Manitou Music series evolves, spreads throughout community

Photo: Raion Taiko makes its Manitou Music debut on Saturday, April 29, at 7 pm at the Glen Lake School’s indoor auditorium.

By Ross Boissoneau

Sun contributor

A variety of sounds will fill the air during the Manitou Music series this year, from piano to saxophones to drums, drums and more drums. It kicks off April 28 with pianist Tyler Faruzzi, and concludes Aug. 24 with New Music Detroit’s take on chamber music, featuring works by 20th-century composers.

In between there will be a jug band, classical music and drumming (lots of drumming). Raion Taiko brings the thunderous sound of the Japanese percussion to the area April 29. In Japanese, taiko literally means “drum,” though in modern times the term has also come to refer to the art of Japanese drumming.

First used to drive away evil spirits and pests harmful to crops while joyfully played at harvest time in thanks for a bountiful crop, large Taiko drums were played to synchronize the movement of troops, relay directions via rhythmic patterns, or even intimidate enemies.

Today the Japanese art mesmerizes audiences across the globe.

Those interested in participatory percussion can do so at Drummunity on Aug. 19. Lori Fithian will bring along her collection of hand drums and percussion instruments for everyone to join in the fun at a community drum circle. A joyful noise indeed.

It’s all part of bringing the community together through and with music, according to Glen Arbor Art Center (GAAC) executive director Sarah Kime. She points to the PULSE Saxophone Quartet as Exhibit A. The GAAC has a visual artist-in-residence program. Why not a musical artist-in-residence program as well?

So, she began discussions with Peter Payette at Interlochen Public Radio that soon involved Dr. Matthew Schlomer, conducting and saxophone instructor at Interlochen Center for the Arts. The result was a residency last year for PULSE, where the quartet would perform at various locales around the area in planned and unplanned showcases and concerts. It went over so well that they’re back, with performances scheduled (and unscheduled) from June 12 to June 25.

“The community was so receptive,” says Schlomer. He also is the director of Interlochen’s Sound Garden project, which similarly takes classical music into places where one might not expect to encounter it. “A number of people have never listened to classical music,” he notes. So, they take it out of the concert hall and showcase it at gas stations, on the beach, in stores, in pubs. Even open rehearsals.

“They (the audience) can try it out in small doses,” Schlomer says. “They have open access to the musicians like they’ve never had before.” He says one of last year’s best events was at Ethanology, the Elk Rapids distillery. “Typically, people would be sitting, talking—you could hear a pin drop,” while the quartet was playing.

PULSE hasn’t been resting on its laurels since last summer. Instead, it’s been gathering more of them. Schlomer says the group won the NOLA Chamber Music Competition in New Orleans and was a finalist in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, while one of the members is currently participating in the Andorra International Saxophone Competition.

Kime says this year’s scheduled performances reflect a change from pre-pandemic performances, when there was a dozen or more shows. Many took place behind Lake Street Studios, as well as at the Dune Climb and on the grounds of the Glen Arbor schoolhouse. “When it (Manitou Music) started there was no live music in Glen Arbor,” Kime says.

So why change? Two words: COVID and cost. “With COVID, we couldn’t have people inside the building,” she says. That led to a street art fair, with people six feet apart.

If outdoors is okay, then why no Dune Climb concert? Again, rules around masking and social distancing came into play. “There was no way I could have 3-6,000 people six feet apart. The park was requiring masks,” says Kime.

And then there’s the cost factor. While a Dune Climb concert might be more practical now than in the midst of the pandemic, the cost of a show precludes such a showcase. “When we started there was a small fee (at the Dune Climb). By 2019 it was $4,725 just for the site,” says Kime, “plus the cost of the band, equipment rentals, busing. We’d pass the hat (for donations) but we couldn’t afford $10,000.”

Kime says many of the touring ensembles have had to increase their fee as transportation and other costs have increased. “We don’t want Manitou to be only for people who can afford it,” she continues. “All the performances except the TC Dance Project are free.”

For a complete listing of performances, visit, click on Events and scroll down to Music & Concerts.