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Majors make the music

Artists typically strive to redefine their medium in a way that progresses their art form. However, their field of study may be a deciding factor in the kind of art they produce.

Matt Moore, a senior majoring in telecommunications production, makes ambient electronica beats. The Orlando native, who records under the name “Green Tips,” said his sources of inspiration are things in everyday life.

“The atmosphere and architecture around campus, the parking garages — all of those give me inspiration,” he said.

Former music composition student Drew Cutler’s inspiration is more conventional.

“I started to study music after I heard Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ at the age of 21,” he said.

Paul Reller, associate professor of composition for the School of Music, believes music majors and non-music majors often define music differently.

“In general, a music student has a more conventional idea of what music is,” Reller said. “That doesn’t mean they can’t become experimental, but their education can be a stumbling block for them.”

Reller is the director of Systems Complex for the Recording and Performing Arts (SYCOM). Founded in the ’70s by famed electronic composer Larry Austin, SYCOM focuses on getting students to look at music from a different perspective, Reller said.

“As John Cage said, musicians are trained to hear the relationship between sounds,” he said. “What we do down here is concentrate on the sounds themselves.”

Cutler is a former student of Reller’s and the lead singer and songwriter for the Tampa-based alternative band Lush Progress. He met fellow bandmates Tom Kersey, Richard Jimenez and David Hamar in the music program at USF. They released their second album in 2008 and have been touring the Southeast.

“I was still in school with the first album,” Cutler said. “This is the first time I’ve really put effort into the band post-academia.”

Aside from a full-time job as a software trainer for Apple in Tampa, Cutler is completely devoted to his music.

“It’d be nice if I could eventually quit my day job, because a national tour would be hot,”
he said.

Will Farina, a junior majoring in English literature, is more focused on completing this semester than having his music career take off at the moment.

“Once you hit 17 credit hours and have to read three novels a week, it’s a lot harder to sit down and not feel contrived spitting out a song,” he said.

Farina’s first album, The Voice Around Your Wrist, was self-recorded when he was still in high school. Since then, he’s played at local venues and spent last summer touring as a member of the indie-folk group The Woods — which caught the attention of National Public Radio music host Robin Hilton last year.

“I’ve always found it naive to make music my life,” Farina said. “Of course, I wouldn’t mind if it took off.”