SOUTH HAVEN, MI – Lake Michigan College has teamed up with the nonprofit community arts organization Foundry Hall to present Chocolate, Wine & Jazz at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 16 on LMC’s South Haven campus.
The evening will feature jazz performances by Uganda-born jazz musician Ivan Akansiima’s trio and LMC Jazz Band’s three ensembles, led by Dr. Robert Lunn. Guests can enjoy gourmet chocolate delicacies handcrafted by LMC culinary students and wine from Lake Michigan Vintners boutique teaching winery.
The LMC Jazz Band ensembles are performing on the South Haven campus for the first time.
“I think this is going to be a wonderful experience for the students as well as the community,” Lunn said. “I was looking for opportunities to have the jazz band perform away from the Benton Harbor campus, which is why this partnership made so much sense.”
The ensembles will perform original music composed by LMC Jazz Band member Jared Willer, several jazz standards, including “D Natural Blues” by Wes Montgomery, and a mix of Motown favorites.
“The first day of class last semester I realized I had three drummers and enough people to form three small ensembles,” Lunn said. “We still work as a big band, but the smaller ensembles help students grow because they are making decisions about arrangements. They also get to practice improvising more.”
The first of the as-yet-unnamed ensembles features Caleb Kibby (drums); Willer (guitar); Daniela Garcia (saxophone), Zach Yenchus (trombone); and Aaron Palomo (trumpet). The second ensemble is Eric Lofgren (trumpet);
Aidan Raschke (drums); Zach Smith (guitar); Austin Pisarsky (saxophone); Victoria Rice (flute); and Kyla Evans (trombone). The final ensemble is Masa Sekioka (keyboards); Kenneth Jackson (keyboards); Kyle Ogata (trumpet);
Lauren Cerka (saxophone/clarinet); Nicholas White (drums); and Amber Case (vocals).
“Foundry Hall is excited to be partnering with LMC and to connect with the awesome music program they offer in Benton Harbor,” Foundry Hall Board President Lotte Resek said.
Akansiima, meanwhile, has a connection to both Foundry Hall and LMC.
Born and raised in the small eastern town of Jinja, Uganda, Akansiima first toured the United States as a guitarist with Kinobe and Soul Beat Africa, playing three memorable shows in South Haven all presented by Foundry Hall. Not long after those performances, Akansiima decided to stay in Michigan.
He studied music at LMC and Hope College earning his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. He is now pursuing a master’s degree in jazz studies at Western Michigan University.
The Ivan Akansiima Trio features Akansiima (guitar), Stanley Ruvinov ( bass), and Mike Hyde (drums).
“Ivan Akansiima is a long-time friend of Foundry Hall and a talented performer, so including him in this event is a real treat,” Resek said. “We have lots of jazz fans up here and want to create more opportunities to enjoy live performances and celebrate our amazing regional talent.”
“We’re honored to host such accomplished musicians on our campus and excited to showcase some of the best LMC has to offer,” said Jeremy Burleson, director of the South Haven campus. “Last year we were able to have the LMC drum-line work with the South Haven High School Marching Band, and it was a great experience for everyone involved. This year we will be able to showcase LMC’s Wine, Culinary and Music Programs all in one event. Hopefully, this type of display and partnership is something we can continue for years to come.”
Admission to the event is free. There will be a cash bar featuring wines from Lake Michigan Vintners.
Those wines include a dry white 2016 Pinot Gris, the slightly sweet 2017 Riesling, and 2017 Water’s Edge, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
LMC’s Director of Wine and Viticulture Technology Michael Moyer said this event provides another opportunity to showcase the quality wines coming out of the growing program, which will soon open the new Welch Center, a $7 million, 14,000 square feet wine and viticulture center under construction on the north side of The Mendel Center on the Benton Harbor campus.