Michigan Tech Jazz Program Continues Don Keranen’s Legacy

Celebrating the wonderful sounds of jazz music, and remembering a long time Michigan Tech employee. This weekend the Michigan Tech Jazz Program returns with the Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Festival. Don Keranen was the university’s music director, and started the school’s jazz program. Eventually he and the bands toured around the region. Sharing music with the communities they visited. These days the bands don’t travel as much, but they do still put on an incredible show.

Don Keranen Jazz Fest is named after Don Keranen. Who was the founder of the jazz program at Michigan Tech in the 1960’s. He also founded the pep band, one of the beloved ensembles here at Michigan Tech. I am now the third jazz director, in Michigan Tech’s jazz history. And because of that consistency. It was a really strong program when I came here. There was already a lot f activity, a lot of students who were involved. And I ended up adding some ensembles because we had so much interest in the program. And the program keeps growing even the past four years, through covid.” – Adam Meckler, Director of Jazz Studies, Michigan Tech University

Michigan Tech University does not have music performance majors, but that does keep students from picking up their instruments and turning out terrific harmonies. Jazz Director Adam Meckler says it is incredible to work with these students and see what they can create together.

“We’ve got forestry majors, all kinds of different majors in the STEM fields at Michigan Tech. And we’ve got sound design and audio production majors, that are a part of our jaz program as well. SO there’s these audio related things, sounds related things. But no performance arts majors. And yet these students are out here. They do this because they love it. So you can feel that energy when we perform. And they’re making some really incredible music.” – Adam Meckler, Director of Jazz Studies, Michigan Tech University

Jazz music is free flowing and is well known for its improve sections.

“The earliest forms of jazz was dance music. And so there’s still that inherent feeling of dance, of wanting to move your feet, tapping your toes. Especially when you hear the workshop brass band or you some of our classic big band swing things. I just love improvisation personally. I’m a big fan of that form of communication, self expression, listening, reacting, call and response. These are all the kinds of things that teach us valuable life skills. Listening to each other, working as a team. Building something as a group of people. And kind of the collective being larger than the individual.” – Adam Meckler, Director of Jazz Studies, Michigan Tech University

The don Keranen Memorial Jazz Festival is now spread across two nights. Friday’s performance will feature primarily the Michigan Tech jazz group. Then Saturday, students will be joined on stage by trumpet soloist Rex Richardson. Check out more event details and ticket information online at the Rozsa Center’s website, here.