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.
SPEAK Resilience (Sustainability, Psychology, Ecology, Arts, Kultur) received a Spring 2023 award for Curriculum Innovation from the Tech Forward Initiative on Sustainability and Resilience (ISR). Co-PI’s include our very own Lisa Gordillo, Associate Chair and Associate Professor, Visual and Performing Arts, along with Tara Bal (CFRES), and Sam Smith (CLS).
SPEAK Resilience will be an interdisciplinary sustainability program for Michigan Tech students to study in Björkö-Arholma, Sweden. The program will include a collection of four courses: one each in psychology, ecology, and the arts; and one interdisciplinary course team-taught by the faculty co-PIs. The co-PIs will develop a program that draws on each of their specialties to create immersive, interdisciplinary curricula. Learn more about SPEAK Resilience.
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.
Student of Promise: Rowan Parsons
Rowan Parsons is a third-year Sound Design major. Rowan is interested in broadcast media, and has been the Head of Productions at WMTU Houghton 91.9 FM for the past two years and will be shifting to Head of Events this coming year. They work with Michigan Tech IT and Athletics on the live broadcast of sporting events. They were the Front of House Mixing Engineer for Michigan Tech’s recent production of the musical Chess. They love spending time with their friends in the department, hanging out with their cat, and playing video games.
All Arts: Izzy Waldie
Izzy Waldie is a fourth year student majoring in Audio Production and Technology with a Minor in Computer Science. Izzy is the president of the student organization Above the Bridge Records, a student recording label, and Vice President of SoundGirls. Izzy has worked on many theatre shows as both a sound designer and sound system designer. She blends her creative and technical skills working for IT as a media tech specialist and an AV engineer for MTU Athletics. She is also a sound designer and film editor for Tech’s CinOptic Enterprise, and is currently working on promotional videos for Isle Royale National Park. Izzy also plays in multiple bands, including being the drummer for JAZTEC, MTU’s premier jazz combo. Last summer, Izzy secured a prestigious internship at Shure in Chicago, one of the biggest audio companies in the world, and she will be returning for another internship there this summer. As an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast, she is very excited to return to Houghton for her final semester in the fall.
Arts: Bobbie Desgrange
Bobbie is a soon to be graduate from Lansing, Michigan. They will be getting their BS in Theater and Entertainment Technology with an Art minor. During their time here they have worked as a Scenic Artist in 5 VPA productions, and with two of their peers put on the first independent student gallery in the Rozsa titled Me, You, & Us. Along with that, they recently collaborated with Lisa Gordillo this past year to design an installation piece in the Minerals and Materials building.
Sound: Mason Waldrip
Mason Waldrip is a graduating senior in the Audio Production and Technology major. He
came to Michigan Tech in 2018 as a Computer Science major but quickly fell in love with
audio production when he took an elective course in the department. Since then, Mason
has been involved in the department most notably through working at the Rozsa,
working on several theatre productions, becoming the president of the Audio
Engineering Society at Michigan Tech, and designing and building multiple studios.
Mason also formed his band Bouquet with his friends and has been gigging, writing, and
recording for just over a year. Along with the band, Mason will be releasing an EP during
the summer. He has a passion for music, video games, live-streaming, programming,
photography, and snowboarding.
Music: Aidan Conrade
Aidan Conrade is a third year Sound Design student with a minor in Music Composition. They enjoy putting their knowledge of sound design together with their music to create unique and creative pieces for all types of projects. On top of this, they also play bass guitar and upright bass in a variety of groups at Michigan Tech, including the Playtesters, MTU’s video game jazz ensemble, which is a student-lead group that specializes in arranging their favorite video game tunes into various styles of jazz and adjacent genres to grow as musicians! When they are not working on a project or writing/listening to music, they are exploring the outdoors or discovering the latest indie games. Their goal after university is to join the video game and/or film industries as a sound designer and composer, where they will work to curate immersive and expressive experiences for others to enjoy!
Theatre: Maisie Whitaker
Department Scholar: Maisie Whitaker
Maisie Whitaker is a 4th year student studying Theater and Entertainment with emphasis in Mechanical and Craft alongside an Art Minor. She works as both gallery assistant and scene shop assistant. She also is a Peer Mentor to incoming students as they start their way into college. Maisie has a great love for all things theater and art of course but also finds joy in animals, nature, crafting, and reading. She is looking forward to participating in the VPA faculty led study abroad trip to the Prague Quadrennial. She was one of three artists featured in first student professional art show ‘Me, You, and Us’ down in the A-Space Rozsa Gallery. Maisie credits her success within the VPA department to her professors who have encouraged her growth as a student. She also recognizes her friends and peers who make every production or event that much easier to be apart of.
Milton Olsson Music Award: Alex Hudson
Alex is a Computer Engineering student from Alto, Michigan, near Lowell. He started playing violin when he was 11 and has since enjoyed performing in a wide variety of ensembles—including the Lowell Fusion Rock Orchestra, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, multiple pit orchestras, and MTU’s own Video Game Jazz Ensemble. Alex is also an aspiring composer and is currently working towards a minor in music composition. Whether creating it or playing it, he finds music to be one of the best ways to express himself and de-stress after rough days.
Marian and John Irish Award for Environmental Art: August Camp
August Camp is a graduating senior in applied ecology and environmental science, and was a student last fall in Art & Nature. August considered deep questions of seeming binaries, such as beauty and horror, or natural vs. artificial. He was interested in the possibility that plastic can be both beautiful and an embodiment of the climate catastrophe we’re experiencing. And wanted to explore the way anthropogenic actions mimic natural disturbances across the landscape. They thought hard about how to position viewer-participants to consider the complexity of our climate crisis, including our individual, conflicted lifestyles.
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 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.
Did you know that faculty in Humanities, Visual and Performing Arts, and Social Sciences are leading four different study abroad trips this summer? You can help tech students access these incredible experiences by donating to our crowdfunding campaign!
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The Seashore Psychology Training Clinic at the University of Iowa is pleased to announce that they will be continuing collaboration with Professor of Art Anne Beffel on an art installation entitled Color and Context. This extension of Beffel’s Color of Kindness project, currently exhibited in the Seashore Clinic, will engage graduate students as well as clinical faculty and staff.
Participants will be invited to recall a moment in which kindness, or its absence, was important to them and to describe colors present within their memory. In the updated project, Beffel will collect only the name of the color and its brief description through online survey. As Beffel creates a painting for each person’s named color, she will integrate its complement, located 180 degrees opposite on the Newtonian color wheel. The introduction of the complementary color is intended to embody both contrast and connection. Beffel notes, “Gullickson, and former training director Michael O’Hara, have been excellent collaborators and art stewards, extending themselves in countless ways. I’m particularly grateful for the opportunity to directly engage the clinic faculty, staff and students in articulating the colors that matter to them as we reflect upon the dynamic and evolving culture surrounding color in America.”
“We are thrilled at our continuing collaboration with Anne Beffel,” writes Seashore Clinic director Gregory Gullickson. “Anne has really brought such color and life to our clinic, and having students and staff inspire more of her work will add immeasurably to the beauty and healing spirit of our clinic space.”
Installation of Color and Context is planned for summer 2023 with support from Beffel’s academic department of Visual and Performing Arts at Michigan Technological University.
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.
For most students at Tech, Career Week means ”Lights! Camera! Action!” To prepare, students need to research the roles they are interviewing for and the companies they will be interviewing with. They rehearse responses to typical interview questions and dress appropriately for the interview. The typical Career Fair experience for Visual Performing Arts (VPA) department students is no different.
Just as the giants of the automotive, chemical, consumer products, and other industries converge on Houghton to hire outstanding engineers, so do the major players in arts and entertainment. They are looking to hire full-time employees and this summer’s interns. It all kicks off this week with virtual presentations from half-a-dozen companies. Each will present what makes them unique, why students should work for them, and which jobs they are hiring for. Most presentations are led by Tech alums, which gives students a unique insight into how to be more successful when competing for jobs at their company.
VPA Students Have Skills and Potential
“Students from Michigan Tech not only engage in areas of study that are applicable to our industry, but more importantly they have the potential and capacity to expand their knowledge and learn what is required to contribute to the services we offer based on that core education. We are a niche company providing a unique set of services, and it is more important to have the ability to learn new skills quickly and easily than to already know a particular skill,” said Jason Pontius of Smart Monkeys. Smart Monkeys build some of the most technologically advanced entertainment systems in the world for clients including Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Gardens, and Universal Studios Orlando.
“Tech students are grounded in physical sciences and math, and those are quite important for the work that we do (design consulting for performing arts facilities). We need young candidates who have exposure to a wide variety of entertainment practices, and one of the strengths of Tech’s VPA programs is that it doesn’t pigeonhole students in the way that a lot of programs do. As a result, they are ready to consider things outside of one track of experience, and that’s a valuable skill for design consultants in my world to have,” Josh Loar, Senior Consultant (AV) of Charcoalblue LLC., a consulting firm working on everything from concert halls to theme parks.
Recruiting Companies at Michigan Tech During Career Week
This week’s visitors and their presentations include:
Lighthouse Productions, located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is a full-service production company offering sound, lighting, roof systems, staging, and related services to clients across the Midwest. They are hiring for their 2023 Production Training Internship Program which runs from Late May through August.
Feb. 14, 12:15 pm Walker 210 and Google Meet
Sante Fe Opera, located in New Mexico, offers a top-notch production environment with artisans of all stripes.
Feb. 14 @ 2:25 pm Walker 210 and Zoom
McKay Conant Hover is an acoustical and AV consulting firm designing concert halls, educational facilities, theatres, and more. Join their live session to learn more about consulting as a career.
Feb. 15 @ 2 pm Walker 212 and Zoom
Charcoalblue is a consulting firm working on everything from concert halls to theme parks for clients across the globe. Theatre, acoustic, project management, and digital design runs in their blood.
Feb. 17 @ 4 pm Walker 210 and Microsoft Teams
8th Day Sound, located in Cleveland, OH, is one of the largest live concert tour companies in the world. They are looking for team-oriented professionals who are passionate about sound and seeking to begin their careers in touring audio. They offer a 12-week paid internship and hires have worked on tours for Kendrick Lamar, MonstaX, and Stray Kidz to name a few.
Feb. 20 @ 1 pm, Walker 210 and Zoom
Smart Monkeys build some of the most technologically advanced entertainment systems in the world for clients including Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Gardens, Universal Studios Orlando, the Smithsonian, and the Big-O experience in South Korea.
Feb. 20 @ 5 pm Walker 210 & Zoom