Thursday, March 27, 2014

Michigan Tech Jazz Studies to present 14th Annual Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Night March 28

Don Keranen, founder of Michigan Tech's jazz program, is pictured here in 1977 with the Concert Band. (Photo courtesy Michigan Technological University)

HOUGHTON -- Energy and Jazz! Michigan Technological University Jazz Studies brings it all home with the 14th Annual Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Night at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 28, at the Rozsa Center. Michigan Tech's Jazz Lab Band (JLB) and R and D Big Band will perform a wide variety of classic and modern jazz, Latin jazz, fusion, ballads, blues, rock and funk.

"Today is an exciting time to be a jazz musician," Mike Irish, director of Jazz Studies says.

Mike Irish, Michigan Tech director of Jazz Studies. (Photo courtesy Michigan Technological University)

Don Keranen, founder of MTU's jazz program 47 years ago, made "fusion" a byword here, so today's eclectic world music, with jazz infused by many different styles and genres, is right at home.

"By the time our students graduate, they will have performed just about every style of jazz imaginable, including their own compositions and arrangements," Irish says. "I know Don would be pleased with the results!"

This concert will also feature the jazz stylings of trombonist Mike Christianson, the current director of bands at Michigan Tech, whose prior experience was as a top-call jazz trombonist in New York for 22 years.

"The level of jazz performance that Mike brings to our program is outstanding," says Irish. "Mike is a total pro, and his performance is such an inspiration for our students and me."

Christianson will be featured on John Clayton’s "Soupbone" that highlights not only Christianson's improvisation skills, but his sought-after soulful playing with the plunger mute. To close the concert, he will be featured alongside Brittany Vanderwall in a duet titled "Two-Bone Barbeque," by Al Cobine.

Don Keranen (1942-2000) was one of the most talented musicians ever to be associated with the Copper Country. Born and raised in Baraga, Don received his academic music education at Northern Michigan University and graduate studies at the University of Oregon. He also accumulated an enormous breadth of musical experience, in all genres, as a composer/arranger, sax/flute performer, keyboardist, bassist and a marvelous vocalist.

Though associated mostly with the jazz idiom, Don was adept at performance in all styles of music. While a quiet individual, Don was a tremendous innovator at Michigan Tech.  He developed the jazz studies program, which today includes two big bands, three combos and academic courses in Jazz History, Jazz Improvisation, and Jazz Arranging. He  instituted and developed the MTU Wind Ensemble (known today as the Superior Winds); originated the "scramble band" concept used by the Huskies Pep Band; put the Pep Band into the now legendary "Stripes" uniforms; took the JLB on numerous Caribbean performance tours; and developed HiTech, one of the first all-synthesizer jazz combos in the country.

Tickets are: Adults $13, Youth $5, Students $5, Michigan Tech Students Free with Experience Tech Fee. To purchase tickets, call (906) 487-2073, go online at, or visit Ticketing Operations at Michigan Tech’s Student Development Complex (SDC).  Please note the Rozsa Box Office is closed during regular business hours and will only open two hours prior to show times. 

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