Looking Forward: Thus Spoke Ann Arbor

Happy Friday, arts, ink!

This week I had the pleasure of talking to Feiran Li, President of Thus Spoke Ann Arbor and Director of their upcoming show. 

Thus Spoke is a Chinese drama group that typically hosts two shows per year. The winter show is bigger than the fall, usually involving 20-25 people compared to the 10 or so earlier in the year. This year, however, Thus Spoke has opted to perform only one show due to COVID. This show has a staff that is mixed remote and in-person, with weekly testing and masking/distancing policies on the Ann Arbor campus. This testing regimen is something that Feiran is quite proud of, explaining that they asked their members to participate in weekly testing a bit earlier than the university did. The show has also moved from being an in-person event in Mendelssohn to being completely virtual. 

Although they have found a successful model to publish the show despite the pandemic, Feiran told me that he misses the in-person audience interaction. This has been a theme across student organizations that I’ve spoken to this year. Just being able to perform together in-person is not quite enough; the audience participation and reaction is half of the performance. The energy of the performers buildsoff of the audiences’ cheers, and comments on Zoom or YouTube are just not the same, especially when the performance has to be recorded prior to the premiere. 

Next year, Thus Spoke is looking forward to returning to in-person meetings and performances, hoping that the distance of this year will help them appreciate the benefits of being together even more than before. If you’re interested in getting involved in Thus Spoke, there are many opportunities! They tend to recruit in the Fall and Winter semesters, and you can keep updated with what they’re doing by subscribing to their YouTube channel, liking their Facebook page, or reaching out via their Maize Page. They also incorporate new members into their productions, so you could have the opportunity to be a part of one of their shows your first year in the organization!

That’s all from me this week! Thanks so much for reading. 

Stay safe,


Looking Forward: MEMCO

Happy Friday, everyone!

This week I had the opportunity to chat with Akshay Chacko, Co-President of Michigan Electronic Music Collective (MEMCO). He gave me some insight into what MEMCO does on campus, how they’ve adjusted to COVID, and how students can get involved with the organization. Let’s dive right in!

The first thing to know about MEMCO is that they’re a multifaceted organization focusing on various pillars to get people involved in electronic music on campus. They have two main areas of their mission: 1) break down entry barriers and teach people how to DJ/produce music, and 2) Give students a platform to share their skills. 

Electronic music can be a difficult space to break into due to the expensive equipment and limited availability of teachers when compared to learning to play the guitar or another instrument. MEMCO addresses these areas by providing equipment for their members to learn and practice on – from their full-scale, state-of-the-art setup to more portable DJ controllers that are able to be individually borrowed during COVID (and which they were able to get thanks to an Arts at Michigan grant!). They also host a series of speaker panels and educational events which cover topics like the history of electronic music, insights from talent bookers or graphic designers, and understanding the intersectionality that techno music was built upon – including its connections to Detroit. Many of their educational programs have been able to be moved online fairly seamlessly, allowing their members to grow their passion and knowledge of music even in quarantine.

MEMCO’s performance programming has been a little more challenging to move into the virtual space. Akshay explained to me what the event process in previous years has looked like: 

“Our biggest event [pre-COVID] would be, like, every month we would throw these events at Club Above on main street called Impulse Events, and these events were basically hosted, organized, executed, promoted, all by the club. We curate the lineup, which it’s usually just members of our club but sometimes we would book, like, bigger artists from Detroit and stuff. We handle the booking, we handle, like, the graphic design, the promotion, and we meet up and then go, you know, poster around campus and downtown and stuff, and then we handle the production of this event from start to finish.”

Obviously, those tasks are all incredible learning opportunities for someone looking to continue in the music industry, or, really, any industry. The process of putting on the event might be as beneficial as actually being able to perform at the event. So, while they can’t perform in clubs and bars as they would normally, they’ve found creative ways to make the best of this year.

“We’ve just had to switch to a live stream format for [Impulse Events]. And that is, I’m sure you’ve seen, like most electronic events or, like, DJ, or anything, that have switched to the live stream format and we have kind of just had to do the same. [It’s a] totally different experience and definitely way harder to, like, get new members or any members at all. You know, instead of beingat the club on a Friday night, you’re, like, sitting in front of a computer… We do like a simultaneous zoom call too but, you know, you have to be realistic that it’s not the same experience… We still promote the event from start to finish. [We] handle booking and all these things and, like, for an upcoming event we have booked some DJ and stuff…  I’d say we have a professional setup that is, like, up to par with, you know, any big DJ and what they’re doing, so it’s as good as we could be. I’m honestly, like, really proud of the setup that we have to do our live streaming.”

As expected, some things translate better to the Zoom format than others. Speaker series work well, for instance,, while trying to teach someone to DJ for the first time might be a little more challenging. Setting up a DJ Livestream may be straightforward, but how do you get back some of the energy that you’d have in a club or bar setting? These are questions that MEMCO has grappled with this semester, and it seems like they are doing a wonderful job to make the best experience possible for their members.

If you’re interested in getting involved with MEMCO, you can email Akshay at achacko@umich.edu and he will get you set up with the Slack channel and make sure you’re in the loop for future events. One of the nice things about MEMCO is that being a member is super flexible – you can be as involved as much or as little as works best for you. If you’re only interested in one side of their programming, want to be on the backend of event production, only want to attend social events and performances, or want to do all the above, you are welcome no matter what. Also, be sure to follow their Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud pages. 

If you want to get your feet wet, MEMCO is hosting a music production workshop series tomorrow (March 27) from 1-6 PM. More information can be found on the Facebook event or the event graphic below. 



That’s all from me this week!

Stay safe & stay well,