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$1 million gift to Jazz Up Michigan

The Michigan State University College of Music will soon launch a new jazz studies artist in residence program thanks to a $1 million gift from MSU Federal Credit Union, the largest-ever investment in the college’s curriculum.

“We are so grateful for the ongoing generosity of MSUFCU to MSU, which has enabled countless people to access a wide variety of university resources,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “This gift, to fund the MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence Endowment, will have an exceptional and lasting effect on campus as well as in our community, state and nation.”

Programming is expected to start within the next year.

“This financial gift from MSUFCU is a true game changer,” said Rodney Whitaker, director of jazz studies. “It will elevate our discipline to a higher level educationally, creatively and musically. And, it will provide our students and the community access to world-class cultural experiences.”

National and international jazz artists will visit campus for a week to teach College of Music students and publicly perform, Whitaker said. They’ll also work with local high school and middle school jazz students. Jazz Orchestra I, the college’s premier student jazz ensemble, will tour with the artists around the state, focusing especially on diverse communities.

Founded in 2001, the Jazz Studies Program leads the college’s outreach efforts, teaching and mentoring youth at Community Music School-Detroit, Whitaker said. MSU Professors of Jazz, a faculty performance group, has strong ties to Detroit and will work with the artists in residence to inspire cultural prosperity in urban areas.

In fact, the College of Music hopes to reach 50,000 people through performances and social media, while also recruiting high school students to MSU jazz studies, he said.

“This generous gift from MSUFCU will further strengthen one of America’s great jazz programs and will provide unforgettable musical and educational experiences not only for our students, but also for thousands of people across Michigan,” said James Forger, dean of the MSU College of Music.

Last May, saxophonist Branford Marsalis visited the College of Music as part of its MSUFCU Showcase Series event. His visit, along with those from other well-known jazz professionals, inspired the residency, Whitaker said.

“Integrating arts and culture along with economic development helps to create an enriched community,” said Patrick McPharlin, president and CEO of MSUFCU. “This gift will also provide opportunities for students and the community to experience world renowned jazz artists close to home.”

MSUFCU is a generous supporter of MSU initiatives. Since 2003, the MSU Federal Credit Union Study Abroad Scholarship endowment has provided funding to help nearly 1,000 students participate in study abroad programs. In 2008, an MSUFCU gift created the MSUFCU Institute of Arts and Creativity at Wharton Center for Performing Arts, which annually reaches more than 30,000 learners of all ages through the performing arts.