The term “chamber music” often brings to mind images of string quartets playing music by long-dead composers in church sanctuaries or library auditoriums. But M.I. Concerts, a new chamber music series launching next week, is trying to change that reputation.
The series, which debuts at Lansing Brewing Co. Nov. 17, features chamber music written by living composers with Michigan connections.
“A lot of the music is written by classically trained composers, but there are influences of jazz and rock that you can hear,” said M.I. Concerts founder Tia Harvey. “It is contemporary classical music in that we’re playing classical instrument and the composers have written out the music, but it’s not something that would be out of place in a bar.”
Harvey, a Ferndale resident and Michigan State University doctoral student, lined up the musicians and selected the repertoire for concert. The program includes two works written specifically for the concert: “US 2” by Philip Rice and “Petoskey Stones” by Ashlee Busch. Both composers are Michigan natives and alums of Michigan State University’s graduate composition program. Other works on the program include “Original Blend” by Grand Valley State University professor Bill Ryan and “Lost Lines” by MSU doctoral student Justin Rito.
The concert features six musicians — including Harvey on percussion — all MSU College of Music students or recent graduates. For flutist Chelsea Koziatek, the chance to work with living composers is a valuable experience.
“I found that it’s very rewarding to be able to talk to those composers and have them give me feedback,” she said. “You can’t get that from Mozart.”
The program also features reworked version of pop songs with Michigan connections, including Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and a pair of songs from Sufjan Stevens’ “Michigan” album.
“The whole point of it is to nourish and create contemporary chamber music here in Michigan, music that is by Michigan composers and inspired by the culture here,” Harvey said.
The offbeat venue is also a key part of the series. Like many university music programs, MSU’s College of Music is often an insulated community, rarely venturing off campus.
“It’s really easy for the work that we do as musicians to get stuck in this feedback loop of academic institutions,” Harvey said. “They are wonderful and they provide so much training and encouragement, but music needs to be part of the community it exists in.”
The launch of this series is funded through the College of Music’s Running Start Competition, which encourages entrepreneurship and outreach activities. While there are challenges ahead — like securing funding for future concerts — Harvey thinks it has potential to grow into a statewide series.
“I’d like for it to continue and become a regular event, not just in Lansing,” she said. “I’d like to curate events throughout the state, to have it be Michigan-centric. I’m looking to do collaborations with other artists — poets, visual artists, dancers — I really want it to be community.”
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17
Lansing Brewing Co.
518 E. Shiawassee St., Lansing