MTU holds first ‘Instruments of Change’ concert

(Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette) The Jazz Lab Band plays “Open Your Eyes,” a piece by director and Michigan Technological University assistant professor Adam Meckler, during Tech’s inaugural Instruments of Change concert Friday.

HOUGHTON — Michigan Technological University hosted its inaugural Instruments of Change Community Concert at the Rozsa Center on Friday.

Faculty, staff and students wanted to recognize the support community partners and donors have given to Michigan Tech, said President Richard Koubek.

“I know the community may be influenced by Michigan Tech,” he said before the event. “But Michigan Tech is defined by the community, both geographically and also the character of the community that makes Michigan Tech what it is — a premier research institution.”

Testimonials from Tech students and faculty were interspersed with musical performances from the Jazz Lab Band, Michigan Tech Chamber Singers, the Superior Wind Symphony and the MTU Concert Choir.

Tech highlighted its partnership with the Portage Health Foundation, which has helped fund 100 students at Tech through merit- and need-based scholarships, paid academic research internships with faculty, athletic training internships and graduate fellowships.

(Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette) Jared Anderson conducts the conScience: Michigan Tech Chamber Singers, accompanied by violinist Libby Meyer and cellist Ry Swaty, during Friday’s inaugural Instruments of Change concert at Michigan Technological University.

When Tech first talked about the partnership with PHF, its executive director, Kevin Store, told them the foundation “wasn’t interested in funding yoga at the park, they wanted to build the park,” said Jodi Lehman, director of foundation relations at Tech.

“That’s a pretty bold statement, because it means they’re not looking for the quick, easy win, but are looking to make a systematic change,” she said.

Portage Health Foundation’s investment support was also indispensable in Tech’s $30 million capital outlay request to Michigan for its upcoming Health Science and Engineering building, Lehman said.

Students who received scholarships from PHF said the work they had been able to do had a great impact on them. Hannah Heikkinen volunteered with Music and Memory, a program that exposes people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia to music from their lives.

For the patient Heikkinen met with, music was tied up in memories of her late husband. They had both liked listening to rock music together. So Heikkinen got to rock out to their favorites, such as AC/DC and the Rolling Stones.

(Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette) Jodi Lehman, director of foundation relations at Michigan Technological University, talks about Michigan Tech’s partnership with Portage Health Foundation at the inaugural Instruments of Change concert Friday. Three PHF scholarship recipients — from left, Colleen Toorongian, Hannah Heikkinen and Alexa Destrampe — spoke about their projects.

“This is honestly one of the most amazing experiences and inspiring individuals I’ve ever met,” Heikkinen said. “She has truly changed my life.”

Clara Peterson pulled double duty Friday night as president of the Blue Key Honor Society and singer in the concert choir. Blue Key’s primary responsibility is organizing the annual Winter Carnival in February. That event wouldn’t be possible without sponsorship and donations from the community, which average about $40,000 a year, Peterson said.

“We’re just here to say thank you and share what we do a little bit inside about Blue Key, the importance of service in the surrounding community and thanking them for making Winter Carnival possible,” she said before the event.

The Blue Key also gets involved in other community events. They partner with the Copper Country Humane Society, helping to organize Saturday’s EchoTrek fundraiser. Blue Key is also involved in Make a Difference Day and is partnering with Communities That Care, which holds events for suicide prevention and for de-stressing on campus.

Michigan Tech’s athletics also spoke, with statements from basketball coach Kevin Luke, tennis player Samantha Johnson and football player Travis Tidwell.

Luke said the community support for university programs is critical to its success. Friday’s event at the Rozsa was a good way to show appreciation, he said.

“It’s a great event to get the community in on campus, to see the campus, see the structure,” he said before the event. “They’ve been here before, but it’s really important to see it with people that are active in here and the reason why this building was built.”


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