U-M alumna delivers 'out of this world' performance at U-M Museum of Natural History
By Lilian Varner
ANN ARBOR—Stirring music and astronomical images come together in a powerful new piano performance byUniversity of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance alumna Melissa Coppola (DMA ’21, MM ’16).“Lights in the Sky,” which premiered as a short film in July 2021 at the Stamps Auditorium as part of her doctoral thesis, is a multimedia concert inspired by the cosmos. “My idea for this concert came in the summer of 2019 when I was inspired by a visit to the U-M Museum of Natural History—while I was there, I decided to check out a planetarium show,” said Coppola in an intro to the performance, which is now posted on YouTube. “I was so inspired by the peaceful experience of curiously gazing up into space, and as a musician, I couldn’t help but think of what kind of music might accompany the experience.”In March 2020, after COVID-19 forced her to cancel the onsite concert scheduled in the planetarium and dome theater at UMMNH, Coppola began to work with the Duderstadt Center’s video studio team, where she was able to realize the program as a virtual concert.‘Launching’ the Duderstadt Center video studio’s new Steinway grand piano into outer space, the performance features musical selections by Urmas Sisask, György Ligeti, Claude Debussy, Missy Mazzoli and George Crumb. While playing, Coppola is surrounded by stunning visuals generated from U-M’s planetarium, NASA and the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany.
Coppola says she originally came to U-M for graduate school because of SMTD's renowned programs and the opportunity to play in halls like Hill Auditorium. Since then, she says her experience has been both awesome and challenging.“The halls are amazing, and the many performance opportunities have helped me grow immensely—being a part of such large, multidisciplinary productions has been absolutely transformative,” she said.