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Highlighting Black Artistry: An Evening for Sarah

Happy Black History Month! This month at the EXCEL Log we are highlighting Black Artistry by featuring student projects and highlighting the contributions of Black artists to music, theatre, and dance. It’s important to always celebrate Black History, but Black History Month can be a time to intentionally reflect and educate ourselves on the ways Black people have shaped and continue to shape performance, art, and culture. We kick off this series with a brief interview with 4th-year dance major, Brooke Taylor, about her project An Evening for Sarah, a performance honoring Sarah Collins Rudolph on Friday, February 10th at 7pm. 

Mattie Levy: What was the inspiration behind creating an Evening for Sarah

Brooke Taylor: Last May, I was watching Channel 7 news and there was a story about a woman named Sarah Collins Rudolph. I quickly found out that she was the fifth little girl, who survived the 16th Street Church bombing on September 15th, 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. I was so shocked because throughout my years I was only aware of the 4 little girls, who were killed due to the bomb. This news segment was not only the telling of Sarah’s story, but it was also about Oakland University honoring Sarah Collins Rudolph with an honorary nursing degree because she wasn’t able to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse. As I continued to watch this story, my mind started to turn and I got the feeling of butterflies in my stomach. This feeling, which I am very accustomed to, means I have an idea to plan something. I thought to myself, I want to plan a concert at the University of Michigan to honor her through art and dance. 

Mattie Levy: Can you tell us about some of the performances we’ll see at an Evening for Sarah?

Brooke Taylor: You will see students from across the University of Michigan honoring her through song, dance, and poetry. 

Mattie Levy: Is there anything else you would like to share about the project? 

Brooke Taylor: This year will mark 60 years since the hate crime that was the 16th Street Church Bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. In addition to remembering these impactful moments of history, we should also be honoring and learning from the ones who lived through them. 

Check out An Evening for Sarah on February 10th, 2023 at 7pm. The concert will take place at the Dance Building’s Performance Studio Theatre, 1000 Baits Dr, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109. Tickets will be available for free an hour before the show and are first come, first served. 

Additional Resources on Sarah Collins Rudolph:

“Birmingham’s 5th Girl” a Washington Post article that provides more information about the 16th St. Church Bombing

Sarah Collins Rudolph’s website 

Virtual Visionaries Week 1: Artist’s Many Roles with Tara Faircloth

Unbeknownst to many of us who make our way through music school, becoming a classical musician in America means signing up to be the Chief Executive Officer of a very specialized, niche company whose sole product, work force and administration is a party of one. In addition to all the many, many important artistic skills one must acquire to even start this “company,” the positions of marketing and publicity manager, head of human resources, head of finances, research librarian, director of communications, website developer, digital content manager, and IT guy, not to mention travel agent, administrative assistant, and barista are all going to be filled (at least in the early days) by one person… you, the artist. Oh, and also, you’ll need to make incredible music with a unique flair that sets you apart from your competitors.

It is a lot. It really is.

an artist's many roles 1For a working artist in America, the idea of toiling away alone in a room (or maybe a ruggedly fashionable loft) wearing all black and eschewing the norms of regular society is just a fantasy that has very little to do with the nuts and bolts making a living in the arts. Reconciling the fantasy (whatever yours may be) and the reality does not have to be painful, and it starts with baby steps. How do you write a symphony? One note at a time.

What does not work? Doing nothing. Learning nothing. Pretending that if you close your eyes long enough, these challenges will go away. The fact is, choosing to do nothing is still a choice, and I have seen too many young artists give up on their musical dreams because they did not take the steps to make sure their physical/tangible/practical needs were addressed, either on a business OR personal level.  

I think the important thing is to start where you are, and, much like making exciting music, be willing to make a few (well-informed) mistakes at the beginning. You don’t need to have a forty-year plan for achieving financial independence laid out this afternoon, but maybe you could sketch out a realistic monthly budget. Maybe you could find a well-written financial education blog and commit to reading one post a week, on any topic that catches your eye. Open an online savings account and put a dollar in it every week. One day you will be able to increase that deposit, but for now you are working that savings muscle.

You don’t have to roll out an award-winning website tomorrow, but maybe you could start a professional page on Facebook or Instagram, or poll your friends about the best microphones to make excellent at-home recordings. You don’t have to apply to every summer program in the country this fall, but maybe you could make a list of young artist programs, what they are doing this summer, and what their application deadline and requirements are. Set a reminder on your calendar to make a firm decision about which five programs seem the most in line with your current skills and needs, and then set a reminder to make those applications.

You don’t have to be a superhero, but surround yourself with people who are interested in greatness, not just in the performance hall, but in life. You want to know people who are determined to get things done and who have skills you do not have yet. Make friends who inspire you. 

Mostly, don’t let your beautiful work go to waste. Yes, the practical challenges to working as an artist in America are great, but if you have something special to share with the world, don’t let these things stand in your way. You are perfectly poised to develop the skills needed to become the CEO of your company of one.  It is a responsibility, but it is also a privilege, and taking control of all elements of your career now means becoming a better artist, a better person, and literally making the world a better place.

-Tara Faircloth

About the Author

Director Tara Faircloth’s work has been seen widely across the nation. In recent seasons, she created new productions of The Little Prince (Utah Opera), Ariadne auf Naxos (Wolf Trap Opera), Il re pastore (Merola Opera), Agrippina (Ars Lyrica Houston), and L’incoronazione di Poppea (Boston Baroque). With a thriving career in regional houses, Faircloth also has a passion for financial education and offers a popular workshop entitled “Freelance Budget 101: What They Didn’t Teach You in Music School.” She is a drama instructor for the Houston Grand Opera Studio, and regularly coaches at Rice University. 

To hear more from Tara, join us for her presentation, “Personal Finance for Artists” on May 28th, 2020 from 5:00-6:00PM EDT! The session will take place via Zoom. Click here to join!

Virtual Visionaries is a 10-week series in partnership with several of our peer programs at institutions across the country. Starting the week of May 25 through early August, this series brings together professionals across the performing arts for weekly virtual discussions on Zoom. We’ve selected a diverse group of leaders at various stages of their careers to engage in open conversations about topics ranging from personal finance issues, to developing identity-driven work, along with a variety of entrepreneurial approaches relevant to young arts professionals. Each week our guest speakers will also author a blog post, providing a sneak peek of the virtual sessions and providing a basis for our virtual discussion.

In Conversation with Theatre & Drama Assistant Professor Nancy Uffner

Nancy Uffner is a proud longtime member of Actors’ Equity Association. Her regional theatre stage management work includes the MUNY, Weston Playhouse Theatre Company, Lythgoe Family Panto, Goodspeed Musicals, Music Theatre Wichita, the U-M Festival of New Works, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Chicago Opera Theatre, Virginia Stage Co., Baltimore’s Center Stage, Granbury Opera House, and Cherry County Playhouse. Her national tour experience includes All Shook Up, Fame, Ken Hill’s Phantom of the Opera, South Pacific with the late Robert Goulet, and Camelot with the late Richard Harris. She has worked locally with the Peter Sparling Dance Company as well as various music and corporate events, and has taught stage management classes at Eastern Michigan University. Prior to U-M, Nancy taught at Northwestern University.  She holds an MA from the University of Michigan and a BS with secondary teaching certification from Eastern Michigan University.

What inspired you to get involved in theatre?

I had a great high school theatre teacher.  I went to undergraduate school thinking I would be a high school theatre, English, and math teacher.  The summer after freshman year, I had an acting internship at the Cherry County Playhouse in Traverse City which included providing labor for production areas.  I discovered stage management and there was no turning back. Stage management utilized some of my best skills: organization, planning, systems management, attention to detail, people skills, and seeing the big picture. Foremost, I loved the storytelling aspect of the theatre, its reflection on the human condition.

How does stage managing for Theatre differ from managing for other art forms? 

I’m drawn to stage management because it’s necessary and relevant in all performance art forms, and I’ve been fortunate to work in all mediums, including business theatre and corporate events.  I’ve not been pigeonholed. I originally thought I would work primarily in new play development, yet it turns out I’ve done more established musicals than anything else. My career has been shaped by my desire to freelance and teach in balance with a marriage and raising two daughters.

That’s interesting! Is that part of your work-life balance?

For me, it’s not quite work-life balance but more about integration of the two. I don’t know what “balance” means, frankly, nor do I think I’m very good at it.  I tend to be “all in” whatever I’m doing. Prioritizing family was purposeful, and not all career choices were possible.. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunities to make a career doing what I love while raising a family with my partner and best friend.

What have you learned about the nature of the performing arts by being behind the scenes for so many performances? 

Performing arts can impact the way people think, feel, and act.  I’m drawn to stories, dances, operas, concerts, and events that spread a message of hope, change, or reflect on an issue that needs exploring. For example, three summers ago UM alum Andrés Holder, who is from Panama, directed RENT, in Spanish, in Panama. Andrés invited me to come stage manage the show. I was honored to work with him, and what unfolded during the show moved me even more. The production took place in a conservative area where people of the LGBTQ community are typically not embraced. It was three weeks of safety, joy, and celebration for a community that typically does not have a place to do that.

What advice do you have for current SMTD students as they begin to build their life in the arts?

We have so many wonderful entrepreneurial minds in SMTD.  It’s exciting and inspiring to see students making dreams happen.  One piece of advice is to thoroughly research their needs. Learn what the needs are, or might be, and fill them. Trial and error is typically part of the journey, but it doesn’t have to be the whole journey or the usual journey.  Research is useful. Even in entrepreneurship, the wheel does not have to be reinvented. The idea or the vision is core, but the Infrastructure needs to be in place to make it happen. What are the logistics? What does it cost? Where is the money coming from?  How much personnel do you need and who are they? In my experience, the most successful, sustained ventures have the right people doing the right work as a collaborative team.

Being behind the scenes all these years has taught me many things.  I love to teach and have lots of advice and opinions, but best leave it there for now.  My office door is always open.

EXCEL Prize Winning Project Resumes This Month

The SMTD & Our Own Thing Piano Partnership Program (EXCEL Prize ‘18) provides free weekly piano lessons to Ypsilanti students and was created to address the lack of diversity and representation in the field of classical piano. The EXCEL Prize allowed the program to supply students with keyboards for practice, give additional training for instructors, and support guest artist workshops.

Dr. Leah Claiborne (MM ‘15, DMA ‘18), was our 2018 EXCEL Prize Winner for her project, Our Own Thing Piano Partnership. In addition to the EXCEL Prize, Leah was also awarded the University of Michigan’s MLK Spirit Award for creating OOTPP. 

Leah said the most important aspect when forming the program was communicating that the reason for doing it was genuine. She did this by speaking to parents and the community and showing them that she was sincere, as well as making sure that all of the team facilitating the program was on the same page. Students were recruited for the program through her church in Ypsilanti, where she served as Music Director, and other affiliated churches in the area.

Leah is now the Assistant Professor of Piano at the University of the District of Columbia, where she teaches piano, coordinates Keyboard Studies, and teaches African American Music History. She is in the process of forming a new piano studies program with the same model as OOTPP at U of D.C.

Our Own Thing Piano Partnership continues to thrive at SMTD, with a new group of students beginning this month.

EXCEL Partnering with SMTD Wellness Initiative

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness
image source: https://uhs.umich.edu/

This academic year, EXCEL is partnering with the SMTD Wellness Initiative to present a series of events on Life-Work Balance. 

The Wellness Initiative was installed in Fall 2016 to provide students, faculty, and staff of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance with wellness services, education, and programming. 

So what do Wellness and Entrepreneurship have in common? “Both of our programs aim to help students be the best they can be in all areas of their life,” says Paola Savvidou, Wellness Initiative Program Manager. “We both want students to have tools for success and longevity of a life in the arts.” This mini-series was inspired by common student feedback programs received with requests for sessions on topics related to life-work balance.

The next installment of the EXCEL/Wellness Mini-Series is this Thursday, January 30th, 2020 and will discuss handling rejection. Rejection as a performer is part of the gig; it’s going to happen. How do we learn and grow without being too caught up in our reactions to “Am I not good enough?”. This session will explore self compassion, using a growth mindset and resilience, as well as discussions about how to learn from failures in a productive manner.

Emily Hyssong, SMTD’s CAPS Counselor

Facilitating will be Emily Hyssong, SMTD’s own embedded CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) Counselor. Reservations are appreciated for the event. RSVP here!

Future topics to be covered include dealing with performance anxiety and the stresses of graduate school. 

For more information on the SMTD Wellness Initiative, visit their website.

Connecticut Summerfest Seeking U-M Intern

For the second year in a row, Connecticut Summerfest is recruiting a University of Michigan student for their Arts Management Internship

The Connecticut Summerfest is a different kind of summer music experience. Co-Founders Aaron N. Price and current SMTD student Gala Flagello (DMA ‘22) met at The Hartt School in West Hartford, Connecticut where they recognized the potential for an affordable, compact summer music program right in their own backyard.

Co-founders Gala Flagello (DMA ’22) and Aaron M. Price

The structure of Connecticut Summerfest was crafted from some of the most advantageous aspects of festivals Aaron and Gala had each personally attended. It is a week-long event with three ensembles-in-residence, four composition faculty members, and a variety of guest speakers. In addition to live premieres, festival composers will benefit from a professional recording session of their new works, commissioned by the festival and the ensembles-in-residence. Resident ensembles are also invited to give a recital of their own repertoire as part of the festival’s nightly concert series. In an effort to serve a broader audience, not only are Connecticut Summerfest’s concerts free and open to the public, they are also live-streamed so that they may be enjoyed from anywhere in the world. 

Akropolis Reed Quintet, the 2018 Ensemble-in-Residence, in recording session

Connecticut Summerfest brings together talented emerging composers with some of the country’s most inventive chamber music ensembles for a week-long festival of artistic exchange culminating in nine world premieres. Now in its 5th season, the festival provides the Greater Hartford community with contemporary music concerts of the highest caliber through a nightly concert series featuring three ensembles-in-residence and brand-new pieces written by festival composition students. The 2020 ensemble-in-residence is the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)

The Arts Management Internship is filled with opportunities to learn valuable skills in arts management in the areas of Development, Operations, and Concert Production. Responsibilities include developing and executing a social media plan, assisting with fundraising events and outreach efforts, assisting with arrival and departure logistics of festival participants, and working on concert preparation, recording, and front of house management.

Not only is the internship designed to provide opportunities for learning, it is also customized to best suit the chosen student. “We allow our interns to work to their strengths and explore their own individual interests,” Flagello says. “For example, our intern last year was a great photographer. She was able to take photos at our concerts and events, and to take a larger role in our social media management.” The directors of this festival strongly value each intern, viewing them as prospective staff. Each of the past three interns are current employees of Connecticut Summerfest. 

The 2020 Connecticut Summerfest takes place June 11-17 at The Hartt School. More information on the Arts Management Internship is available here on the EXCEL web page. Applications are due Friday, January 24th, 2020.

EXCEL interviews Amy Porter

Featured in the March 2018 edition of New on NAXOS for her recording of Michael Daugherty’s Trail of Tears with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, flutist Amy Porter has been praised by critics for her exceptional musical talent and passion for scholarship. This captivating performer was described by Carl Cunningham in the Houston Post as having “succeeded in avoiding all the overdone playing styles of the most famous flutists today.” In American Record Guide, flutist Christopher Chaffee wrote, “if you have not heard her playing, you should.” Porter “played with graceful poise,” noted Allan Kozinn in The New York Times. And Geraldine Freedman, writing in the Albany Gazette, commented, “Amy Porter showed that she’s not only very versatile but that she can do everything well. She chose a program that tested every aspect of her playing from a Baroque sensibility to using the instrument as a vehicle of sound effects, and she met each challenge with passion, skill and much musicality.”

Interview with Ellen Rowe

Ellen Rowe, jazz pianist and composer, is currently Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation at the University of Michigan. She is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Rayburn Wright and Bill Dobbins.  Prior to her appointment in Michigan, she served as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Connecticut. Her latest project, “Momentum – Portraits of Women In Motion”, featuring Ingrid Jensen, Tia Fuller, Marion Hayden and Allison Miller was released in the January of 2018. Also active as a clinician, she has given workshops and master classes at the Melbourne Conservatory, Hochshule fur Musik in Cologne, Grieg Academy in Bergen and the Royal Academy of Music in London, in addition to many appearances as a guest artist at festivals and Universities around the country.

What are all of the musical activities you do besides teaching?

I have a trio that I play with that has members that rotate in and out depending on availability. I also have a quartet and a quintet with Prof. Bishop, and we have several albums out including “Wishing Well” and “Courage Music”. My latest project is an all-women octet called “Momentum – Portraits of Women In Motion” with an album that was just released last year, and right now I’m trying to get that band booked as much as possible. I compose and I do a fair amount of arranging, so I’ve been doing a lot of commissions for junior high, high school, and college big bands. I have about 7 or 8 pieces  published and I’m trying to grow that. I also do a lot of service-type stuff. I coordinate the Sisters in Jazz Collegiate Competition for the Jazz Education Network (JEN), I’m the education chair for International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers (ISJAC), and I’m on the board for the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Alliance.

Is that the main way you network?

Yes, especially when I first got out of college because it was a chance to meet people. Now I am involved mostly as a way to do service and help out the organizations.

What extra-musical skills have gotten you to where you are now?

Definitely being organized. Trying to juggle everything is super difficult, as many students know, and things like answering emails can seem trivial but are very important. Very soon after that comes having a sense of humor, and enjoying being around people. We call them “get-along skills” in the Jazz Department. 

What was it like being a woman in jazz in your early years of college?

During that time, the awareness level was low, shall we say. I was almost the only woman in the jazz department at Eastman. I didn’t focus on that because I was just trying to do the work, but a lot of issues still came up. I had a graduate assistant director who would be fired today (if you could fire a graduate assistant) for the way he treated me. Issues of sexual harassment. Issues of not being taken seriously. I would be described as having “a lyrical, feminine style of playing,” in a derogatory way. And at the time I thought it was a failing on my part. There was also a time when I discovered I was being paid less than the guys in a band I was working with on the weekends. 

Is this what inspired your latest project “Women in Motion”

Partly. The real genesis of the project is that people are always asking me what woman musicians inspire me. The truth is that while there are certainly were a few,  it was more the women that I grew up idolizing in sports, politics, social justice, and environmental causes who really had an impact and inspired me to become who I wanted to be. And those women gave me the confidence to pursue what I wanted to do. I always want to pay tribute to the women jazz musicians who came before me, like Marian McPartland and Mary Lou Williams, but in addition there were all of these other women. It was very eye-opening for me to realize I am not who I am just because of women musicians, it’s because of this big, beautiful collection of women who have been powerful and inspiring. One example is Connecticut’s first woman governor, Ella Grasso, whom I campaigned for when I lived there. I look back and it was people like her who really inspired me. Other women I wrote tunes for on the album include First Lady Michele Obama, environmental advocates and animal rights activists Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall, distance runner Joan Benoit Samuelson, jazz pianists Geri Allen and Mary Lou Williams and my mother. 

Is this record on a label?

Yes, it’s on Smokin’ Sleddog Records. It’s not a huge label, but they were very enthusiastic about having me and it’s a good partnership. Their main base is folk and blues, so jazz is new to them. 

So you are doing a lot of the work yourself getting this music out there?

Yes. It’s a lot of emailing, sometimes cold calling. There seem to be a lot of people who would love to have us but can’t quite afford it. If I had more time I would be writing grants to get some more funding. That’s probably one of the most stressful parts of my life right now; trying to get this band booked.

Did you always want to be an educator or did you want to be a performer? Or both?

Playing music was just always what I did. My parents both went to Juliard. My dad had perfect pitch, and I inherited it from him. He founded the school music program in my hometown. When I was getting ready for college, I knew I was going to go into music and I didn’t really consider doing anything else. I got into Eastman and followed the music education track.

Here’s something I think is important: A therapist once told me that she finds that many women are contingency oriented. For example, once I got into Eastman I followed along the path that was laid out for me. I took my classes and did my student teaching, and I was successful. But I never stopped to consider what it was that I would truly like to be doing, or what my true goals were. I got offers to do certain things and so I agreed to do them. I got offered to go play on a cruise ship, so I did that for a while. Then a part time job offer came up at the University of Connecticut, so I did that. Then my job at Michigan came up, and of course I was thrilled, and now I’m doing this. I’ve been very lucky because I’ve had great jobs and I’ve loved doing them. However, nobody was ever asking me, “what is it that you really want to do,” so I wasn’t asking myself that either. I’m not upset about the way things worked out, but I often wonder how things could have been different if I wasn’t locked into going from one contingency to another. For instance, it might have been amazing to be Joni Mitchell’s music director, for example. That might have truly been a career goal, but I never let myself dream about what my perfect job might entail and believed in myself enough to pursue it. I do look back and wonder why I didn’t ask myself what I truly wanted to do.

So tell us more about your running.

I’ve always been athletic. Around junior or senior year at Eastman I got really into running. I started running 3 or 4 miles at a time, then the mileage just kept increasing. I ran a 10k in grad school. Then when I got to Michigan, a drummer friend Pete Siers convinced me I should train for a marathon. The Detroit Marathon was my first marathon, and I’ve run a lot of marathons including New York, Boston, and Chicago. I also was doing some serious mountain climbing. Then I found trail running which has been the best discovery ever because it combines the two. Trail running is how I found ultra running. I’ve run four 50 milers and two 100Ks. I turned 60 last year so I decided to run a 100K to celebrate that. 

It’s beyond fun. I really just try to stay healthy. The discipline aspect involved in running ties right into the discipline it takes to write music or practice. It’s also confidence building. And you’re also out in nature, so it provides incredible perspective. 

What advice do you have for students today?

Be versatile. Everyone needs to have as many crayons in their box as they can. Everyone usually has one specialty that they’re drawn to, but in this day and age it’s important to have the flexibility to play or compose different kinds of music. Be entrepreneurial and find skills connected to your art that can provide for you as a viable source of income. I’m seeing people put together really interesting careers doing a variety of activities that might include teaching, singer-songwriter performing, writing music for Japanese anime, writing grants to start a musical collective, creating apps, etc. There’s so many ways to put together a career doing what you love. Finally, it is so important to be healthy. Take care of yourself emotionally and physically. It is critically important to be healthy so that we can express ourselves in a meaningful way and withstand the rigors of teaching, performing and travelling.

Third Place Music Festival: Making Chamber Music Accessible

This week on the EXCEL Log, we are featuring student project, Third Place Music Fest, organized by Wesley Hornpetrie (MM ’18), Kaleigh Wilder (MM ’19), and Clay Gonzalez (current MM student). Now in its third season, the Third Place Concert Series, curated by Wesley, facilitates monthly concerts in local Ann Arbor venues and businesses. This past summer, Kaleigh and Clay joined the team to produce the First Annual Third Place Music Fest. The Festival ran from May 8th to 11th and featured over 20 different acts. We got to talk to Wesley and Kaleigh about the Festival.

EXCEL: What is the mission of the Third Place Music Fest?

Wesley: We give an opportunity for local musicians to show their stuff in local third places. That’s where the name comes from. The Third Place is an Urban Sociology term. Everyone in communities, they have their first place — their home — and their second place is their work. And they need their third place, which needs to be a place to gather and to meet new people and old friends. And it needs to be affordable. This is our version of it via a music festival.

EXCEL: Who performed at the festival?

Kaleigh: We had over 20 groups ranging from your “typical” classical string quartet all the way to performance art. There was math rock, free improvisation, interdisciplinary acts that combined music and dance, and jazz. I personally think this festival is important because, while there are a lot of great opportunities here in Ann Arbor, this festival allowed us to showcase other musical varieties and flavors that you don’t always get to see. And, it was in really accessible public spaces.

Wesley: Third Place Music Fest is where quirky artists and artists on the fringes of the mainstream get to come out and be heard and feel accepted.

EXCEL: The Festival was such a good time, and it was only your first year! How did you set up the Festival for success?

Wesley: The TPMF was successful I think because of the combination of local artists in local spaces. The celebration of that intersection was something very special for the musicians, participating venues, and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor community. We brought the greater community to the next level of local arts scene I’m guessing the average Ann Arbor resident wasn’t aware even existed. This combination of financial and physical accessibility made it home grown and something for people to feel connected to in an authentic way.

Kaleigh: We also have to thank the EXCEL Enterprise Fund. Receiving those funds allowed us to book Kerrytown Concert House, which is a performance venue staple in the Ann Arbor community. It also helped us with our printing costs and just the logistical financial elements of the festival.

The Excel Enterprise Fund is a funding resource for SMTD students. The deadline for Round 2 of applications is November 8th, 2019. For more information, visit https://smtd.umich.edu/departments/entrepreneurship-leadership/excellab/ or stop by the EXCEL Lab in Moore.

Tim McAllister’s 8 Tips for Success

Hailed by The New York Times as a “virtuoso…one of the foremost saxophonists of his generation”,  “brilliant” (The Guardian, UK), and “a sterling saxophonist” (The Baltimore Sun), Dr. Timothy McAllister is one of today’s premier concert soloists and soprano chair of the acclaimed PRISM Quartet. He serves as Professor of Saxophone at The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance. Additionally, he spends his summers as distinguished artist faculty of the Interlochen Arts Camp (MI), and regularly performs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra. He has recently been featured with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Sao Paulo State Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony, National Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Tokyo Wind Symphony, Dallas Wind Symphony, and United States Navy Band, among others. McAllister’s work can be heard on the Nonesuch, Deutsche Grammphon, Naxos, OMM, Stradivarius, Centaur, AUR, Albany, New Dynamic, Equilibrium, New Focus and innova record labels.

Last month, University of Michigan SMTD Academic Affairs and Wellness Initiative hosted a Student Success Workshop. Dr. McAllister, Professor of Saxophone, served on a Faculty Panel on the topic “Advancing Your Artistry.” He started by explaining that “Failure should become the most important ‘F-word’ in your life! It’s a truth in everything you do. You have to embrace it, explore it, solve its problems, grow from trial and error. Everyone grows from that point.”

His other tips included:

Dr. McAllister speaking at the SMTD Student Success workshop

1. LISTEN to great artists. Open your ears! Daily/weekly listening to music’s greatest models in all genres. Develop ears for other instruments, voices, musical styles (i.e., David Shifrin, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Ella Fitzgerald, etc.) Pay attention to the greatness around you and connect it to what YOU do.

2. Know the HISTORY of your instrument/genre/what you do. Know the origin of your traditions. (Who are the early legends of the opera? Where does your instrument come from?) Revere your history, know how others have walked the path of your art.

3. ACOUSTICS: Have the skills needed to navigate performance spaces, practice rooms, instrumental equipment, how intonation and projection works. You make must transform the space for your audience – change the room when you start playing/singing! Does the ‘noise’ you make, make people weep?

4. MUSIC: Expand your concept of what is going on around you and in the larger musical world (i.e., composers, musical trends, other ‘schools of thought’ in your field)

5. EAR-TO-HAND SKILLS through technique. Apply theory to technique. Get away from the printed page! Build simple improvisation skills – connect the hemispheres of your brain. Good resource: Jerry Coker’s Patterns for Jazz.

6. Be a problem solver. Every challenge is an opportunity to create.

7. Set macro goals for your career and micro goals for the next 3 hours.

8. Don’t skip class to practice. Organize your time and do both.