Monday, October 20, 2014

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Music Professor, Students To Collaborate On Children’s Music Recording

A University of Virginia music professor will work with a group of undergraduate students to write, record and produce a recording of children’s music during the upcoming year.

Ted Coffey, an associate professor in the College of Arts & Sciences, was among the recipients of this year’s Mead Endowment grants, which fund “dream idea” projects that involve interaction between students and faculty. The endowment is named after music professor emeritus Ernest “Boots” Mead.

Coffey makes both acoustic and electronic chamber music, as well as interactive installations and songs. He’s currently performing with noted choreographer Bill T. Jones in a project called “Story/Time,” in which he creates music to accompany Jones’ storytelling and choreography.

For the children’s record, Coffey will work with about seven undergraduate music students, many of whom he’s taught through his courses in songwriting or computer music.

“The aim is to get together regularly with a small group of undergrads to work out what kinds of music might be right for a kids' record,,” he said.

The project’s definition of children’s music will be expansive, Coffey said. The recording could include anything from abstract computer music compositions to folk-sounding songs or children’s theater music, he said.

“There probably won't be a uniform production value among the pieces, by design,” he said. “In part, that’s to make the point that children’s music can come from anywhere.”

“I think the fact that Ted was involved was a big part of me wanting to do the project,” said Norah Stephanos, a student who will participate in the project. “I was in his songwriting class last semester and he really helped me develop a musical style, and realize that I was actually capable of writing songs.  There's a lot more I want to learn from him so I'm excited I'll have more opportunities to do so.”

Coffey said he envisions that he and the students will get together to talk about what kind of music they should include on the recording. Then, they’ll flesh out those ideas by writing and refining the music, enlisting the participation of performers, recording the pieces and shepherding the final product to completion. He plans to do the recording at The Sound, a studio in Charlottesville.

“One of my other underlying goals is also to continue the work of weaving U.Va. projects and Charlottesville community projects together,” Coffey said. “I’m hopeful that there will be a strong element of community involvement in this.”

That community collaboration could mean having Charlottesville performers help record the music, or a series of area performances after the record is completed, Coffey said.

“One of the things that I hope comes out of this, both for the students and myself, is that we develop the habits of thinking about the ways in which making music can be useful, and of community-building through music,” he said.

The project is still in the beginning stages, but Coffey said he hopes to organize a CD release party when it is completed. He envisions that the music could be released as a free digital download, and possibly in a limited run of vinyl recordings.

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