GV New Music Ensemble celebrates Lake Michigan

Ayron Rutan, Staff Writer

GVL / Aubree Wagner (Aubree L Wagner)

The Grand Valley State University Making Waves Initiative was created in 2019 to explore how water shapes people’s lives and experiences. 

Since its inception, its main goal has been to encourage GVSU community members to collaborate on projects with one another in the spirit of advocacy and community engagement. 

GVSU’s New Music Ensemble contributed to the cause with their recent performance of the “Lake Michigan Project,” a concert featuring musical pieces that honored and celebrated one of the Great Lakes. 

The performance was held on Nov. 18 in the Louis Armstrong Theatre in the Haas Center for Performing Arts, and was open to the public. 

New Music Ensemble Director and GVSU professor of composition, Bill Ryan, was responsible for coordinating the concert and bringing its theme to life. 

“(GVSU) was looking for projects that explored how water touches our lives, in particular, Lake Michigan” Ryan said. “We commissioned five young composers to create compositions inspired by Lake Michigan, and brought them to campus for the premiere performance and a variety of additional activities so that they could interact with our GVSU community.”

 Those commissioned included: Olivia Kieffer, Logan Rutledge, Tony Manfredonia, Marc Mellits and Pascal Le Beouf. 

As an addition to the event, the composers were available after the show to meet and talk with audience members. Ryan said he thought that this was a wonderful experience for those in attendance.

GVL / Aubree Wagner (Aubree L Wagner)

“Having the composers present was a unique opportunity to interact with the creators,” Ryan said. “Very often in the classical world this is not possible, and we are left with program notes or other scholarly documents to read to get an additional understanding of the music. For this event, you could talk directly to the composer.”

Ryan said it was important for the GV New Music Ensemble to perform pieces that highlighted the importance of nature to the GVSU community.

“On this program, there are the five Lake Michigan project commissions, plus two works we commissioned and performed during our summer National Parks tour,” Ryan said. “I liked the idea of presenting a program of all commissions, and more specifically, all commissions inspired by the outdoors.” 

Music videos by composers Nathan Hudson and Elena Specht were also featured at the event as part of the “Lake Michigan Project.” Ryan credited the creation of the videos to the ensemble’s time away from performing during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We recorded the music and made these videos last year, which were perfect projects to tackle during a time when we were not allowed to perform,” Ryan said. 

The concert was a unique experience, celebrating the composers, the performers and the nature that brought them all together.