Grand Rapids holds 18th annual Michigan Music Conference


GVL / Sydney Lim

Haley Rosendale, Staff Writer

The 18th annual Michigan Music Conference was held between Jan. 19 and 21 in downtown Grand Rapids.

The 2023 Michigan Music Conference took place at the DeVos Performing Arts Center and was a massive event with over 200 educational sessions, 142 speakers and 32 performances. There were multiple exhibitor opportunities as well as a new music college fair.  

The performances included choirs, orchestras and all-state bands. There were also educational sessions for teachers and development clinics at the conference. The event was put together as a way to help music education for educators and students. 

Grand Valley State University alumni Erica Lumsden has been attending the music conference since 2015. She said the conference is like Christmas to her and one of the best times of the year with family and friends. 

“The best thing about the conference is having all of these music people all in one place,” Lumsden said. “Everyone is happy and excited. You get to reconnect with previous teachers, colleagues, classmates and friends. There are so many great ideas floating around, yet it doesn’t feel like anyone is trying to fix your problem.” 

The Michigan Music Conference is a great experience for the people attending, as well as an honor for the students who get to perform. 

Jenison High School student Kaitlyn Higbee is a part of the orchestra at JHS, who performed at the conference over the weekend. 

Higbee mentions how excited she was to perform all of the pieces with such a big audience. 

“I would say it is more of a privilege to perform (at the conference),” Higbee said. “Only a select few bands and orchestras from all of Michigan are chosen to play, so being one of them is an absolute honor.”

The Michigan Music conference is known for educating teachers and students. and the opportunities from this conference are wide-ranging. 

Among the 32 performances of the weekend, local schools such as the Jenison High School orchestra, the Mona Shores wind ensemble, the Grand Haven chamber orchestra, and many more were able to perform for music enthusiasts and professionals in the industry. Each high school has practiced for this performance since Aug. of 2022, with both in-class and weekend rehearsals.

Jenison High School (JHS) Orchestra Director Dan Scott Jr, and Assistant Director Joe Harmsen worked with the students to prepare for the performance. The JHS orchestra performed five different pieces of music. Their selection included Genesis by Rossano Galante, The Concert for four violins in b-minor by Vivaldi, Jupiter from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, Blossoms of Spring by Michigan composer Michael Hopkins and Danzon No. 2 by Arturo Marquez. 

Both Scott and Harmsen said the greatest opportunity for their students was performing on the stage at DeVos Performance Hall.

“With the extra effort and focus we’ve put in, our results are a little extra special this year,” Scott said. “It looks to be a very exciting concert.”

The Grand Haven High School chamber orchestra, directed by GVSU alum Melissa Meyers, also performed a six-piece setlist at the conference. 

Meyers said the opportunity to perform at the conference and the rehearsals leading up to it were a useful moment in teaching her students. The conference provided an opportunity for her students to focus on a goal and endure the obstacles along the way. 

“It is great for students to perform outside of their school setting,” Meyers said. “There are a lot of teachable moments when you start preparing five months out. My students will also have time to explore the conference and see what it offers.”

Mona Shores High school’s wind ensemble performed seven works, with four made explicitly for their ensemble. Mona Shores wind ensemble is directed by Jason Boyden, who has been directing for Mona Shores for the past 20 years.

“The mission of the conference is to provide professional development to the amazing music educators in our state,” Boyden said. “My hope is that they will be inspired by our performance and perhaps hear works they are unfamiliar with that they could program to enrich the music education of their own students.”

For more information on the Michigan Music Conference and next year’s activities, you can visit the official conference website