Advancing the Soul of MSU

$1.5 million gift names Murray Hall and the Murray Family Terrace.

Murray Hall for the principal use of jazz in the new pavilion is named in recognition of the major gift from Craig and Lisa Murray. The view in this rendering is from the J. P. Maguire Gallery, named in thanks for the contribution from Joe Maguire.

Craig Murray grew up with a passion for band, and his wife, Lisa, is a singer who comes from a family of jazz musicians. They are longtime supporters of the Michigan State University College of Music who have now taken their appreciation of the college to a new level.

The Murrays have established a generous major gift allocating a total of $2.1M for the Billman Music Pavilion, Athletics and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences through a charitable lead annuity trust. In recognition of their contribution, the College of Music will name the Performance and Rehearsal Hall for the principal use of jazz as well as the Pavilion Terrace in their honor.

“As a charter member of the College of Music National Leadership Council, Craig Murray has brought a passion, urgency and creative energy to his work with MSU and the College of Music,” said College of Music Dean James Forger. “In fact, the sparks that he has ignited have caught fire in very positive ways. We are grateful for the leadership Billman Music Pavilion gift Craig and Lisa have made. It will be a game changer for the many thousands of individuals – students, faculty, staff, and the general public – who will benefit from their generosity.”

With a charitable lead annuity trust, the Murrays are able to benefit from tax savings that result from supporting MSU without giving up assets that they would like other beneficiaries to receive someday. Through the trust, a fixed amount is given to MSU each year for a set number of years which the donors choose, and the remaining assets return to the donor or others they designate when the term is up.

“Walk through the current music building while classes are in session and the urgent necessity to expand capacity and modernize becomes crystal clear,” Craig said. “The building is bursting at the seams yet what comes out of it are wonderful, world-class performances and students who graduate and go on to become prominent artists, teachers and professionals. Because of that, this gift and the method we chose to give it just made sense to us.”

The Murray Family (from left), Jessie, Craig, Becca, Lisa, and Courtney, will also be recognized with the naming of the Murray Family Terrace, a relaxing and inspirational gathering space.
The Murray Family Terrace is the elevated gathering space depicted in this rendering, outside a set of windows in the Music Pavilion.

Craig, a 1976 MSU alumnus in Advertising, built a successful career in entertainment advertising. He and Lisa live in Burbank, California but travel to MSU often in part due to Craig’s role on the National Leadership Council (NLC). While Craig was a student manager for the MSU football team and had a brief stint in the Spartan Marching Band – one week, to be exact – the relationship with the college blossomed over ten years ago when he worked with other prominent MSU alumni on the West Coast to bring to life a one-time performance called “MSU at Disney Hall.”

“That experience forever altered my perception – and the audience’s perception – of the quality of musical talent at Michigan State,” Craig said. “The performances that afternoon weren’t just good, they were exceptional. I came to understand that the then-School of Music was a virtually unknown treasure at MSU.”

Craig joined the NLC shortly thereafter and became more inspired by “its roster of incredibly passionate and knowledgeable Spartan music lovers and musicians.” His appreciation of music at MSU continued to deepen.

“Music plays a role in nearly every event at MSU,” he said, “which is another reason why investing in this program is important. But even more important are the examples we see of disadvantaged students who succeed on campus or with the help of our Community Music School in Detroit, and you realize that music is part of MSU’s Land Grant heritage. It is part of our soul and part of the university’s tapestry.”

The Billman Music Pavilion includes a 37,000 square foot expansion and the strategic renovation of 8,700 square feet that will provide future generations of students an education of the highest quality. These functional changes will create a highly utilized new music facility with excellent sound isolation, infrastructure and equipment to support 21st century music performance, recording, rehearsal and teaching. The added features and accommodations will continue to grow the national and international reputation of the college by attracting exceptionally talented and creative faculty and students.

The Murrays are impressed with the powerhouse jazz studies program built under the direction and visionary work of Rodney Whitaker, University Distinguished Professor of Jazz Bass and Director of the Jazz Studies Program. Craig and Lisa also believe the Murray Family Terrace will be an important new space for faculty and student engagement.

“The ability to integrate outdoor space is something that is vitally important to the creative process,” Craig said. “A terrace is more than a place to get some fresh air. It’s where students and faculty can meet, interact and recharge their batteries outside of the formality of classrooms and studios. Our hope is that it can be both a relaxing and inspirational gathering spot.”

And about that one week stint in the Spartan Marching Band?

“I love band, but, in high school, I had actually only marched once. Still, I auditioned for the SMB, and suddenly there I was at the pre-season SMB training camp – lugging the then-brand-new fiberglass sousaphone while trying to learn 8-to-5 and complicated patterns and attempting to perform ’Baby Tuba Walk’ at the same time. Not a pretty sight. It was then I realized that me being in the band probably wasn’t meant to be,” Craig explained. “After one grueling week, I sheepishly turned in my uniform and became a student manager for the MSU football program.”

In the end, it was a change that benefitted everyone.

“I guess it all turned out pretty well,” he said. “I was able to build a career that has put me in a position to, well, finally pay back the College of Music for quitting band 47 years ago.”

MSU and the College of Music are forever thankful.

If you would like information on how you can support the MSU Music Pavilion, contact Senior Director of Development Rebecca Surian at or (517) 353-9872.

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