Spring Festivals Connect with Community

Three annual series: Cello Plus Chamber Music Festival, Latin IS America, and Jazz Spectacular leave lasting impressions.

Music festivals provide an atmosphere to engage with audiences that go beyond the traditional stage and curtain. The MSU College of Music produces three unique festivals every spring. “We strive to connect with audiences in unexpected ways,” says James Forger, dean of the college. “You can bring tremendous perspective to audiences by offering events that connect performance with cultural diversity, history, and artistry.”

Non-traditional elements of the festivals include master classes, panel discussions with artists and musicologists, and performances by internationally known musicians. “Education is part of our outreach,” says Forger. “We’re always looking for ways to take the ‘listening experience’ to the ‘enriching experience.’”

The 14th annual Cello Plus Chamber Music Festival, sponsored by Joanne and Bill Church, ran from March 17 through March 23. Directed by Suren Bagratuni, professor of cello, this festival is known for bringing world-renowned artists to East Lansing to perform with College of Music faculty artists. Five evenings, seven concerts, 24 artists, and more than 50 performances graced the stage during this series. Cello Plus gave audiences a unique opportunity to experience chamber music in the intimate setting of the Fairchild Theatre. World premieres and works by famous composers were skillfully designed to include various small ensemble combinations of strings, piano, woodwinds, and voice.

Latin IS America celebrated its second year at MSU and brought another extraordinary lineup. From April 9 through April 19 the community celebrated the blend of Latin American and U.S. cultures through an innovative series of music, discussions, and dance.

The festival featured the award-winning MSU Percussion Ensemble, famous cantatas sung by University Chorale and MSU Choral Union, a lecture on musical connections between cathedrals and churches from Cuba and Mexico, cross-continental rhythmic blends of strings by the Philadelphia-based Dali Quartet, musical performance theatre by Musique 21 and the Children’s Ballet Theatre of Michigan, and a closing reception and dance party led by the Tejano Sound Band. Latin IS America is supported by a grant from the MSU Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives.

The 34th annual Jazz Spectacular, sponsored by Jack and Dottie Withrow and directed by Rodney Whitaker,  boasts big-band jazz and swing, a world-class visiting artist, and the Lincoln Center’s “Essentially Ellington” high school jazz band competition. Over just three days this festival featured seven jazz ensembles and seven faculty artists from the College of Music who performed at the festival and played an active role in assisting with the competition. High school students from Michigan and other neighboring states came to campus to experience what the MSU Jazz Studies program has to offer while competing for the chance to perform at the festival’s Wrap-up Concert. Faculty members administered clinics and conducted master classes to council jazz groups and individual students on their technique and artistry. The all-day competition offers locals hours of outstanding free entertainment and also gives young musicians a chance to learn from the best jazz musicians. The Wrap-up Concert closed the series with performances by the most outstanding high school jazz band, the Be-Bop Spartans, the MSU Professors of Jazz, and drummer Jeff Hamilton from MSU Federal Credit Union Jazz Artist in Residence.

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