Announcing 2016 Running Start Competition Winners

Entrepreneurial students from the College of Music pitch to a panel of judges, their peers, and area advocates for business and the arts.

Running Start Competition finalists with sponsors. Front left to right: Cynthia Kay, Tia Harvey, Perice Pope, Alex Valigura, Gina Benalcazar, April Clobes. Back left to right: Chance Trottman-Huiet, Erick Locker, Katherine Denler.
First place, Eric Locker, “Everyone Chimes In.”
Second place, Katherine Denler, “Harps in Hand.”
Third place, Tia Harvey, “M.I. Music”

Ideas flowed this January when music-minded and business savvy attendees gathered in Hart Recital Hall of the MSU Music Building to pitch progressive ideas in music to a live audience through the 2016 Running Start Competition.

Eight students from the MSU College of Music presented inventive proposals for entrepreneurial projects, with ideas for concerts, documentaries, residencies, chamber groups, social justice initiatives, and educational programs. At the end of the 90-minute event developed by the Running Start Program, three students were selected to receive cash awards to help bring their ideas to life: Eric Locker, Katherine Denler, and Tia Harvey. See videos and read more about their projects below, including ideas from other finalists.

“It was exciting to see the number and diversity of ideas coming from all areas in the College of Music,” says Christine Beamer, Running Start Competition coordinator and director of career services and music entrepreneurship. “The number of applicants doubled this year, and I was impressed by the way in which the proposals had already developed community partners, even in their first stage.”

Participating College of Music students invested several weeks researching and preparing their ideas, culminating with the first ever live-pitch event for the Running Start competition. Previous competitions involved closed presentations with a panel of judges.

“The idea behind the live-pitch is that it’s all about connecting like-minded people in the community and merging investors and organizations with the entrepreneurs,” continues Beamer. “I think entrepreneurship in music is all about collaboration, which is why we decided to pilot this format.”

Student presenters were given five minutes to pitch their idea, which was followed up with questions from a five-member panel of judges. Judges included: Maury Okun (Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings), Sean Lynch (MSU College of Music), Jaime DeMott (MSU Community Music School), Chad Badgero (Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs), and Neil Kane (Director of Undergraduate Entrepreneurship).

Judges deliberated and selected the participants who would receive top honors, then announced their results to those in attendance.

  • First place: Eric Locker, awarded $2,500 for his project titled Everybody Chimes In.
  • Second place: Katherine Denler, awarded $1,500 to help fund her project titled Harp in Hand.
  • Third place: Tia Harvey, awarded $1,000 to help fund her project titled M.I. Concerts.

The first place award was funded by the MSU Federal Credit Union, and the second and third place awards were funded courtesy of Cynthia Kay and Company.

Other competition finalists who presented their projects included Gina Benalcazar, Lena Miles, Perice Pope, Chance Trottman-Huiet, and Alexander Valigura

Beamer plans to continue the new live-pitch format and grow the event for next year’s competition by encouraging more arts and business-related organizations from the community to attend and participate. After the event, judges and attendees provided positive feedback and expressed continued support for future competitions.

“One representative from a community organization told me that they are now thinking about writing a grant to fund music programming with their organization,” says Beamer. “This is the kind of energy we want to create throughout the region.”

Beamer takes a hands-on approach with students to help them take their ideas from paper, to practice, and then to the greater Lansing community and beyond. The Running Start program and competition is designed to help students realize their goals, and weave them into their identity as entrepreneurs.

To learn more about the College of Music’s entrepreneurial focus for students, visit the Running Start website.

Founded in 2012, the Running Start Competition was developed by the College of Music and is designed to help students think about their careers in an entrepreneurial way, formulate new paths, and forge collaborations that bring artistry into real-world applications. The Running Start Competition provides cash awards to selected students in support of projects that will likely have substantial positive impact on their careers. The 2016 competition is generously supported by the MSU Federal Credit Union and Cynthia Kay and Company. 

Student presentations and projects

Everybody Chimes In. First place award, presented by Eric Locker, pursuing a bachelor’s in music education. Project is designed to provide free music education to students with special needs in the form of a hand chime choir for the Shiawassee County area. 

Harp in Hand. Second place award, presented by Katherine Denler, pursing a doctorate in harp performance. Project offers a multifaceted opportunity for creative instrument building, music making, and community enrichment to people with diverse interests and abilities through an affordable harp kit building program. 

M.I. Concerts. Third place award, presented by Tia Harvey, pursing a doctorate in percussion performance. A Michigan-centric contemporary chamber music series with a mission to make music from the community and for the community by employing local composers and performers, identifying venues, and drawing inspiration from the places in which we live. 

Outreach Project. Presented by Gina Benalcazar, pursing a mater’s in jazz studies. Project uses jazz as a medium to reach students and start conversations about topics that are otherwise avoided.

Waverly Arts Workshop. Presented by Lena Miles, earning bachelor degrees in music education and music composition. Project supports a four-day summer arts camp that targets students in underserved areas, making music more accessible to the community.

Crescendo Jazz. Presented by Perice Pope, pursing a master’s in jazz studies. Project focuses on enriching pre-existing after school music programs through jazz studies.

Tuba Tuesdays. Presented by Chance Trottman-Huiet, pursing a doctorate in tuba performance. Project provides an outreach program of mentorship to young tuba players seeking opportunities to learn from professionals and perform in public.

Recording Made Easy. Presented by Alexander Valigura, earning bachelor degrees in music education and jazz studies. Project creates an educational webcast series about the necessary resources for musicians to record music and make a CD.

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