Music Alumna helps build music dream home

Teaching experiences and a love of MSU inspire a gift to benefit students.

Marty Scharchburg's MSU jazz connection unknowingly began when she introduced a young Ron Blake to the saxophone while teaching in the Virgin Islands. Ron, seen here with Marty at the DSO, went on to a distinguished career including teaching at MSU.
Due to lack of space, for many years the jazz library at MSU has been little more than two converted closets. Meanwhile, the collection of sheet music, recordings and other material has nearly doubled over the past 20 years.
The new Martha A. Scharchburg Jazz Library in the Billman Music Pavilion will give the Jazz Area space in which to organize and grow the important collection of research materials needed by students. Marty, from her home in Florida, is thrilled to help.
As a music fan from a very early age, Marty takes in performances as frequently as possible. Here she visits with Angela Hewitt after the pianist's recital in New York City.
Marty Scharchburg, here with her husband Bruce in Paris, loves to travel. The college welcomes alumni back to campus any time, but it will be especially exciting to welcome her when the Billman Music Pavilion is completed in 2020.

MSU Music graduate Martha (Marty) Scharchburg BME 1971, knew from a very early age that she wanted to be a band director. Raised in the Detroit area, she was familiar with Michigan State, but it wasn’t until she attended the MSU summer music camps during high school that she knew she wanted to be a Spartan.

“I attended a high school program on campus as a junior and senior called MSU Youth Music,” Marty explained. “It was a huge summer program – band, orchestra, choir, even dance and drama, I believe. There were four very large concert bands, and working with the MSU Music faculty just solidified it for me. I had a great experience, loved being on campus, loved East Lansing, and that was what made me really green. I definitely wanted to go to MSU.”

The size and nature of a large research-based university was really attractive to Marty. She still seeks out opportunities and loves to learn about new ideas and cultures throughout her life and travels.

As an MSU student, Marty was able to experience the joy of a brand new facility with the opening of the Music Practice Building. As an educator, she was fortunate enough to sit on the administration side of multiple facilities upgrades, and has come to understand how much of a positive impact adequate spaces can have on a program.

Her love for MSU, coupled with her knowledge and experience as a music educator, led Marty to give a generous gift to name the Jazz Library in the new Billman Music Pavilion. Aiming to be completed in early 2020, the Billman Music Pavilion will add 37,000 square feet of acoustically sound practice and rehearsal spaces, as well as 8,500 square feet of renovations to the existing music buildings.

Through her leadership in the Dexter Community Schools’ band programs, Marty played a vital role in keeping students involved and engaged with band, and was able to secure new facilities for the programs. She knows that with new facilities, the ability to recruit the best, most talented students and faculty candidates will greatly increase, elevating all of the music programs at MSU.

As a music educator and long-time advocate for music programs and student musicians in Michigan, Marty has enjoyed seeing the growth of the College of Music on campus, in the surrounding community, and in Detroit. Detroit has always been a special place for Marty; she remembers visiting downtown with her parents as a child and still enjoys going to shows, restaurants, concerts and shops as often as possible.

“I was born in Detroit, and my parents were very city oriented,” she explained. “So I was really excited to see MSU’s presence downtown through the Community Music School-Detroit. The connections the jazz program has in the city and the musical outreach of CMS-D are wonderful.” Marty believes that music education is imperative to childhood development and is thrilled that her alma mater is making a positive difference in urban music education.

While she didn’t play jazz as a student, Marty remembers the jazz program as it was first beginning at MSU.

“My high school didn’t have a jazz program, so a couple friends and I would go to jazz clubs in Detroit when we were home on the weekends,” Marty explained. “I remember around 1970 during what I believe was the start of the jazz program, they would rehearse at the Music Practice Building. We used to sit on the floor in the lobby outside 103 and listen to the jazz rehearsals. Of course we knew some of the kids that were playing in the groups, so that was a fun new thing.”

Marty unknowingly established a connection to jazz at MSU while in her first teaching job in Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands. She started a 4th grader, Ronald Blake, on saxophone. Ron would go on to teach at MSU from 2001-2003 as a visiting guest artist and work with University Distinguished Professor and Director of MSU Jazz Studies Rodney Whitaker in Roy Hargrove’s group from 1992-1995. With those kinds of memories, it is no surprise that Marty has enjoyed watching jazz at MSU grow into one of the premier blues-based jazz programs in the nation – and gets excited each time she sees the MSU Professors of Jazz play live.

The Martha A. Scharchburg Jazz Library will be a great addition to an already outstanding music program. Whitaker remembers what it was like for the jazz department before any sort of library space was available to them.

“I remember in 2000, I was appointed to the position of Director of Jazz Studies in the College of Music at Michigan State University. One of the biggest challenges we faced at that time was the Jazz Area did not have an organized library,” Whitaker said. “With over 2,000 charts, the library was housed in an inadequate practice room space, lacking any real organization. After a massive overhaul, and many years of work, the jazz library has grown, with more than 3,500 charts, recordings, books and manuscripts.

“We have long needed a space to house the Jazz Studies Area Library holdings and are grateful to Marty for providing her generous support. This will enable the area to have the much needed space which will greatly enhance the library's music prep and research capabilities.”

The Billman Music Pavilion project compelled Marty to make her gift because music is her passion. She has been on both sides of new facilities and knows that this will have a transformational impact on the experiences of generations of future Spartan musicians to come.

“I experienced what it was like to bring a new building into being. We built a new auditorium when I was a teacher, and it’s just as exciting as moving into your dream home,” she said. “It changes everything for you, and it makes me excited to know the Billman Music Pavilion is going to impact all of the faculty and students. It’s just going to be like winning the lotto – the music facility lotto!”


Fundraising is ongoing for the Billman Music Pavilion as the College of Music strives to secure the final $1.3M of its $17.5M obligation. For more information about naming opportunities or contributing to the Billman Music Pavilion, please contact Senior Director of Development Rebecca Surian at (517) 353-9872 or surian@msu.edu.

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