NMU's Performing Arts Series Director Dan Truckey explains the change in name to "Northern Nights" and new direction of the series.
What initiated the change to Northern Nights?
Back in 2007, it was decided to change NMU's long standing Performing Arts
Series to focus more on world music/performance, featuring artists from
throughout the world. It created some fantastic cultural opportunities and
tie-ins for the university community.
The connection we made with Arts Midwest World Fest connected with thousands
of kids in Marquette and Alger County. But a couple of years ago, we started
to have doubts that it was really connecting with the campus and Marquette
community. One of the missions of the series is to bring something
educational to campus, but it is also intended to entertain. In the end,
we've seen a dramatic drop in attendance at concerts over the past two
seasons and we felt we needed to make some changes that would attract a
broader audience of music and arts lovers, rather than just those interested
in international acts. This was based on discussions within the series
committee but also from focus groups, surveys and general discussions with
people on and off-campus. It actually was hard to do, because I personally
love world music and have had some of the most amazing experiences meeting
and working with these artists over the past four years, but the series
isn't for me or just the members of the committee. It is for the whole
community and we need to represent the tastes and interest of the community
Why was the title "Northern Nights" chosen?
We were discussing possible name changes, and Dr. Marty Reinhardt (Center
for Native American Studies) said, "how about Northern Lights." We all
liked it and I offered that it could also be called, "Northern Nights." We
tested both names around campus with people and even had an open poll
between the two names at our last concert. Then we found out that there is
a singing group on campus named "Northern Lights" and so Northern Nights
became the best choice. I think that it captures the excitement of the
series and is accessible to a large audience. Our old name was the
International Performing Arts Series and we felt that besides being too
long, it was too generic and didn't excite people.
What is different about this series from the International Performing Arts
I think the main difference is that we are not looking specifically to book
artists from outside the United States or that play at type of world music
tradition (such as Klezmer music) but live in the U.S. Now we are looking
for artists that represent American musical traditions and world music
traditions but it isn't specifically world music. So you'll see
singer-songwriters, blues bands, Americana, Celtic rock and also music from
the Caribbean and South America. It will exciting and fun but also give you
something meaningful to hold on to after the show. The Young Dubliners
might play traditional Celtic tunes but they also ROCK!
What should people know about the change?
Well, that the quality of the artists we are bringing hasn't changed. They
will still be some of the best acts in their particular genres or
traditions. Susan Werner is opening the season on September 7, and she may
not have as big a name as let's say "Sarah McLachlan" but she's easily as
good a writer as Sarah and, dare I say, is a maybe a better musician. She's
an amazing artist.
That is one of the challenges for us. We can't afford to bring the artists
who have household names, so we go out and find people who are just as good
but not as famous (and therefore, less expensive). It's hard because people
respond to names they know, but if we can just get them to the show, they'll
be blown away. Fame doesn't always mean better, it just means better known.
What does this series offer NMU that other music series on campus might not?
We promote six shows a year on campus which is more than any other, and we
also have the greatest variety of performers of any series. With that said,
all of the other music series on campus really provide an important service
by bringing great art and entertainment. Each one kind of fills a specific
niche and I think we are trying to cast a broader net. We still want to
bring the funky, strange stuff that we've done in the past but we also need
to bring the types of things that most anyone could relate too. Basically,
we are providing a little something for everyone.
Even though it's still early, how has response to the change been?
I've been receiving really positive comments from people already and no
negative ones as of yet. People like the name and the acts that we've
chosen. I think that this is going to a great season.
For some reason, there are people who think that shows on campus are not for
the whole community but nothing could be further from the truth. We are open
to anyone in the community, young or old, student or non-student. We'd love
to see more families at shows and that's why we've created a family pass for
shows so that parents don't have to choose between getting a baby sitter or
not going to the show. Bring the kids! Bring the grandparents!