Hopkins Grad Uses $6K Kickstarter Project to Record Friend’s Work

Ryan Strand is producing a CD with music his friend wrote for Strand’s senior recital.

Ryan Strand always thought it was a bit sad when new music goes unheard after a single performance. Composers write the music. The musicians play it. And then it just disappears into the ether.

The concern was a personal one for the 2008 grad as he prepared for his senior recital this spring at California Lutheran University. A friend, Skyler Butenshon, had composed a piece of work for the recital, and Strand wanted to ensure the music didn’t simply disappear forever after the performance.

“New music so often doesn’t have a home after it’s been performed,” said Strand, who majored in music education and vocal performance and graduated magna cum laude.

So in April, Strand launched an effort on the funding site Kickstarter to raise enough money to produce a CD. By the June 1 deadline, the project exceeded the $6,000 goal by $41. In about two weeks, Strand will go into the studio for the first of two recording sessions.

“I’m very excited that the project was successful,” he said.  

The Kickstarter project may have only taken about a month to reach its goal, but Strand’s and Butenshon’s friendship goes back to the time Strand entered college. He joined the university’s comedy improv troupe as a freshman and got to know Butenshon, then a sophomore, during that time. The two entertained audiences with games like “piano torture,” where audience members come up with a topic and the troupe improvises a song on the spot.

As Strand entered his senior year and the time for his final recital approached, he already knew one piece of music he wanted to perform. He’d been given a movement from Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel when he was a freshman and learned the remaining movements during his subsequent years in college.

But he also knew Butenshon, of Astoria, OR, was a talented composer and thought it would be cool to also perform one of his friend’s works. He mentioned the idea to Butenshon. A month later, his friend presented him with a new seven-movement piano-and-vocal composition called Mending Split-Seconds.

Each of the movements is based on one of Butenshon’s memories. Although Mending Split-Seconds isn’t derived from Songs of Travel, the pieces complement each other. The emotions range from “sheer joy to nostalgia,” Strand said. Each even has a dark movement in the middle dealing with loss—a fifth movement called “In Dreams” for Vaughan Williams’ work and a fourth movement called “Death” in Butenshon’s work.

Strand’s next step is to begin production of the CD. He has a company working on securing the necessary copyrights and merchandising rights. He expects to have a finished product in July. He’ll sell the music as both physical CDs and iTunes downloads.

In addition to providing a meaningful experience, he hopes the project will advance his career. In the fall, he’s headed to Northwestern University to continue his vocal performance studies and pursue his graduate degree.

Regardless, Strand’s project has succeeded in helping another work of new music find a home.

“It became something so much more than just another piece,” he said.


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