Last spring, TCNJ’s alma mater was played at the end of each of the college’s 20 socially-distanced commencement ceremonies. And upon hearing the song on repeat, President Kathryn Foster wondered what it might sound like if the alma mater was updated with today’s music technology.
Foster met with Teresa Nakra, an associate professor in the department of music, to explore the topic further. “We were talking that the alma mater was out of date,” Nakra recalled about the conversation with Foster. “So, she said that we should do something about it.”
That meeting inspired the lead project for Nakra’s Live Electronic Music Performance class, where students learn about the history of live electronics (performance traditions, laptop orchestras, circuit bending, show design, and playback engineering) and experiment with electro-acoustic technologies.
The students, mainly comprised of design and creative technology majors and music technology minors, were given free rein to interpret the alma mater as they saw fit — from modifying the melody to manipulating the chord progression. The catch? President Foster would visit the class when the project was complete to hear the final results.
“It was a way to get the juices flowing at the beginning of the semester,” Nakra says. “It was about giving the students a creative challenge.”
Ten versions of the alma mater were completed, including an 80s rock arrangement, an upbeat wind ensemble, and one student’s attempt at new lyrics that current students could relate to.
“My version of the alma mater was intended to be an epic movie trailer with big French horns playing the melody and quick strings in the background,” says Jodi Maloney ’22.
Using sample instrument libraries, Maloney began with piano and violin solos before adding woodwinds, brass, percussion, and string sections to her arrangement. “The vision I shared with my classmates was to imagine you’re at a game and the alma mater was playing in the background when the team runs out on the field,” she says.
One of the versions, featuring church bell at the opening before evolving into a more contemporary style, was arranged by Jennifer Ahmad ’22 and will be used during TCNJ’s commencement ceremonies.
— David Pavlak