Category: News

Don Keranen Jazz Awards

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 drummer Zane Smalley, Workshop Brass Band trombonist Matthew Plansinis, and Lab Band Lead Tenor player Grayson Dunham. 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.


Zane Smalley is a 3rd Year Software Engineering Major with a minor in Mathematical Science. He is a founding member of the Video Game Music Ensemble, and a member of the R&D Big Band, a Jazz Combo, and the Huskies Pep Band at Michigan Tech. Zane has been consistently involved with various bands and choirs since the age of 10 and started playing drums when he was about 13. When he isn’t in rehearsals, Zane enjoys spending his free time playing Super Smash Bros and Risk of Rain 2 with friends or playing and watching disc golf. 

Matthew Plansinis has had many aspirations in his life, but by far mathematics and music held most of his interest. From a young age, he liked to build stuff and was just curious how objects worked, so pursuing a career in engineering was an obvious choice. He only decided to major in biomedical engineering due to his youngest of two brothers, who was born with type 1 diabetes.

A majority of my life I’ve worked with and used equipment designed by biomedical engineers, so in hopes of improving my brother’s physical health, I chose to follow their path.”

 As for his interest in music, it started in 2011, when he started learning trombone for the first time in his middle school’s concert band. For the nine years following then, he would learn much, play in a variety of bands, and grow his appreciation for many genres of music. At this moment in his life, Matthew desires to gain a better knowledge of the history and theory of jazz, and to continue playing music in the future.

Grayson Dunham is a 4th year Audio Production and Technology student here at Michigan Tech. He has played in the Jazz Lab Band, as well as the Jaztec combo, for his entire collegiate career – as well as pursuing a minor in Jazz Studies. Some of his hobbies include backcountry skiing, mountain biking, music production and performance, and cooking. 

Don Keranen Jazz Awards

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 Jazz Lab Band drummer Izzy Waldie, Jazz Lab Band trombonist Nicholas Bussey, and R&D Big Band lead trumpeter Matthew Fisher. These students all showed leadership, dedication, excellence, and improvement this year. Given the limitations of rehearsals, concerts, and recording sessions due to the pandemic, the work these students put in this year is especially impressive. I am grateful for them, and wish them continued success in the coming years. – Director of Jazz Studies, Adam Meckler.

Most Improved Player 
Izzy Waldie, Percussion
Jazz Lab Band

Izzy is a 19 year old Audio Production and Technology Major with a Computer Science Minor here at Tech, and the drummer for the Jazz Lab Band and top combo.  One day she hopes to work as a recording/mixing engineer or high fidelity loudspeaker designer.  She has been drumming since the second grade, and started playing jazz music in High School.  When not behind the kit or doing homework she is most likely making music, spending time with friends, or camping somewhere in the Keweenaw, or all three.

Most Valuable Player 
Matthew Fisher, Trumpet
R&D Big Band

Matt just finished his first year here at Michigan Tech as a Sound Design major. Music has always been a passion of his, and was excited to be a part of Tech’s Jazz Program.

“I’ve never had an opportunity to be a part of a legit jazz band, so I had a blast this year being a part of two bands and a combo. I’m looking forward to the next three years here at Tech and excited to continue performing in the jazz program!”

Most Valuable Player
Nicholas Bussey, Trombone Jazz Lab Band

Nicholas is a Second-Year Chemical Engineering student and trombonist in MTU’s Jazz Lab Band and top jazz combo. Also a composer, arranger and former Ravinia Jazz Scholar, he is constantly growing as a musician, and uses his skills to create multitrack music videos on top of his contributions in the Lab Band and combo. In his free time, he enjoys cycling long distances and playing niche board games. After graduating, he hopes to work to improve sustainability in the specialty coatings, food or plastics industries.

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.

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.

Student Jazz Award Winners Announced

Director of Jazz Studies, Adam Meckler, has announced this year’s student recipients for the Don Keranen Endowed Scholarship Awards.

This fund provides cash awards to students for Outstanding Jazz Musician and Most Improved Jazz Musician. Individuals who participate in the Jazz Lab Band, the Research and Development Big Band, and the Workshop Big Band are eligible.

Most Improved was awarded to Steven Turnbull, while the Outstanding Jazz Musician was awarded to two students – Alek Ertman and Ryan Briggs.

These awards were slated to be announced during the Don Keranan Memorial Jazz Concert on March 20th, but was cancelled.

Jazz Award winner Steven Turnbull
Steven Turnbull is a first year student pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and a minor in Technical Theatre. As a trumpet player, he loves listening to and playing in all kinds of bands, especially jazz. Although he thinks mathematically, he is able to express his artistic side through music. He takes his education seriously and loves to learn new things from any kind of subject.
Alek Ertman is a third year student at Michigan Tech. He is an Electrical Engineering major with a focus in Automation and Controls. In addition to his studies, Alek also plays bass in the top jazz ensemble, and top jazz combo. Some of his musical influences include Stuart Zender, Paul Chambers, and Charlie Haden.
Ryan Briggs jazz award winner
Ryan Briggs is a first year Computer Engineering
student also pursuing minors in Mathematics and Music Composition. Here at Tech, Ryan is the Bassist for the R&D Jazz Band, a Huskies Pep Band ‘Rumpet, and co-founder and bassist of a student run Video Game Music Jazz Ensemble. While he enjoys studying engineering, his other passion lies in music. He hopes to one day compose music professionally on the side. 

Gordillo Teaching Award Recipient

In order to provide special recognition to instructors who have been nominated as finalists for the Distinguished Teaching Award four or more times, the Provost’s office has initiated a new teaching award this spring.

Four instructors have been identified to receive the inaugural Provost’s Awards for Sustained Teaching Excellence. They include:

Provost Huntoon, in collaboration with the Deans, initiated this award because “It became clear that we had a group of instructors consistently delivering exceptional instruction to their students over many years, who are worthy of special recognition.”

The award consists of a plaque and $1,000 in additional compensation. Each of the recipients of the new award will continue to be honored on an annual basis as members of Michigan Tech’s Distinguished Teaching Academy, an elite group with an established reputation for excellent teaching.

Please join the Provost and the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in congratulating these recipients!

Public Performances and Receptions at the Rozsa and McArdle Cancelled

As you are likely aware, Michigan Tech is carefully following guidance from the recent Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order issued by Governor Whitmer.  Campus is closed to the public, except for critical services, and faculty and staff are working from home.  We were sad that the current COVID-19 situation necessitated cancelling or postponing the rest of our arts season at Michigan Tech, but we are hopeful that measures that we are taking now will make a big difference in keeping our community safe and healthy.
With the cancellation of the remainder of the season we will provide three options for all single tickets and pro-rated package tickets purchased to the following Rozsa/VPA events that were cancelled or postponed.  These include:

Option #1 Contact the SDC Ticket Office at tickets@mtu.edu for a refund of your concert tickets.  Season Subscriptions, Pick-6, and Pick-3 packages will be pro-rated.

Option #2 Tickets may be traded for an equivalent performance in the 2020-21 Season.  Some Presenting Series Events have already been rescheduled for next season, including:  Manual Cinema (Sept. 4, 2020), Audiopharmacy (March 19, 2021), and Vieux Farka Touré (March 20, 2021).  Tickets Visual and Performing Arts Department student concerts (Tech Theatre, KSO, Choirs, Bands, Jazz) can be redeemed for a performance in the 2020-21 season by contacting tickets@mtu.edu.

Option #3 Unrefunded or untraded tickets refunds may be donated to the Friends of the Rozsa Fund.  This gift will be tax-deductible and will be acknowledged by the Michigan Tech Fund.  This can also be done by contacting tickets@mtu.edu.

We appreciate your patronage over this past season and look forward to announcing our 2020-21 season.  Details about next season will come soon.  Please visit the Rozsa website for more information, www.mtu.edu/rozsa

Distinguished Teaching Award Finalists Announced

The William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning seeks input for its annual Distinguished Teaching Awards, which recognize outstanding contributions to the instructional mission of the University. Based on more than 50,000 student ratings of instruction responses, ten finalists have been identified for the two 2020 awards. The selection committee is soliciting comments from students, staff, faculty and alumni to aid in deliberation.

This year’s finalists in each of two categories are:

Assistant Professor/Lecturer/Professor of Practice Category

  • Nancy Barr (MEEM)
  • Mike Hyslop (CFRES)
  • Heather Knewtson (COB)
  • Sheila Milligan (COB)
  • Ulrich Schmelze (COB)

Associate Professor/Professor Category

  • Melissa Baird (SS)
  • Mike Christianson (VPA)
  • John Durocher (BioSci)
  • Julie King (ChE)
  • Amy Marcarelli (BioSci)

Comments on the nominees are due by Friday, April 3 and can be completed online. The process for determining the two Distinguished Teaching Award recipients from each list of finalists also involves the additional surveying of their spring classes. A selection committee makes the final determination of the award recipients in early May with the 2020 Distinguished Teaching Awards formally announced in late May.

For more information, contact Margaret Landsparger at 7-1001.

Tech Choirs to Perform ‘Music for a Sacred Space’ Sunday

Singers in a choir during a performance

The choirs of Michigan Tech will perform a joint concert entitled, “Music for a Sacred Space,” at 7:30 p.m. Sunday (March 1), at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Linden. 

The concert has been a tradition for the choirs for a number of years.  The Michigan Tech Concert Choir will sing repertoire from the German literature by Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn. They will also perform “Behold! I Build An House” by Lukas Foss, “Otche Nash” by Nikolai Golovanov, as well as two American folk hymns.  The Michigan Tech Chamber Singers, conScience, will perform both traditional and contemporary anthems, including music from Renaissance Italy as well as selections from England, Canada and the United States.

“This concert provides our singers and the audience with an opportunity to experience sacred choral music in a space that is appropriate for the genre, together with a stunning acoustic that matches other sacred spaces where the music may have been first heard. The choirs look forward to this concert each year,” said Jared Anderson, conductor of both choirs.

The concert is open to the public. A free-will offering will be collected with all proceeds from the concert to benefit the local chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.