14th Annual Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Concert

HOUGHTON – In 2000 Michigan Technological University teacher Don Keranen died suddenly. He was 49-years-old. During his time at Tech, Keranen 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 also instituted and developed the MTU Wind Ensemble, which is now known as Superior Winds. When Keranen died, his death came as a shock to everybody who knew him.

Tech Director of Jazz Studies Mike Irish described Keranen as a quiet man, but a person that put students in situations where they could achieve and grow.

“I think that’s the best definition of a teacher,” Irish said. “Teachers don’t really teach, they’re learning facilitators. The really good ones create situations in their teaching where their students can thrive and grow.”

Keranen was one of those teachers. According to Irish, when students would come to Keranen with an idea, he wouldn’t say no. He’d be willing take chances and try new things.

And when Keranen passed, a concert was planned.

“We decided that we wanted to have a memorial concert,” Irish said. “We had such a good reaction to it and alumni were really on board with it that we just made it an annual event.”

This event also marks the last major jazz concert of the year.

For those who plan on attending the concert either to support the memory of Don Keranen or to experience a night of jazz, Irish said people can expect the R&D Big Band and the Jazz Lab Band to both play a substantial part of their best material from the past year.

“There’s some things that the Jazz Lab Band hasn’t performed for an audience yet,” Irish said. “There will be a very broad range of jazz – everything from classic to modern, from latin jazz to funk.”

Also in the show will be Michigan Tech Director of Bands Mike Christianson. Prior to his job at Tech, Christianson worked as a jazz trombonist in New York for 22 years.

“He’s a fine, fine professional trombone player,” Irish said. “We’re going to feature him on a few things. We’re happy to have a guest artist and somebody that’s in-house with us already.”

For anyone on the fence about seeing the show, Irish said both bands will be playing at the top of their form.

“It’s like going to tournament basketball,” Irish said. “All the teams have gone through the season, they’ve been through a lot of ups and downs and they’re playing at the absolute best they can. That’s the same with our people, too.”

Irish added that the concert is a great way to help the students who never knew Keranen learn about his legacy.

“Jazz is intergenerational. New musicians play with older musicians,” Irish said. “This keeps that strong link between the different generations.”

Tickets for the show are $13 for adults, youth and students are $5, but Tech students who have paid the Experience Tech fee will receive free admission. The show will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Rozsa Center. To purchase tickets, call 487-2073 or go online at rozsa.mtu.edu. Tickets can also be purchased at Ticketing Operations in the Student Development Complex.