Nick Meyerson, Ava McFarlane, Mike Johnson, Ness Reliford and Maxee Whiteford are among the artists on the sampler CD. (Photo provided)

St. Thomas' Music Community Fine-tunes Its Offerings on Sampler CD

Add together an idea, a heap of hard work and a powerful collaboration between two organizations on campus, and you can come up with any number of successful projects. For KUST Radio and the Music Industry Club (MIC) that formula led to the first-ever St. Thomas sampler CD, which features 11 original tracks by St. Thomas students.

“St. Thomas musicians and the music community (are) a force to be reckoned with,” said junior Holly Dockendorf, one of the KUST members who spearheaded the project. “We’re doing things, we’re growing on campus, and just to be able share what we love with everyone feels good.”


Listen to "Through the Wine"

The sampler, set into motion during fall semester, will be released at a party at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 5, at Scooter’s in the Anderson Student Center.

Assembling diverse talent

Through word-of-mouth and Facebook, KUST and MIC asked students to submit original works to the sampler. MIC also held a song-writing workshop to help artists. A panel ranked the submitted tracks and gave feedback, and the top 11 were picked for the sampler. The songs were then recorded, both on and off campus.

The CD, driven from beginning to end by students, is intended to highlight the talent and breadth of St. Thomas artists.

“(It’s really to) get the music community out there,” Dockendorf said. “There’s so much talent, and it’s time we share that with everyone.”

Sophomore Luke Mathison, one of the sampler artists who is on the boards of KUST and MIC, said it was also important to encourage people who might not normally have this opportunity.

“I’d love for people to be inspired by it,” Mathison said. “Musicians, specifically, but maybe … generating more interest and inspiring people to break out of their shells a little bit and try writing a song.”

The sampler features several genres of music, from R&B to acoustics, and a range of instruments. Junior Shannon Kelly, an English major who DJs at KUST, sings and plays the dulcimer (a stringed instrument from the Appalachian region), guitar and harmonica in a song she described as “folks-y.” The song is for a friend who recovered from cancer.

“I was with him and kind of got to see the uglier side of it,” Kelly said. “So I wrote it after he was through cancer, and tried to find anything pretty or nice or reflective in it.” She said she enjoyed the opportunity for a song to be appreciated for its lyrics.

Ness Reliford, a first-year student who raps and produces her song on the sampler, said she liked sharing her story-oriented style.

“I never was confident in my singing voice so I thought, 'This is a way to use my voice in a unique way,'” Reliford said. “I like that there aren’t a lot of female rappers or producers (because) it’s a unique thing. I like producing my own tracks, because it’s more cohesive. It’s ideas coming from one mind.”

A chance for learning and collaboration

For some artists it was the first time recording in a studio. For others it was an opportunity to become more comfortable performing. Junior Keegan White, who sings and plays guitar in his track, said the experience helped him grow.

“I definitely have a lot of performance anxiety and anxiety around my music, wanting it to be liked,” White said. “It’s giving me more confidence to go out there. I learned a lot from the other musicians about recording and performing in general.”

Junior Macauley Garrett, who was in charge of advertising, said she enjoyed watching the artists develop as they worked on their tracks.

“(Watching it go) from bedroom recordings to studio recordings is really cool,” Garrett said.

Collaboration was a vital aspect. Mathison said community grew between MIC and KUST, and several of the artists said they enjoyed getting feedback throughout the creative process.

“The most fun part of it was just having people around to help out and give me ideas,” Kelly said. “It was so nice to have people to help me make decisions, like cheer you on when you’re finishing recording it.”

“I love making music, but when you work with someone else, it’s really special,” Reliford said. “It’s two minds and two souls. It’s what’s coming out of two people to make one thing, and I think that’s really cool.”

Thanks to the relationships that grew through this single project, new projects are already in the works.

“Now we have producers pairing up with singers and really going above and beyond,” Dockendorf said. “It’s pretty insane how this has morphed into something so much bigger than we thought it could ever be.”

Focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship

For professor Steve Cole, who offered guidance on the sampler, this sort of project is what studying music business is all about.

“The philosophy of music business at St. Thomas is a combination of coursework that focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship in the creative industries, and encourages students to take the knowledge they have gained in the classroom and use it on real projects, real initiatives,” Cole said.

While Dockendorf, Mathison and Garrett agreed the sampler was a larger project with more nuances than they had expected, they all are proud of their work and are excited to share the sampler with the community.

“I think to fine-tune our skills as musicians and people who want to go into the industry, this has been the biggest learning experience we could have asked for,” Dockendorf said.

Several sampler artists, including Mathison, Kelly, White and Reliford, will perform at the release party, where copies of the sampler will be handed out for free. KUST and MIC merchandise and concert tickets will be given away as well. KUST and MIC will keep copies of the sampler on hand for those who can’t make it to the party.