APSU music ensembles going to the movies this fall


CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – One afternoon last spring, conducting batons and musical instruments were packed away inside Austin Peay State University’s Music/Mass Communication Building, the lights shut off in the practice rooms and the Mabry Concert Hall, and after all the faculty and students had left – weeks before the end of the semester – the building was locked. The COVID-19 pandemic had forced the University to move all instruction fully online – a particularly devastating move for Austin Peay’s Department of Music.
 “The way last semester ended was very demoralizing,” Dr. Gregory Wolynec, professor of music, said. “Any group working on a project in the arts, it fizzled and ended.”
In the long months that followed, Austin Peay’s music faculty looked at ways to resume ensemble training and performances this fall. In the midst of their planning, new research showed how some safety measures might actually do more harm to musicians.
“A couple of music organizations at the national level have been doing research into aerosolized coronavirus, and they found that things like putting plexiglass shields between players impedes airflow,” Wolynec said. “It creates dead zones in the room.”
As the challenges kept mounting for the fall semester, Wolynec took a close look at his colleagues’ professional, non-academic activities. Several APSU professors often work in Nashville, helping to score films and movies. That gave him an idea.
“Because of a rise of these recordings in Nashville, we thought maybe for one semester we could provide some alternative experiences that would resemble more of a recording studio than life on a stage,” Wolynec said. “We needed to come up with a way we could do it, maybe in sections. Worst case scenario, it would still be very doable from home.”
Last week, APSU music students learned that instead of live concerts, each ensemble will do two major projects this semester centered around a movie soundtrack.
The projects
This fall, the University’s Symphonic Band has commissioned Chris Childs, an Atlanta-based composer and performer, to provide the musical score for an early silent film, “Joan of Arc.” The University’s Wind Ensemble commissioned Nikk Pilato, a faculty member at Indiana State University, to provide a soundtrack for a public domain silent film. Old, silent films work better for teaching and performing purposes because the musicians don’t have to compete with dialogue.
“We also have two very talented composers who are writing new works for us,” Wolynec said.
Ashlee Busch, an Arizona-based composer, is developing a piece for the Symphonic Band, and Cristina Spinei – who’s commissions include works for the Nashville Ballet, the New York Choreographic Institute, the Pacific Northwest Ballet – will write a new work for the APSU Wind Ensemble.
“The way we’ll approach these pieces, we’re going to try to start the semester with as large of a group as we can have at a time,” Wolynec said. “Because of these COVID aerosol studies, we’re able to play together, in masks and social distanced, for 30 minutes. Then we’ll move from one large room to another large room, do another 30 minutes.”
If the pandemic causes Austin Peay to move fully online again later this fall, the student members of these ensembles will go home with a studio-quality microphone and headphones. This will allow the student musicians to record their own parts at home, and then send them back to be mixed together for a full ensemble score.
“I will miss conducting this semester; I put my baton down, and I don’t know the next time I’ll be touching it,” John Schnettler, associate professor of music and director of the Symphonic Band, said. “But I’m excited to learn all these technologies in this method, learning along with the students.
“We’ll all walk away with this new skill set. It’s better than lemonade,” he said, referring to the old adage about what to do when life gives you lemons.
But musical concerts aren’t a thing of the past. Austin Peay’s University Orchestra does plan to host a live performance this semester, just without the live audience. That concert will be streamed for the public. The movie soundtracks will also be made available later this semester.
These performances are possible thanks to funding by the Department of Music and the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts (CECA). For more information, visit the APSU Department of Music’s website at or CECA's website,

APSU Music

Celtic Collection Review: Team Effort

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of my favorite games of all time, so when I saw the announcement trailer for Celtic Collection: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I knew I had to get an early listen. Thankfully, Sean Schafianski, one of the album’s producers, offered me a review copy so that I could fully immerse myself in this album before providing my thoughts. After five or six listens, I’m still collecting my thoughts, but I feel confident in calling this album an intriguing escape from reality.
From the moment that “Let Us Play” starts, you embark to a world of mystery, fantasy, danger, and despair. Producers Sean Schafianski and Ashlee Busch stick closely to the original arrangements and instrumentation, but I should call attention to the wonderfully blended virtual instruments which are nestled quite nicely with the live performances. This is a folk album paying tribute to folk songs, so there aren’t too many surprises, but each track manages to stand on its own without blending together. Nevertheless, the highlight of Celtic Collection is Ashlee Busch.
Ashlee’s voice is the guiding light of the album, drawing the listener in and bewitching them. While “Kaer Morhen” and “Game of Gwent” serve as delightful instrumental interludes, the real magic happens in moments like the beautiful duet during “Wolven Storm” or the haunting final moments of “Lullaby of Woe”. Of course, I can’t mention Ashlee’s voice without mentioning the excellent production by Sean. The mix is perfect with each instrument in its rightful place, and the mastering allows Ashlee to shine. Celtic Collection is a team effort, and Sean and Ashlee make a wonderful team.
Listen to the album on Spotify

Video Game Menu Music Gets Its Own Tribute Album


Mike Fahey

The music we listen to as we play our favorite games is nice, but what about the music we hear when we aren’t playing? The Materia Collective community celebrates the music of the start screen with Menu: An Homage To Game Title Themes, a 52 track remix album featuring music from Final Fantasy, The Witcher, Mario Kart, Doki Doki Literature Club and more.

Sometimes we only hear these tunes for a brief moment before pressing start. Other times we leave them running in the background for ages while doing other things. Game titles themes and menu music are some of the best earworms, and the Materia Collective community has done beautiful things with it. You can hear some of that in the trippy teaser trailer they put together for the album.
I’ve been listening to the album all weekend. So far my favorites are Fabian Fabro’s delightful take on the theme to
Doki Doki Literature Club and David Russell’s rendition of the file select music from Super Mario 64.

Here’s the track listing for Menu, complete with links to the songs on Bandcamp, where the entire album can be purchased digitally for $16 (or more). Menu can also be found on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify.


Pints and Piccolos


“A lot of the music is written by classically trained composers, but there are influences of jazz and rock that you can hear,” said M.I. Concerts founder Tia Harvey. “It is contemporary classical music in that we’re playing classical instrument and the composers have written out the music, but it’s not something that would be out of place in a bar.”

Harvey, a Ferndale resident and Michigan State University doctoral student, lined up the musicians and selected the repertoire for concert. The program includes two works written specifically for the concert: “US 2” by Philip Rice and “Petoskey Stones” by Ashlee Busch. Both composers are Michigan natives and alums of Michigan State University’s graduate composition program. Other works on the program include “Original Blend” by Grand Valley State University professor Bill Ryan and “Lost Lines” by MSU doctoral student Justin Rito.”
-Ty Forquer

Source: Lansing CityPulse

Connecting People and Places with Classical Music


“We spend a lot of time playing to each other as college musicians,” says Harvey. “I think we need to work to make chamber and classical music more accessible to general audiences, and get the music out to the community.”
-MSU College of Music

Source: MSU College of Music