Berkley musician named one of 24 local Kresge Artist Fellows

By: Jeremy Selweski | Woodward Talk | Published July 24, 2012

 Berkley musician Bryce Harding, pictured here in his home studio, was recently named one of 24 Kresge Artist Fellows from metro Detroit for 2012. He received a $25,000 grant to go toward his music career.

Berkley musician Bryce Harding, pictured here in his home studio, was recently named one of 24 Kresge Artist Fellows from metro Detroit for 2012. He received a $25,000 grant to go toward his music career.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Bryce Harding is something of a musical renaissance man.

The 29-year-old Berkley resident, who also goes by the stage name “Mr. Chips,” plays drums, keyboards, does beatboxing and sings. He plays in bands, gives private lessons, records his own music, does studio sessions, produces other musicians, performs solo acoustic shows, hosts youth rock camps and offers beatboxing seminars.

Harding believes that his tremendous versatility is one of the biggest reasons why he was one of 24 artists from Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties selected as a 2012 Kresge Artist Fellow. He has never been able to settle on just one particular facet of his talent because he receives different, yet equally satisfying, emotions from all of them.

“When I’m drumming, sometimes I get so into it that it feels like I’m going to have a heart attack; I feel it in my bones like I’m going to explode,” Harding said. “Beatboxing is more mysterious, like being a magician or something; I love seeing the look on people’s faces when they hear me creating all these sounds with just my mouth. Keyboards are more melodic and soothing compared to all the rhythmic stuff that I do. Producing and teaching are fun because you get to take charge of everything and be the boss.

“If I were going to give any advice to someone who is looking to make a living playing music,” he concluded, “it would be this: ‘Be as diverse as you can, and don’t close yourself off to any musical opportunities.’ Every musician needs to branch out and try new things.”

As a Kresge Artist Fellow, Harding will certainly have an easier time making a living through his music, as the award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant to help each winning artist advance their career. The prize money could not have come at a better time, as Harding already has a number of musical projects in the works.

His own original band, Soul Divide, is preparing to release its debut album next month. He is also currently serving as musical director for the local up-and-coming group See Jane Rock and working with singer Kate Hart, owner of the Holistic Voice Institute in Berkley, on recording New Age material that he described as “sound healing music.” And he is doing all of this while teaching about 40 drum and piano students per week out of his home studio.

“It’s always been fun for me to have a huge variety of different projects to work on at the same time,” he said. “I guess it just fits my personality; I really like to jump around from one thing to another.”

Harding is still unsure of how he will be spending his Kresge grant money — “I want to take a step back and let this all blow over before I make any decisions about that,” he said — but he ideally hopes to use it on new musical equipment and recording software. One thing is for sure, though: He couldn’t be any more proud to be included among some of metro Detroit’s finest musicians, authors, poets, actors and dancers as a Kresge Artist Fellow.

“I’m really honored and excited to be recognized like this,” he said. “When I first found out about it, I was pacing around my house for a really long time, just thinking about it and what it means. It’s a very humbling and inspiring experience. This program brings you in like a fraternity or a brotherhood, so I got to meet all these great musicians and talk to them and learn all about their greatest successes and failures. I’m just so happy that I got to be a part of this.”

This is the fourth year of the Kresge Arts in Detroit program, which provides grants to local literary and performing artists on an annual basis. Since 2008, the program has awarded over $2 million to metro Detroiters working in a wide range of artistic disciplines.

The fellowships represent the Kresge Foundation’s desire to advance the artistic careers of artists living and working in the Detroit area, as well as to elevate the profile of the region’s artistic community. Detroit’s College for Creative Studies administers the fellowships, and the winning artists are also offered customized professional practice opportunities by ArtServe Michigan.

“We believe that communities really cannot thrive without the energy and ideas of their artists,” said Michelle Perron, director of the Kresge Arts in Detroit program. “Artists truly help sustain a healthy cultural life for local communities, so we really value the contributions that they provide to the Detroit area.”

According to Perron, the Kresge Foundation received nearly 450 applications for fellowships this year. These applicants were narrowed down to 24 through a competitive, three-month process run by independent panels of national and local artists and arts professionals. The panelists provided a balance of artistic perspectives and an understanding of metro Detroit’s artistic environment, as well as extensive knowledge of the art forms being reviewed.

“It’s very gratifying to know that we have such a diverse and talented group of artists in this area,” Perron said. “We try to make this a really rich experience for all of them. These fellowships not only provide the artists with cash, they also allow them to grow and advance their professional careers through all the extra resources that we offer. This is really the gift that keeps on giving.”

Harding is confident that his gift will do exactly that. He hopes to use the momentum that he has gained by becoming a Kresge Artist Fellow to propel his music career forward and make a greater impact on the local music scene.

“I’m a huge Detroit guy, so I would love to be able to help grow and advance the arts in this area,” he said. “I just want to keep on moving up, playing more shows, writing more songs, recording more music and making more connections. I just have to keep an open mind about everything. My overall goal is to spend my life playing music, so I want to do as much as I possibly can to put myself out there.”

For more information about the Kresge Arts in Detroit program, call (248) 643-9630 or visit www.kresgeartsindetroit.org.