New Series Has Early-Music Focus

Donors create culture of giving through the power of concert sponsorships.

Taylor Johnston poses with the Robert Duffy Harpsichord
The Robert Duffy Harpsichord was first used October 13, 2014, during the Viva Vivaldi concert of the Joanne and Bill Church West Circle Series.


Taylor Johnston says that his heart is often divided by the two passions of his life: science and music.

But recently, Johnston says he has been able to bridge the divide by giving back to the university that has done so much for him.

This spring, the Michigan State University professor of plant, soil and microbial sciences provided the funding for a concert series that will commence this fall through the MSU College of Music. The unique charitable gift will showcase early music—a period of music he adores—and build upon his quest to provide opportunities for early music performance, appreciation, and education at MSU.

“I have two philosophies I live by,” says Johnston. “The first is that life should be enjoyed, not just endured. The second is that all that’s worth doing in life is what you do for others. I feel very fortunate to be able to give in this way.”

Sharing the muse

By establishing the Taylor Johnston Early Music Series, Johnston provides students and the community the chance to hear music written before 1750 performed on appropriate instruments much like it was performed during its own time.

“Early music is simple yet complicated, soothing but moving,” says Johnston. “This series shares this wonderful music with the community. Plus, I get chances to hear it, too.”

Johnston had already set the stage for the College to enhance the performance and teaching of early music last spring when he funded the purchase of a Flemish-style harpsichord. The College also acquired a portative organ, further contributing to efforts to build and strengthen curriculum in early music.

“Taylor is a talented performer of early music and is incredibly passionate about sharing that repertoire with students,” says Professor of Music David Rayl, director of choral programs and associate dean of graduate studies and research. “We clearly have a need to expand our offerings in early music, so it’s a perfect match between his vision and ours to meet the needs of our students, the community, and the College.”

Creating a culture

By becoming a concert series sponsor, Johnston joins a growing number of donors who have chosen a unique path to providing enriched educational and cultural opportunities for MSU and the greater community.

“Taylor’s generous sponsorship of the Taylor Johnston Early Music Series provides us the funding needed to bring distinguished artists to campus to perform and present master classes for enhanced student learning experiences,” says Dean of the College of Music James Forger. “Taylor’s gift for academic year 2015-16 helps diversify our curriculum and allows our students and the community an opportunity to enjoy this distinctive and beautiful music. In addition to this series sponsorship, Professor Johnston is providing a generous estate gift to establish the Taylor Johnston Early Music Series Endowment that will fund this musical offering in perpetuity.”

Johnston’s gift will provide funding for visiting artist stipends, travel expenses, and marketing and administrative costs to produce this early music series. Guest artists will hold master classes and workshops for students, furthering Johnston’s vision to perpetuate the knowledge of early music composed before 1750. Artists scheduled for the series include harpsichordist Edward Parmentier, the Oberlin Baroque Ensemble, as well as vocalists performing secular music from the Renaissance.

The Taylor Johnston Early Music Series is among the growing multitude of concerts sponsored by donors. College of Music Senior Director of Development Rebecca Surian says concert sponsorships enable donors to move the College forward by supporting performances by faculty, student ensembles, and guest artists, or to create new series that support curriculum or initiatives. Concert sponsorships, too, allow the College to recognize patrons by adding an acknowledgement to the concert or series name in marketing materials and concert programs.

“Concert sponsorships are a wonderful way to support cultural events that add to our community’s quality of life,” says Surian. “We’re grateful to all our sponsors and donors who are helping to develop such a creative and nurturing culture of giving.”

The MSU Federal Credit Union and Joanne Church, a member of the College of Music National Leadership Council, and her husband Bill, were among the first to recognize the power of concert sponsorships in 2009, sponsoring the Showcase Series and West Circle Series respectively. Today, 28 College of Music concerts or series are supported through the generosity of individuals, groups, or organizations. Sponsorships range from $1,000 for individual faculty concerts to $1,500, $2,500 and $5,000 for ensemble performances, and $20,000 for the annual opera season, with current support totaling $164,850 for academic year 2014-15.

“These sponsorships generously provided by friends of the College of Music enhance our educational and artistic offerings,” says Forger. “They provide a generous resource stream that helps keep the college in the black.”

For more information about concert sponsorship opportunities for the 2015-2016 season, please call the College of Music Advancement Office at 517-353-9872 or email Rebecca Surian, senior director of development, at surian@msu.edu.


See Campaign in Action


Taylor Johnston Early Music Series

MSU College of Music, 2015-2016 Academic Year

Premiering in the fall of 2015, the Taylor Johnston Early Music Series will bring high-quality performances of early music to the university and the Greater Lansing community. The series will also support workshops and master classes for College of Music students with visiting guest artists, and provide opportunities for learning and performing on period instruments.

Edward Parmentier, solo harpsichord
October 7, 2015, 7:30 p.m., Cook Recital Hall, Music Building
Keyboard music of 17th century composers, including Byrd, Frescobaldi, L. Couperin, and Froberger played on MSU’s Robert Duffy harpsichord in meantone tuning.

The Oberlin Baroque Ensemble
January 29, 2016, 8:00 p.m., Fairchild Theatre, MSU Auditorium
Showcasing the great variety of Baroque music with 17th and 18th century repertoire from Italy, England, and Germany. Featuring flute, recorder, baroque violin, baroque cello, viola da gamba, and MSU’s Robert Duffy harpsichord.

Italian Madrigals
April 19, 2016, 7:30 p.m., Fairchild Theatre, MSU Auditorium
Historically informed performances of works by Arcadelt, Verdelot, Marenzio, Gesualdo, and Monteverdi. David Rayl, curator


2014-15 Concert Sponsors

Each year the College of Music presents a lively schedule of performances reflecting an intensely creative environment that nurtures the highest level of excellence. Sponsors of concert series or individual concerts help ensure our ability to bring exceptional performances to mid-Michigan and beyond. In return, sponsors receive recognition in the form of event publicity, promotions, concert programs, and pre-concert announcements. 

The College of Music is grateful to our 2014-2015 sponsors:

  • Ken and Sandy Beall (The French Connection)
  • William David Brohn (Viva Vivaldi)
  • Kurt and Cheryl Burmeister (Opera – Cosi fan tutte)
  • Joanne and Bill Church (West Circle Series)
  • April Clobes and Glen Brough (Bach Plus)
  • Byron and Dee Cook (Viva Vivaldi)
  • Pam Dilley (Faculty Recital – Suren Bagratuni, cello and Ralph Votapek, piano)
  • Martin Fuchs and Friends (Maurice Ravel, Man of Mystery and Schubert and Dvořák)
  • Stanley and Selma Hollander (Cello Plus Chamber Music Festival and The Silent Movie, 2015)
  • Doug and the late Ginny Jewell (Piano Monster)
  • Hari Kern and the late Ralph R. Edminster, M.D. (Happy Birthday Mozart)
  • Clare and Cecil Mackey (“ScholarShip: Supporting the High C’s”)
  • Patrick and Victoria McPharlin (MSU Professors of Jazz, September 22, 2014)
  • Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (Showcase Series and Spartan Spectacular)
  • Beth and the late Dr. Milton Muelder (Schubertiade)
  • Craig and Lisa Murray (A Jazzy Little Christmas)
  • Linda Nelson (MSU – China IX Faculty Concert, “Master Pieces: A Faculty Fanfare of Opera, Chinese, and American Song” and MSU – China IX Student Concert, "Musical Shares: A Youthful Celebration of Opera, Chinese, and American Song")
  • Jim and Elaine Rauschert (Faculty Recital – MSU Professors of Jazz, February 13, 2015)
  • In memory of Distinguished Professor Emeritus Harold L. Sadoff, by Rosetta N. Reusch, Ph.D. and William H. Reusch, Ph.D. (Bach Plus)
  • Jerry Schuur and Elaine Karle (Bach Plus)
  • Drs. Lou A. and Roy J. Simon (A Fairchild Fanfare)
  • Todd and Beth Sinclair Family (Jazz Spectacular)
  • Linn Van Dyne and Mike Knox (Symphony Orchestra – Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 3)
  • WKAR (Faculty Artist Recital Series)
  • Wolverine Development Corporation, Joseph Maguire (A Jazzy Little Christmas)
  • The Worthington Family Foundation (Opera Season)

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