WMUK Culture

Elizabeth Start's many plans collapsed in March with the COVID-19 shutdown. An active soloist, chamber music player, symphony player and composer, she also lost opportunities to have her own music performed locally and beyond.

But when the reality of the situtation sank in, Start didn't sink: she swam in new directions. In an interview with Cara Lieurance, she talks about how long-delayed projects, big and small, got the attention they deserved when all the immediate deadlines went away.

Kalamazoo Kids in Tune

When COVID-19 shut down schools in March, the program educators of  Kalamazoo Kids In Tune and Orchestra Rouh knew they'd have to find a way to continue to teach and support young people, and not just with music training. In an interview with Cara Lieurance, KKIT educators Ben Gudbrandson and Donielle Hetrick, and Orchestra Rouh founder Ahmed Tofiq, discussed the various ways they set out to accomplish that.

The second summer session, which begins July 20, is open to all Kalamazoo Public School students. Kalamazoo Kids in Tune is also on Facebook, where they post regular updates and hopeful messages for kids and their families. The program celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and recently received a two-year renewal with the Carnegie Hall PlayUSA program.


In an interview with Cara Lieurance, executive director Kristen Chesak expands on how the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo is continuing its mission of connecting artists and audiences in West Michigan with a variety of strategies. 


Anne Harrigan is the conductor of two orchestras, one in Billings, MT, and one in Battle Creek, MI. Both have had their seasons derailed by the pandemic.  In a conversation with Cara Lieurance, Harrigan says she and the Battle Creek Symphony took two weeks to regroup when the shutdown began in Michigan.  Then came a pivot: Harrigan and other orchestra musicians began offering free online music lessons to young people in the Battle Creek school system. Harrigan also created a series of videos featuring past performances, sharing them on Facebook and YouTube.

courtesy of the artist

The violin is a way of life for Barry Ross, the concertmaster emeritus of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and the founder of the Kalamazoo Philharmonia (formerly known as the Kalamazoo College and Community Orchestra). A generous soloist and collaborator, Ross has missed making music with colleagues and students during the Covid-19 shutdown. He wishes he could still put pencil marks on a young learner's music during a lesson. Playing duets online is hard, when the program allows only one player to "speak" at a time.