PREVIEW: Rachana (presented by Michigan Sahana)

Meaning “creation” in Hindi, Rachana, Michigan Sahana’s first performance of the year, will showcase Michigan students’ original choreography and skillful mastery of Indian instruments. The musical and dance sub-groups that collaboratively make up Sahana celebrate the traditional art forms of Classical India. Count the dancers’  graceful spins and wonder at their ability to avoid dizziness. Tap your toe to the percussive rhythms of the tabla, the Indian version of bongos (watch this amazing tabla video!)  Indulge in a dip into Indian cultural history and power up for the rest of your Halloween night with a little sitar melody.

What: Michigan Sahana presents “Rachana” – a night of Classical Indian Music and Dance

When: Friday, October 31st at 7:00 pm

Where: Stamps Auditorium on North Campus

How Much?: Free!

Find out more about Sahana at

REVIEW: UM’s Jazz Ensemble puts on a Big Swing Face

University of Michigan’s SMTD Jazz Ensemble

Rackham Auditorium

October 23, 8:00 p.m.

On Thursday, UM’s Jazz Ensemble put on their ‘Big Swing Face’ and transformed the Rackham Auditorium into a nostalgic 1940’s concert hall. The concert showcased mostly contemporary pieces of up-and-coming big band composers, such as Christine Jensen and Alan Ferber, but paid homage to classic favorites like Duke Ellington and Leonard Bernstein.

I was disappointed that of the 22 musicians in the ensemble, zero of them were girls, especially considering that it is not an “all-boys only” group. Nevertheless, the musicians gave an outstanding performance. Each soloist perfectly intertwined their own creativity and soul with the common themes and emotions of each piece, and passed the improv torch between each other effortlessly. Even when there wasn’t a solo, the collective group played with a very colorful energy. The ensemble jumped right into the swing of things with Bill Potts’ “Big Swing Face,” a piece that showed off the ensemble’s brilliant talent from the first measure. Music Director Ellen Rowe had so much trust in her group that she stepped to the side and let the group take full command of the audience.

A highlight of the performance was the Duke Ellington piece, “Day Dream,” which truly painted a picture of love-filled haze in my mind. The ensemble accompanied U of M student Lauren Scales, whose vocal range and singing talents are off the charts! I could close my eyes and pretend that I was in a smoky bar with Ella and Billie serenading me until dusk.

Overall, the concert was fantastic, but that should be expected from the top Jazz Ensemble on campus! Mostly, the audience was made up of parents and other relatives of the musicians. The pep and nostalgic atmosphere is a must for students who have ever suffered from “Midnight in Paris” syndrome and wish that they could time-travel to an earlier decade, and perfect for a free escape from the campus world.  I definitely recommend staying up to date on when their next concert is! You’ll be jumpin’ and jivin’ all night.

REVIEW: Autumn Fest – Performance with a Purpose

For a student organization whose motto is “Students Helping Students,” Appreciate + Reciprocate nailed the line-up for their second annual charity variety show. The diversity of artistic talents and cultural backgrounds showcased at Autumn Fest truly was a celebration of human life. Beginning with the notorious Violin Monster, whose unique wolf mask is an inspiration to all humans and wolves alike to pluck, fiddle, and howl to their own tune, Autumn Fest raised awareness to support the talents and dreams of all people, no matter their ethnicity, their interests, or, in the Violin Monster’s case, their species!

Did you know that Michigan has its own Magicians Club? Most people don’t typically think of magic as a form of art, but to perform the trick correctly certainly takes the skill of a deft artist. Isn’t the magic of art the fact that it tricks you into thinking that it is done effortlessly? We think, ‘Van Gogh didn’t spend months on the exact expression of his Self-Portrait. Donna Tartt didn’t take 10 years to write The Goldfinch, a book we devour in 2 days. Gene Kelly didn’t work on his ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ routine 13 hours a day for 2 months.’ Likewise, the magic of art plays a part in the artistic form of Magic. Onstage, the magician brought up 2 audience members. He had them write their names on a certain playing card. Once the card was shuffled into the center of the deck, he snapped his fingers, and *poof* the signed card appeared at the top of the deck. To all of you magicians out there, this is probably very simple. But even after the magician explained his trick, I couldn’t see how he had done it. Perhaps I didn’t want to “see” because to see would be to uncover the illusion, the entertainment factor, the sense of wonderment that is art. The power of art is expressed on two levels: through those who possess the talent and can appreciate when it is performed well, and to those who have no knowledge on the skill and are simply mystified.

Next up were the beauties of the Arabian Dance Ensemble. Their exposed bellies not only sent the powerful and important message that the human body is beautiful in every shape and color, but provided the audience with the chance to fully appreciate the dance style. Set to upbeat drum rhythms, the girls moved their bellies in and out and up and down and in some ways I didn’t know were possible! And it was beautifully inspiring! The fact that a diverse group of girls could come together to celebrate a culture different from their own and most importantly, celebrate the amazing capabilities of the body is one of the greatest things about art. I highly recommend checking out the ensemble when they next perform.

The three a cappella groups were incredible, too! I listened and watched simultaneously, trying to pinpoint each layer of sound on the stage. The vocal cords of our fellow Michiganders are so strong and powerful. Each singer brought their own sound and talents to the group, and I was happy to see how each group let a new soloist take center stage for each song. The beatboxers reminded me that perhaps the human voice is the most diverse of all musical instruments. I really loved how Maize Mirchi, the South Asian a cappella group, combined 2 songs, 1 popular Western piece and 1 South Asian song, together to mix seamlessly into a melodious blend of cultures. They showed that art from all over the globe can bring people together; music is something we all have in common and can touch the human soul in its own way.

Lastly was Groove: “those guys who bang on garbage cans.” Their act celebrated the human drive for innovation, resourcefulness, and that little bit of childhood craziness that rests in our veins, waiting to leap out. Their syncopated beats and choreographed routine made my head bob and my feet drum on the floor below me. They made you want to do what they do – to be spontaneous and go wild in an act of creative freedom. They showed that you don’t need expensive equipments, tools, or supplies to be creative and artistic. You just need to tap into your inner heart and do what you love.

I am very much looking forward to next year’s Autumn Fest, and suggest that everyone explore each of these unique Michigan groups and prepare to be inspired! Perhaps, Appreciate + Reciprocate needs to change their motto to “Students Celebrating Students,” for indeed, that is what Autumn Fest accomplished.

PREVIEW: Jazz Ensemble (UM’s School of Music)

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After a long week of midterms and cold, not quite Fall/not quite Winter weather, come enjoy a big band jam session by the top Jazz Ensemble in U of M’s School of Music! Your feet will dance as you sit in your seat. Your mind will be free to imagine life in many colors and tunes and sounds you didn’t even know instruments could make!

What: UM’s Jazz Ensemble concert

When: Thursday, October 23 at 8:00 pm

Where: Rackham Auditorium

How Much?: Free!

Jump and jive to contemporary big band pieces by Ellen Rowe, Fred Sturm, Paul Ferguson, John Clayton, and Benny Golson. Unfamiliar with these names? That’s okay! Since when is expanding your taste in music ever a bad thing?

And while you wait for Thursday night, listen to the Jazz Ensemble’s phenomenal performance of Charles Mingus’ “Moanin'” from last year!

PREVIEW: Autumn Fest – Performance with a Purpose

Where can you find ComCo, Angels On Call, Groove, the Compulsive Lyres, the Michigan Magician Society, Arabian Dance Ensemble and the Violin Monster all sharing the same stage? Autumn Fest, of course!

What: The second annual variety show put on by Appreciate + Reciprocate, a University of Michigan student organization which raises money for the LSA Emergency Scholarship Fund.

When: Wednesday, October 22 at 8:00 pm

Where: Lydia Mendelssohn Theater in the Michigan League

How Much: $3 in advance and $5 at the door

Buy your tickets at the Mason Hall Posting Wall, October 16-17th and 20-22nd 9am-4pm, and join the Facebook event for a reminder.

All of the profits from the show will go to support Appreciate + Reciprocate’s newly established scholarship, which benefits Michigan students who suffer from financial crises, so no student has to drop out due to costs! For the price of one ticket, you can sample many great local talents, as well as treat yourself to a dose of good karma.

For more information about Appreciate+Reciprocate, check out