Connecting People and Places with Classical Music

MSU College of Music student brings Michigan-centric chamber music series to local venues.

MI Concerts first performance, artists shown left to right: Philip Rice, Tia Harvey, Liz Vivan Loayza Herrera, Ashlee Busch, Chelsea Koziatek, Cwen Homa, and Sam Davies. Lansing Brewing Co. Lansing, Mich.
Concert stage, left to right: Liz Vivian Loayza Herrera, violin; Sam Davies, bass clarinet; Cwen Homa, piano; Tia Harvey, percussion; and Kyle Landry, tenor sax.
Tia Harvey, a Running Start Competition winner, makes her project pitch to the panel of judges for the 2016 competition.

For years, percussionist and MSU College of Music doctoral student Tia Harvey had been seeking a way to help connect classical music with the people and places it represents. Looking around her, she found the means to do so right in her own backyard.

In November 2016, Harvey stepped onto the stage at the Lansing Brewing Company with five other classically trained MSU musicians for the first performance of “M.I. Concerts.” The intent of the series, she says, is to bring contemporary chamber music to a wider audience by featuring Michigan-centric pieces composed by Michigan inspired composers—many with ties to MSU.

“We spend a lot of time playing to each other as college musicians,” says Harvey. “I think we need to work to make chamber and classical music more accessible to general audiences, and get the music out to the community.”

Harvey says an important objective of “M.I. Concerts is to commission works from Michigan composers. The first concert featured commissioned works from MSU alumni Ashlee Busch and Philip Rice. Additional pieces included an original arrangement of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” by Harvey, and works by other Michigan composers. About 30 people attended the event and had an opportunity to hear perspectives from the composers and musicians in between numbers.

“Many people have never heard chamber or new music, so we tried to program audience-friendly pieces that bridged the gap between rock and jazz,” says Harvey. “We received a lot of positive responses.”

Harvey’s project is funded by a $1,000 grant she received through the 2016 College of Music’s Running Start Competition. Held annually, the competition inspires students to think in entrepreneurial ways and to undertake projects that can impact their careers. The MSU Federal Credit Union supports the annual competition with additional funding for second and third place prizes provided by Cynthia Kay and Company.

Chelsea Koziatek played flute in the six-piece ensemble. As a College of Music alumnae and recipient of a 2015 Running Start Competition grant, Koziatek says she was excited that Harvey had received support for a challenging, community-based project.

“For musicians who desire to forge their own path, the Running Start Competition gives them a head start on their dream projects which can turn into much larger, profitable endeavors down the road,” says Koziatek. “There is an audience out there waiting to be captivated by music and bringing the performance to them is a great way to start.”

Director of Career Services and Music Entrepreneurship Christine Beamer says Harvey’s project resonated with Greater Lansing’s ongoing movement to build community through cultural and social activities. She says Harvey demonstrates great skills in creating partnerships and has an appetite for taking risks.

“It takes a lot of courage to follow through on an idea as creative as Tia’s, especially in a community that really doesn’t have new music outside of university settings,” says Beamer. “Tia is creating work for her fellow musicians and is seeking to engage in cultural and social conversations through music. I think her project has great potential to grow here and elsewhere as she takes it to other communities.”

The “M.I. Concerts” at the Lansing Brewing Company in November 2016 showcased Michigan musicians and composers, many with strong connections to the MSU College of Music. Joining Harvey in the chamber music and percussion-driven program were MSU music students and alumni Chelsea Koziatek, Sam Davies, Kyle Landry,

Liz Vivian Loayza Herrera and Cwen Homa. Among the featured musical selections were those by MSU composition alumni Ashlee Busch, Philip Rice and Justin Rito, and Michigan composer Bill Ryan.  

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