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Stephen F. Austin State composer scores music born out of national park visits

A Stephen F. Austin State composition professor writes music inspired by his experiences in America’s national parks.

Stephen Lias is producing a new CD of contemporary classical music featuring five works, each focused on the wonders found in national parks.

There’s a 12-minute marimba piece that was born out of a spelunking expedition in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. Ancient Pueblo dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado inspired his work “Ghosts of Mesa Verde” that premiered at the 2013 National Flute Association convention.

“When I compose, I like to try to capture as much as I can of my own emotional response because one of the things I like to do is have an audience who hears this piece in a recital or concert hall get a vicarious adventure experience in the park by hearing the piece,” Lias said, who collaborated with six music faculty at SFA on the project.

Lias’ Kickstarter campaign underway would allow him to finish the CD, titled “Encounters,” and get it on the market in time for the National Parks centennial next year. He says when he does residencies at National Parks – like Glacier last summer – he takes meticulous notes and photographs that he revisits back home in his Nacogdoches studio.

“I surround myself with those photographs and with my journal entries and perhaps with some historical or scientific research that I’ve done to support those things. I start to develop an idea of what the shape, direction and tone of what the musical composition will be,” Lias said.

Lias aims to raise $6,000 by February 14. The next day, the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin will do a recording session for his piece “Denali,” that is part of the CD project. 

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.