OAKLAND COUNTY, Michigan – Entering Michelle May’s counseling office at Oakland Community College is akin to entering a creative oasis. Band posters, colorful original works of art and personal pictures featuring musical greats fill every corner. The space reverberates with music, art and talent. The vibe grows upon meeting May—her personality draws visitors in with a curiosity to learn more.
The pictures tell her story. May has performed with numerous high-profile artists including Stevie Wonder, KEM, Fred Hammond and late greats Natalie Cole, Marcus Belgrave, Barry White and Dizzy Gillespie. For over 30 years, this talented violinist and flutist has combined her knowledge and techniques of classical, jazz, world, pop, gospel, and R&B to create and perform music that inspires and empowers her listeners.
She will be honored on July 12 for her artistry, along with 15 other metro Detroit artists and two groups selected to receive the 2018 Kresge Artist Fellowships. Each fellow is awarded $25,000, a year of professional workshops and an independent video documentary on their craft.
“I am incredibly honored to be recognized. Winning is very special, and especially this year as one of my private students is also being recognized,” May said. “The Kresge Foundation is truly invested in our community. It’s incredible our area is seen as a leader in the arts.”
Storied careers are the norm among artists. When asked about her experience, May’s conversations ebb and flow like a piece of music filled with fast-paced language and passion; slowed with deliberate pauses that let you know she is listening with intent.
An award-winning artist, May is also a trained listener as a licensed professional counselor. She has worked for more than 20 years empowering OCC students to succeed.
She believes creativity is at the intersection in her dual careers. “Creativity does not mean you have to be an artist. Being a creative person allows you a certain sense of freedom, especially when you embrace it. It is crucial to everything you do!’
“I see a lot of students who want to go into arts and there is a wonderful opportunity to make a life in the arts. I am proud to share with them the excellent programs we have at OCC. It's a wonderful school, even if their art interest is recreational."
"I also see a number of students interested in business, healthcare and professional trades. Many ask why fine arts credits are important. I tell them, ‘creativity is when we start learning. As a citizen of the world, your competition knows arts, music, theatre and you need to be a well-rounded person to be successful.’”
She advises all students, “Enjoy learning and the arts for the sake of simply enjoying it. Education is about learning and putting your stamp on this world. I am blessed – I love what I do as a musician, educator and a counselor. I hope my students find that same passion in life.”
She also believes in giving back to the community. May is giving a free performance with her ensemble, Musique Noire, at the Ferndale Library on Tuesday, August 7. For more, visit her site at michellemay.net.
About OCC - With five campuses in Oakland County, OCC is Michigan’s number one transfer institution, offering nearly 100 excellent degrees and certificates. The College empowers academic and developmental experiences, allowing students to reach their full potential and enhance the communities they serve. More than a million students have enrolled in the College since it opened in 1965. Learn more at oaklandcc.edu.
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