By Christine Wendling and Brooke Bell
LSU Libraries’ new head of Music Resources, Mikel LeDee, defines music as “anything in motion.” Like his definition of music, LeDee seems to constantly be in motion as well. In his time with the Libraries, he has achieved a variety of on- and off-campus accomplishments. Perhaps his favorite was the creation of “Music in Motion” pop-up concerts. He started the program in 2018 as a series of concerts that occur monthly on the first floor of the main library. The goal was to collaborate with the LSU School of Music to increase patrons’ interest in music and create an environment of relaxation and enjoyment for library patrons.
“It’s just something that will brighten your day. It’s a little lagniappe, a little something for nothing. A talented student comes to perform music for you while you relax, and we’re not asking that you sit at attention or dress up for it. It’s free and very informal,” LeDee said.
LeDee is as open-minded as he is passionate about the program, allowing the content of the pop concerts to be adaptable as well.
“We don’t limit it to just classical music. We will allow just about everything. If you want to recite poetry, we’ll accept that. We’ve had different things besides music there. But I define music as anything in motion. That’s why it’s called ‘Music in Motion.’”
In addition, he has joined forces with other, perhaps more unexpected, entities around campus to create a positive impact on the broader Baton Rouge community. For example, several years ago LeDee and Patrick Tuck, executive director of Louisiana 4-H Foundation, created an annual summer course for Clover College called “Music, Imagination, and Thinking Outside the Box” in which LeDee and Tuck use music to teach creativity to high school students participating in 4-H Club. While prior musical talent is not required to participate, LeDee expects students to come with an openness to experiencing something new.
Another way that the Music Resources Center gives back to the Baton Rouge community is by coordinating the donation of used instruments to Kids Orchestra, a non-profit organization that serves elementary-age children in East Baton Rouge Parish and provides them with opportunities to study music, learn an instrument, and practice the art of performance. Libraries patrons can drop off their instruments in the library and LeDee will arrange to have Kid’s Orchestra come and pick them up.
While LeDee is new to the role of head of Music Resources, he is not new to LSU or the Libraries. LeDee graduated from the LSU School of Music in 1996 with a doctorate in musical arts and teaches music classes at the school to this day. Most recently, his dissertation research on Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, was noted on the educational YouTube channel, “Classical Nerd.”
He has worked for the Libraries since 1997, when he was hired as a library associate. In 2014, he was promoted to Music Resources Supervisor, a staff position. This fall, he was promoted to a general librarian and faculty position with the title of Head of Music Resources. Although his title has changed, LeDee’s goals have not. He intends to increase visibility, recruit and maintain engaging staff, expand patron outreach, and increase collaborations between Music Resources and other departments within and beyond the Libraries.
When asked about the highlights of the Music Resources Department, Ledee said, “ We exist to provide music, so one of the best things to do would be to check out the scores. We want our patrons to perform, use, and share them as much as possible. And, we are searching for new music all the time. We try to get pieces we think people are interested in performing and that people in the School of Music are already performing so that others can have access to it.”
In addition to the many scores housed in Music Resources, it also contains about 15,000 LPs. While Music Resources does house digitized content, most of the collection still consists of physical items like cassettes, CDs, VHS tapes, and more expertly stored in a surprisingly cozy corner of the library. It also contains some more unconventional artifacts from times of the music and film industry’s past.
“We have some interesting things. We have a laser disc player – most people don’t know what the heck a laser disc player is. It preceded the DVD and it’s the size of an LP. We don’t collect laser discs, but it is a rare item,” LeDee said.
LeDee perfectly summarized the atmosphere he strives for in Music Resources, “We try to keep that sense of community going. Sometimes I wish we had open walls, you know, so that I can invite more people in.”
Anyone interested in learning more about LSU Libraries’ Music Resources Department, future events, or LeDee himself, can visit the Music Resources website or stop by room 202 on the second floor of the main library.