Mid-Day Music offers students a way to showcase their musical talent
Sarah Callihan, The Oklahoma Daily
AT A GLANCE
Students are paid $25 per hour session.
Students can contact Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org
Playing the piano, guitar or bass during the lunch hour could buy you six slices of cheese pizza at Sbarro, eight chicken sandwiches from Chik-fil-A or 13 sides of apples and peanut butter at The Laughing Tomato.
However, the $25 paycheck isn’t the reason some Mid-Day Music performers pick up their instruments for an audience.
Geography junior Dillon Gourd first heard about the program last spring from Atiba Williams, a music composition senior. Before last semester, Gourd hadn’t had formal music lessons for a couple years or a musical outlet to display his signature genres and styles.
Gourd takes to the piano with a Chicago blues and classic rock appreciation and coordinates a spontaneous set list according to the particular mood of Oklahoma Memorial Union, he said.
Gourd has performed tracks like “Do It Again” by Steely Dan, “You Never Give Me Your Money” by The Beatles and “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel.
“They do pay us, but it’s more fun than anything,” Gourd said. “I get to see friends at the Union. I get claps from random people I don’t know.”
In order to get the paying gig, musicians must audition before the program’s newest director, Matthew Nash.
“They must first be a student here at OU,” Nash said. “Then they will be given a very informal audition where they will play roughly three songs to prove they are a proficient musician.”
Williams achieved that proficiency as a child in Trinidad and Tobago playing a Caribbean instrument called the steel pan. Williams had his first public performance at 2 years old and played professionally until he began studying composition, first at a program in Italy, then at OU, he said. Throughout his music career and education, Williams has gained proficiency in the viola, guitar, bass, piano and even the Native American flute, which he acquired during his time at OU, he said.
“I had been kind of touted around like sort of a wonder child, whatever that means,” Williams said. “I stopped doing music professionally to study, which is weird because people normally do it the other way around.”
Williams performs the piano during Mid-Day Music three to four times a month, he said. The schedule, which is coordinated at the end of each month according to students’ schedules, allows for flexibility and a variety of musicians, Nash said.
The program is designed to provide background music from noon until 1 p.m. for students, Nash said. And, with most students ignoring the music, Williams said he incorporates five minutes of composition practice and improvisation into his set list.
“I make up a song on the spot and try to have a form and come up with motifs,” Williams said.
Williams sang during performances last year when he started the program, but a lack of equipment this year has shifted his focus from entertainment to piano and composition practice, he said. That focus is revealed in his typical set list that ranges from old standards like his audition piece, “My Funny Valentine” to “Ordinary People” by John Legend and an upbeat closer like Coldplay’s “Clocks.”
Williams plays in the OU jazz band, steel band and at gigs around Oklahoma City and Norman.
A staple Union program for several years, Mid-Day Music features music majors and students who play an instrument as a hobby, Nash said.
Nash contacted presidents of OU musical organizations, which brought in several candidates for the program that holds three to five performances each week, he said.
“This year, we have many piano players performing, as well as a guitarist and national champion mandolin player that play together,” Nash said.