Iron Range kids, Jillian Rae make music with robots

PHOTO: Andrew Lorien, Flickr CC

An unrelated robot playing music. PHOTO: Andrew Lorien, Flickr CC

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A roboticist, a trendy singing violin player and a bunch of kids walk into an Iron Range art gallery. No? OK, here goes.

Troy Rogers is a composer, musical robot maker, and educator. He specializes in using robots to create unique musical and educational experiences. A Virginia, Minnesota, native of the Iron Range, Rogers conducts workshops to teach kids practical and fun applications of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.

This Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Rogers will conduct a musical robot workshop for students in grades 7-12 at the Lyric Center for the Arts in Virginia.

This is Jillian Rae (not a robot)

This is Jillian Rae (not a robot)

Joining him will be fellow Iron Range native, musician Jillian Rae, an accomplished violinist and singer-songwriter. She’s out with a new album and is tearing up the Twin Cities music scene. But Saturday she’ll join workshop participants in a special Iron Range concert that also features, that’s right, musical robots from the workshops.

Rogers describes his work as a robot music educator thusly:

“It’s very exciting,” said Rogers. “Over the course of several days, students who may have never touched a soldering iron, built anything with electronics, or written a single note of music work collaboratively to make robotic instruments and write new music. In the process, technical and aesthetic concepts that may be boring or difficult in other contexts are rendered both comprehensible and fun.”

Rogers currently lives in Duluth where, according to his bio, “he creates music, robotic musical instruments, and other assorted contraptions and, weather permitting, pushes a rickshaw of musical robots around town wearing a hazmat suit and teddy bear.”

He has also played with numerous robot orchestras around the world, including when a Fulbright Fellowship in 2009-10 allowed him to spend time at the Logos Foundation in Ghent, Belgium with what is perhaps “the world’s largest and most versatile robot orchestra.”

The workshop sessions will be 3:30-6:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Lyric Center for the Arts. The public performance will be 7 p.m. Saturday, also at the Lyric Center for the Arts, with Jillian Rae featuring the musical robots of Robot Rickshaw.

There is a $30 registration fee for the workshops, and you can register your 7th grader-through-12th grader here. More information here.

If you can’t make this week’s festivities, Rogers will bring his robot musical experience to the MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids on April 30. Find out more at his website.

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