And 2013 Comes to a Close

As 2013 comes to an end, I look back on a great, but busy, year at Illinois State University. 2013 began with me teaching my regular course load at ISU, while also sound designing our CPA production of Oklahoma! in February and our Westhoff production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in April. I was happy with both productions, and was excited to have such vastly different creative activities, as Oklahoma! was more along the vein of sound reinforcement, while Midsummer was more about original music composition and sound effects.

I also was sound designer/composer for the 2013 Illinois Shakespeare Festival, composing music for two main stage shows, and sound designing all three main stage productions. I had such a great time — it was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to collaborate about sound design with a fight choreographer! In both Macbeth and A Comedy of Errors fight choreographer Paul Dennhardt and I worked together to synchronize movement and live sound, making the sword fighting in Macbeth (directed by Robert Quinlan) even more epic, and making the comedic fights in Comedy (directed by Michael Cotey) even more hilarious. During the Festival, I got to work with fantastic actors, designers, and technicians, and wrote quite a bit of music. Throughout Macbeth and Comedy, I worked with the entire casts of the shows, but especially with two talented actor/musicians, David Hathaway and Carlos Kmet, and they were always happy to try out any new musical ideas I had and performed the music in both shows beautifully. It was such a creatively rich experience working with everyone at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, and I am thrilled to have been hired on as the festival composer and musical director for the 2014 season.

Once school started up again, I was back to teaching classes, and I designed and co-composed music for The Forever Waltz, directed by Leah Cassella in Centennial West 207. A tale loosely based on the Eurydice myth, The Forever Waltz explores love in a small town as the character Mobile enters the underworld and tries to remember how he got there. He is ushered through the underworld by Watts, a guitar playing conjurer of memories, played by co-composer Eddie Curley. This show was a fantastic opportunity not only to design and compose, but to work with a student performer/composer to explore how to enhance storytelling through the music we write. In the end, we found a way to include the cast and members of the creative team in our songwriting, as we used their favorite parts of the play to shape how we wrote the music. Though I do not have a recording of the song up yet, I plan to post one soon.

2013 was not just about design, however. One of my most proud moments was also unexpected, as I found a 2013 Impact Award in my mailbox one day. The Impact Award is given by the Office of the Provost, and is given to teachers who have a profound impact on a student’s success at Illinois State University. I was nominated for the award by a student, and to me, that is such an honor, because I believe my role as a professor is to serve my students.

Additionally, I was nominated by my School’s awards committee for a University Teaching Award.

Along with teaching and designing, I was also accepted to attend the USITT Elite Training in Las Vegas in May. The training was at the Cirque du Soleil training facility in Las Vegas, and while there, I got a chance to work with some of the latest software from Meyer Sound, and I was able to shadow people in the sound department on Love, Cirque du Soleil’s show that features the music of the Beatles.

All the while, I have also been watching my students as they achieve their goals. Some have obtained prestigious internships, while others have graduated and found work with various touring companies. Still others have worked hard to raise their grades and have been successful at doing so. Whatever the achievement, it always makes me happy to see students meet and/or exceed their goals for themselves, and I saw a great deal of that in 2013. I hope to see even more in 2014!

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