Alumni Form Contemporary Music and Dance Ensemble

“ConTempus,” ensemble with MSU ties collaborates with Detroit art groups.

From left: Tim Patterson, Bong-A Jung, Ji Hyun Kim, Sarah Patterson, David Schultz, Jinhee Han, Jonathan Holden, Will Cicola, Marissa Olin, Mark Douglass. Photos courtesy ConTempus.
Dancers and musicians of ConTempus perform at the Saint John and Saint Luke United Church of Christ
After the performance, the ensemble held a “talk-back” session with the audience.
Musicians, composers, and dancers of the ConTempus ensemble.

A contemporary music ensemble with strong ties to the MSU College of Music recently collaborated with a Southeastern Michigan dance company to help build a stronger arts community in Detroit.

Founded by alumna Ji Hyun Kim with a handful of MSU College of Music alumni, the group ConTempus paired with ARTLAB J in the Detroit Revival Project, one of many events undertaken by the dance company. The March production featured original compositions and improvisational dance inspired by the rebirth of Detroit. MSU alumni wrote four of the five compositions for the event that took place at Saint John and Saint Luke United Church of Christ—the home of ARTLABJ near Detroit’s Eastern Market.

“One of our goals is to connect traditional repertoire with contemporary music while collaborating with other arts like dance, fine arts, and drama,” says Kim, who is also an assistant professor of violin and viola and the director of the string orchestra at Spring Arbor University. “We want to create productions that a broad audience can relate to.”

Kim graduated with a master's in 2006 and with her doctorate in 2010 in violin performance from MSU. She says she continually feels the influences of her alma mater—particularly when she draws from her experiences with Musique 21—the College's premiere contemporary music ensemble, now under the direction of Professor of Music Kevin Noe.

Being a member of Musique 21—then directed by Raphael Jiménez —deeply broadened her view of 20th and 21st century music and composition, and solidified her belief that art can effect change. She was also immensely influenced by her doctoral studies with Walter Verdehr, MSU professor of violin and founder of the Verdehr Trio.

Kim formed ConTempus in 2014, bringing together a core group of MSU alumni to perform a repertoire of classically based contemporary music. The group continually seeks out new and original works from living composers, and engages in collaborative projects that involve multiple art forms. 

“Our approach is to find a balance between that artistic freedom and audience preferences,” says Kim. “We’re hoping to build a presence through these kinds of events so people don’t feel that contemporary music is just for the ‘art crowd.’”

Kim visited MSU last fall on the invitation of the College’s Running Start Program. While on campus, she served as a panelist for an entrepreneurial workshop that focused on dispelling myths about hiring in higher education.

“What struck me about Ji Hyun is that she’s incredibly vested and passionate about helping people enjoy and experience music at a deeper level,” says Christine Beamer, director of career services and music entrepreneurship. “She sets a great example for our students.”

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