UMS returns for second Depot Town residency, including commissioned multimedia piece about Ypsi

After a successful April pilot program, the University Musical Society (UMS) will return to the Ypsilanti Freighthouse this fall with a new residency featuring pay-what-you-wish musical acts, drag performances, an original multimedia work about Ypsi, and more.

Cayenne Harris, UMS' vice president of learning and engagement, says feedback about UMS' April residency at the Freighthouse was "overwhelmingly positive." But a major difference in this fall’s residency will be the amount of programming and how event dates are spaced out through the Sept. 12-Oct. 7 run.

"This is our first full four-week residency," Harris says. "There are a few programs that repeat, so if you miss one, you have another opportunity to attend."

Harris says a pay-what-you-wish model was "very successful" during April’s programming, so it will continue this fall. The fall residency also features priority registration for Ypsilanti residents, which opened on Tuesday.

New events this fall are based on audience feedback from the spring residency. Those include yoga for ages 12 and up led by Ypsilanti yoga instructor Marly Spieser-Schneider and a "Drag Show Extravaganza" hosted by Michigan drag collectives Heads Over Heels Productions and Chroma Productions. Returning events will include an Open Mic Night hosted by Detroit singer-songwriter Shara Nova.

"We’re continuing to have a lot of variety and participatory experiences," Harris says. "It’s more than just sitting and enjoying a performance, but being involved in something and learning something new."

While Harris emphasizes that UMS will continue featuring Ypsi-based artists, fall’s residency will also include artists and collectives from elsewhere in Michigan and the Midwest. Those include the Detroit Square Dance Society, Kalamazoo-based African Diasporic Dance performer Heather Mitchell, and Chicago-based performance collective Manual Cinema

The residency will also feature a new creative work commissioned specifically for the program. UMS has collaborated with Detroit saxophonist Marcus Elliot to craft a multimedia piece entitled "The Ypsi Experience," which "celebrates the history of Ypsilanti as a refuge for Black Americans dating back to the 1830s," and was commissioned by UMS to coincide with Ypsilanti’s bicentennial celebration this year. 

Elliot, who recommended UMS reach out to saxophonist Kaleigh Wilder to perform in April’s residency, will lead seven artists and musicians in the debut of this new experience on Sept. 22 and 23. Elliot and UMS also collaborated with the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County to develop the show.

Family programming is also making a return to the Freighthouse. There will be opportunities to learn more about improvised music with the Ann Arbor band slapslap, or Western African music and dance with Mitchell and other artists. Manual Cinema’s performance of "Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About a Terrible Monster" is also aimed at children ages 3-12 and their families. UMS is also continuing to work alongside Ypsilanti Community Schools to provide showtimes that fit into school schedules.
"We’re really trying to create arts programming that gets people connected to one another," Harris says. "I feel excited to do even more of some of the ideas that have come up along the way, bring back things that we really love, and go deeper with what we established in April."

For more information on the residency or to buy tickets, visit UMS’ event website.

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

Photo by Peter Smith.
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