Graduate students in the Moore’s School of Music faced challenges and treaded unknown territory when they were asked to compose original country songs for this year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
One of the four composers and lyricists, graduate student Samuel Hunter, recognized their limitations but that didn’t stop him or the others from doing what they love.
“We all write classical music and so, at the very least, it was a step outside the everyday if not totally stepping outside of our comfort zone,” Hunter said. “I think at the very beginning we were a little confused but once we started doing it we were like, ‘Hey, this isn’t so bad. We can do this.’”
Despite the differences in style, graduate student Desmond Ikegwuonu found a way to bridge the gap and make it work for him.
“The basic thing is that we’re writing music, right? It’s just having to tell that story in a different way that captivates the audience,” Ikegwuonu said. “You always have to tell a story.”
Graduate student Daniel Webbon was inspired by the uniqueness of the rodeo and wanted to capture that in the music.
“The rodeo isn’t just dudes running around in cowboy hats riding bulls. It’s a huge thing and it’s multi-faceted,” Webbon said. “We really wanted to make these songs very specific to the Houston rodeo. They’re country songs so everyone can dig them, but they’re also special.”
The three students had to listen to everything from Taylor Swift to Johnny Cash to get a feel of what country was about.
“The rodeo is just not high school kids listening to country,” Webbon said. “There are people of all ages there, so we’re going to write songs that appeal to people in their ’70s and people in their teens.”
The group knew that this was bigger than their individual efforts. Webbon said that it is a huge collaboration from many different people. Hunter agreed.
“I realized after a couple of weeks that I really cared about this project, and I really wanted it to turn out well. It wasn’t just another assignment,” Hunter said.
This is the first time Moore’s has been asked to compose for the rodeo, and Hunter realized it didn’t just reflect their efforts but what Moore’s can offer the community.
“This was more meaningful than just my contribution. It was all four of us and HGO’s (Houston Grand Opera) contribution to the rodeo and Moore’s school contribution to both,” he said.