ECU music students write new opening theme for Public Radio East show
Photos and video by Cliff Hollis
AND THE WINNER IS . . . North Carolina residents have voted and ECU graduate Joshua Tomlinson was selected as the winner of the Down East Journal theme contest. Listen to the Down East Journal interview with Tomlinson following the July 11 announcement.

June 23, 2014

By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

What does eastern North Carolina sound like?

Three East Carolina University School of Music students attempted to answer that question this spring, and the region’s residents now have the chance to decide who did the best job.

The Down East Journal, a Public Radio East program, marks its 10th anniversary this year. To commemorate that occasion, producer Jared Brumbaugh asked ECU students to help bring “freshness” to the program by creating a new, minute-long theme.

“We wanted to capture the essence of eastern North Carolina in music, but we were also looking for something catchy and something that sticks with you,” Brumbaugh said.

He narrowed six submitted musical compositions to three early this year, and those three recordings aired on the program June 20. The finalists are Josh Tomlinson, who graduated with a master’s degree this May, rising senior Myles Travitz and rising sophomore Isaac Ward.

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“Public Radio East is all about community,” Brumbaugh added, “and this is a great project to spread good will and spotlight local talent.”

The students involved benefited greatly from the experience, according to Ed Jacobs, professor of music composition.

“Our composers had a wonderful ‘client’ in Jared Brumbaugh, as he was so helpful in providing context,” Jacobs said. “He spoke to our composers about his show, its focus, his interests, the general character and instrumentation he thought might be appropriate; yet, he was clearly open to their creative input.

“Jared's feedback created a great sounding board as well. Our composers heard what he liked, what he thought might be strengthened – a real-world scenario for those composers who venture into commercial music.”

Jacobs said it also presented a different challenge than the assignments usually given to composition students.

“In our training of composers in the School of Music, we strive to guide students to take small music ideas — very short themes — and develop, stretch, modify and expand these musical cells into larger statements,” he explained. “In this project, students were challenged to compress; to simply state a tune without any real expansion or development.”

Brumbaugh admits that he has a favorite among the finalists. But he wouldn’t reveal his preference, determined to leave it to their listeners instead.

“It’s in their hands,” he said.

Members of the public can hear the entries and cast a vote for their favorite composition at Voting continues through July 10 and the winner will be announced during the noon Down East Journal broadcast July 11.

Joshua Tomlinson
listen"For some reason when I think of it, I think of something homemade, something made by friends and family while sitting on a back porch. This is why I opted for a playful bluegrass sound with acoustic instruments."

Myles Travitz

"I wanted to go for an oldish, rock band (sound), based on 12-bar blues.”

Isaac Ward

“The main guitar line, I had that (written) for a while but didn’t know what to do with it. Then, this opportunity came up."