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Week of October 3, 2011

Spotlight

A lyrically driven producer becomes mentor at A&D

Katherine Weider’s passion for music was apparent at a young age.

“I started as a baby, singing myself to sleep, driving people crazy. My mother decided to enroll me in voice lessons and it became my thing,” says Weider who works as a creative arts producer with the School of Art & Design (A&D).

Photo by Austin Thomason, U-M Photo Services.

To advance her musical talent, Weider studied at Interlochen Center for the Arts, and eventually left her family-owned ski resort two hours north of Toronto to pursue a classical music degree at McGill University. While focusing on vocals at the university, however, she felt limited. “I think classical music wasn’t my true love,” Weider says. “I had so many interests — Russian literature, philosophy. I decided that first, I needed to pursue a more well-rounded education and then come back to music somehow.”

Her interest in the arts and music eventually became channeled into filmmaking. “I came to Ann Arbor to pursue a master’s degree in media studies. The program combined theory and production and gradually I became more and more interested in production,” she says, remembering her time in grad school at U-M.

After school, Weider worked as a freelance producer for a Detroit PBS affiliate and focused her attention almost entirely on arts programming. “I found myself drawn to telling stories about the arts, working on documentaries about musicians and artists and amazing groups like the Sphinx Orchestra and Mosaic Youth Theater,” explains Weider, who has won several Michigan Emmy awards.

Her reputation as an arts producer led her to a position being offered at U-M. A&D and Michigan Public Media created a partnership in an attempt to combine the creative energy of the A&D community and a media outlet. This partnership led to PLAY Gallery, which brought experimental video, animations and performance art to air in between programs on Michigan Television. Weider worked with students to produce all the motion graphics for the television series.

After her Michigan Public Media position was absorbed by A&D, her focus shifted again, from TV to online venues. “We have more freedom in an online venue and a greater chance of reaching diverse audiences with our programming,” she explains.

More freedom meant more expansion. “It isn’t just about time-based work anymore,” she says. “PLAY Gallery started to include documentaries on faculty and students, creative works, image galleries done by A&D students.”

Weider still is able to provide professional experiences for students who are interested in developing advanced animation or video production skills. “PLAY online is still a real world outlet for student work. I help them develop their ideas and take their work to the next level. We won’t publish it if it isn’t broadcast-worthy,” she says. With her experience, Weider continues to help students find artistic ideas and successfully implement them.

It’s these experiences with the students that Weider cherishes most about working at A&D. “I’m in a creative place, with incredible people doing amazing things, and it’s inspiring, funny and fun,” she says, adding that two of her students have won Michigan Emmys for motion graphics. But the inspiration does not stop at A&D. In her personal life, Weider has reverted to what originally sparked her creativity — music.

The music she’s returned to, however, has changed. “One of my main loves is music improvisation, particularly vocal improv,” says Weider, who uses her voice as an instrument to make music rhythmically and harmonically. With inspiration from the music improvisation group Music for People, Weider holds improv song circles in her home and works the occasional gig with her accordion and a full band.

Weider, whose stage name is Kath Roos, also recently started a new vocal project inspired by her baby, Jozo. She’s creating a series of children’s songs using vocal improv as the source of the arrangements. “I want to record them someday, but getting some sleep would help,” says the new mom, married to John Roos.

What kind of advice does Weider offer students? “You can’t always imagine your future. I think you have to trust that your loves and your interests will eventually lead you to the right place.”


The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at urecord@umich.edu.

 

STAFF SPOTLIGHT

Katherine Weider, creative arts producer, School of Art & Design, on offering advice for students: “You can’t always imagine your future. I think you have to trust that your loves and your interests will eventually lead you to the right place.”

EVENTS

“Photographer as Witness: Proof Enough?” with Jill Vexler, 7-8:30 p.m. Oct. 11, Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery in Room 100

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