and Ballet music from Charles Gounod’s Faust.
Under the direction of conductor Joel Neves, the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra is comprised of talented musicians from Michigan Tech and the surrounding community. The orchestra has established itself as a cultural asset to the region, presenting high-quality classical and contemporary music performances throughout the year.
“Our concert theme is Old World, New World, represented by “old” Hawaii and “new” America. Dvorak’s New World Symphony–inspired by his travels to America–is one of the most popular symphonies in the world, a tour-de-force for symphony orchestra that includes the famous “Goin’ Home” theme in the second movement,” Neves says. “It’s an exciting concert program that will take the audience on a thrilling symphonic adventure.”
Tickets for the public are available online, by calling 906-487-1906, or the Rozsa Box Office from 11-1 p.m. Monday through Friday or for 1 hour before shows. Michigan Tech Students can reserve free Experience Tech tickets online, and Student Rush will be available at the door. Prices range from $5 for youth under 18 to $19 for adults.
For more information about Michigan Tech Music and the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra, visit www.mtu.edu/vpa/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 bit.ly/sacredspace2023.
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 mtu.edu/vpa/music/sacred-spaces/.
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.
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.
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
Presented in collaboration with Michigan Tech Music
There are no tickets for this free event, and all are welcome to join the fun!
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.
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 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
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 mtu.edu/huskybites.
Read more about Mike, Laura, Matt and Husky Bites on the College of Engineering blog.