MTSU Creates is dedicated to the artists and makers in the MTSU community. An ongoing project of the Sandbox student organization, the website features works and projects by MTSU students, staff, faculty, and organizations.
Mohamed Abotaleb is a sophomore Media and Entertainment major at MTSU. His video was produced, however, for an English 2030 class in the fall of 2017. His artist’s statement, below, doesn’t mention the fact it took five or six attempts (after many more practice readings) to capture just the right tone and emphasis in the audio recording. We think it was worth the effort!
“The video is based on the poem “Bluebird” By the famous American poet “Charles Bukowski.” Bukowski writes about the reality of the world, regardless of how harsh it is. The whole poem is a metaphor for his emotional struggle, and the blue bird he is talking about throughout the poem represents his personal struggle to express his true feelings. I chose this poem because I love poems that relate more to the real, harsh world we live in. Most times, I find myself or my close friends saying that they hide their true feelings about certain topics to avoid damage or anxiety. This poem tries to show the world and criticize the judgmental nature of our society, how it looks upon people, expecting them all to withdraw their feelings and assimilate into one large emotionless, mindless entity.
“Finding footage online that represented the feelings was quite challenging but truly worth the effort. I shot some of the video on my iPhone, which was quite convenient because I have it with me all the time. I wanted to capture something that related to the poem. I also used phone’s internal mic. It was good enough to capture my voice and filter surrounding noise. I edited the footage with Adobe Premiere and used music I previously bought from a music store. I hope you, as a viewer, connect with the poem and video emotionally, and hopefully the footage conveys the feelings the author intended.”
Between the afternoon of Friday, January 26th and the morning of Sunday, January 28th, 23 teams of college students from across Middle Tennessee competed in the HackMT event at MTSU, “a 36-hour gathering of young programmers, software developers, visual designers and others teaming up for projects in the Science Building” (mtsunews.com).
The Sandbox student organization was represented by members Cory Nelson (organization President, coder), Stephanie York (Vice President, artist), and Hannah Owens (artist), joined by MTSU students David Ludwig (coder), Raine Taylor (music design, coding), Cris Clouse (coder), and Bryce Ault (coder). Over the duration of the event, the Sandbox team created Star Blaster, an interactive video game, entirely from scratch: coding, artwork, and music.
You can check out the code (and download the game!) in the group’s Git Repository.
Jessica Yellowitz is a commercial songwriting major at MTSU and a long-time singer/performer/guitarist. Perhaps you’ve seen her performing in the tour room lobby, where she plays for prospective students and their parents, or heard her sing The National Anthem at the MTSU women’s basketball game on January 18th. Hailing from Northern Virginia, the 20-year-old has performed mostly in the Washington D.C. area, but we’re looking forward to seeing more of her in Murfreesboro and the Middle Tennessee area.
Jessica’s single “Life is Sweet” was noted as one of the top ten songs in the national Faith, Love, and Song songwriting competition in 2016, and MTSU Creates is proud to present it to you. Jessica has been recording at Suckerpunch Recording Studio in Bethesda, Maryland, and her EP The Very Beginning is available on iTunes. You can also hear Jessica on Soundcloud, Spotify, and YouTube.
To learn more about Jessica, check out her web and Facebook pages:
“Never Yours” is the most recent release from MTSU singer-songwriter, Anna Waggoner. After writing the song on piano in just a few hours, she originally imagined the finished recording as a stripped down, piano/vocal version. However, with the help of MTSU producer Matt “Maccabee” Drozd, who recorded and produced the song, the final recording of “Never Yours” is even more breathtaking than Anna could’ve dreamed when she wrote it. Maccabee’s suggestion to add multiple instrumental layers to the track made it sound fuller, which juxtaposed the emptiness of the song’s emotion.
Anna wrote the song and performed all piano, guitar, and vocal parts on the track. MTSU RIM student Garret Rounsavall plays bass on the track, and MTSU Film student Matt Do took the Cover photo. The song is now on SoundCloud, and will also be on the upcoming EP release from MTSU’s Recording Industry Fraternity, Omega Delta Psi. Anna feels blessed to have collaborated with such talented people, and she hopes you love the track as much as she does.
For more information on any of the people who helped out with “Never Yours”:
More original tunes from Anna https://soundcloud.com/anna-waggoner
Original music from Maccabee https://soundcloud.com/madspittinmaccabee
More photography from Matt, Instagram: @matttdo
Info about Garret, Instagram: @garret1993
Holly Marie Hearl brings a lot of life experience to MTSU. A nontraditional student, she has, among other things, served in the Navy and worked as a cook in a restaurant. Her literacy narrative essay “’Kiss My Wookie!’: The Quote that Changed It All” was created for her English 1010 class. Enjoy!!!
“Kiss My Wookie!”
The Quote that Changed It All
My relationship with writing throughout my school years can be described as tumultuous and chronically abysmal. I have so few memories of writing in school that I can only conclude that writing must have been a traumatic exercise and I’ve blocked the majority of it out. Most of what I can recall of my formative writing experiences were related to creative projects, with a few spectacular failures and accidental successes mixed in. Of the few isolated incidents that come to mind, all took place within the span of my junior and senior years, in one classroom that belonged to Mrs. Penny Baril. Mrs. Baril taught multiple levels of English at Montville High School in Montville, Connecticut until she retired in 2015. I had the pleasure and pain of being her student two years in a row from 1999-2001. I learned almost from day one of junior year that writing essays was a very important part of her classes and accounted for a large part of her students’ grades. I also learned that writing was not my strong suit, and this was a constant source of stress, fear, and self-doubt.
Mrs. Baril’s classroom was the last room on the right in the back hallway lined with the 300 block of lockers, before crossing the double doors into the Language Hall. Her room had a wall of windows that looked out over an abandoned baseball diamond. All the desks were arranged together in a giant horse shoe that faced a wall with three dusty chalkboards and a tattered projection screen. Her desk was tucked into the back-left corner of the room between two filing cabinets and was always covered in organized chaos. A small desk lamp highlighted the disarray. The pen and paper littered center of the desk, surrounded by haphazard piles of paperwork. Odd sized notebooks leaning against stacks of books, and three coffee cups, two of which were filled with colorful pens and pencils. Mrs. Baril was tall, with long red hair that never seemed tamed and had a firm alto voice. She was an eccentric, peace and love hippie who claimed to hate country music, but loved Garth Brooks. She took teaching writing seriously, but wasn’t by nature a serious person. Even though Mrs. Baril was the most challenging teacher for me, due to all the essay writing her classes required, I consider her my favorite. Her classes may have been hard, but she never saw me and my struggle with writing as a lost cause.
I spent most of my junior year in Mrs. Baril’s class trying to get a firm grasp on my writing skills. It seemed like I was writing an essay every week, sometimes two. Every time a writing assignment came around, I did my best to meet the requirements only to fall drastically short of the mark. By the time the holidays arrived I was disheartened. I wondered how I was going to pass her class by the end of the year. I was frustrated about my poor grades on the essays I turned in and the anxiety that built up before each writing project only seemed to hinder me, making any preparations I made useless. I know I would not have passed her class that year without the few creative writing projects and the group presentations that were part of the finals for each semester. I had failed the essay on the summer reading day one and barely passed the essay portion of the midterm. The handful of essays between were a sad bunch of C’s and D’s. The semester after the holidays went a bit better and I managed to get my first A paper in her class. It was one of those happy accidents, when the essay was based on a topic I could choose. I was being a total smart ass and wrote an essay on How to write an Essay. Even with my small improvements I only passed junior year with a C and it was hard won. So, imagine my joy when I learned she would be my College AP English teacher senior year.
With the emotionally crippling news that Mrs. Baril would once again be subjecting me to a year of writing misery, I felt a bit like Sisyphus. My metaphorical boulder was another year of fighting to get passing grades on my writing assignments. The summer reading for junior year had been a dry and numbingly boring novel called The Captains and the Kings and it was the only book required. For senior year, I was pleasantly surprised to find a good variety of books to choose from on the summer reading list for Mrs. Baril’s class. I chose a book that appealed to me on multiple levels, Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia. It had action, and adventure, and romance. It was a guaranteed good read and made the nerd in me happy too. It was a great book and I enjoyed reading it. I found that because I enjoyed the story and became emotionally invested, it was much easier for me to prepare for writing the essay. I could bring two 3×5 notecards to class, with thoughts and quotes, to help me with my essay. I prepared like I’d never prepared before. I re-read the book, took multiple pages of notes, and filled my two notecards with so much information I could have written two essays with them.
I was determined to start my senior year in Mrs. Baril’s class with an A on my summer reading essay. I wanted that A on not just an academic level, but a personal one as well. I wanted to prove that my writing skills had improved over the summer. I showed up to class with a sense of confidence and purpose. I had my notecards, my book, and a heart full of optimism. Mrs. Baril greeted me with a warm smile filled with encouragement when I walked into class. Pulling me aside she asked, “Are you prepared for your essay?” For the first time, I could say yes to her. “Yes!” I replied excitedly. “I really liked the book I chose. It was filled with action and romance.” She smiled at me as I rushed on. “It was so funny. My favorite line in the book was when Han Solo yelled “Kiss my Wookie!” at Warlord Zsinj during a huge space battle!” At this the smile faded from her face and she looked at me in confusion. “Holly, what book did you read?” “I read The Courtship of Princess Leia.” I replied. Mrs. Baril looked at me in alarm and then said the worst possible thing she could have to me. “That book wasn’t on this year’s summer reading list. That was on last year’s list.”
You know that tingly feeling of dread that crawls up your spine to the back of your head when something catastrophic happens or you get caught in a lie and know the wrath of your parents is about to descend? At first you get flushed and hot, then suddenly break into a clammy sweat, and a mass of dread presses your chest in with certain doom. I felt that and more. Panic, devastation, abject terror. The blood drained from my face and my heart started flying in my chest. Eyes wide in shock I couldn’t focus on anything. My breathing was short and choppy. My throat tightened, and my eyes started filling with tears of frustration. I had done everything right this time around. I had done the work and really thought about what I needed to take away from my summer reading so I could write the best essay I could. It seemed that the universe didn’t care that I was trying my hardest to start my senior year off on a positive note. All the preparations had been for nothing, it seemed. Mrs. Baril helped me to her chair. “I swear, Mrs. Baril, I read a book from the list I got in the mail.” I cried. Reaching into my back pack, I pulled my copy of The Courtship of Princess Leia out, which had the list folded up as a book mark. I handed the paper to her. “This is the list I got.” I whispered thickly. “What am I going to do now?” I wondered aloud. “How am I supposed to write an essay on a book I didn’t read?”
Mrs. Baril handled the problem with much more grace than I did. While I was busy freaking out and preparing myself for yet another abject failure, she was head first, and wrist deep in one of her filing cabinet drawers. With a shout of triumph, she walked back to me, and crouched to eye level with me. “It’s ok.” She started. “It’s not your fault you got the wrong summer reading list in the mail. I am not going to give you a F for your essay. Here.” She placed a sheet of paper in front of me. As my blurry vision cleared I read the essay question on the sheet and at the top of the page was The Courtship of Princess Leia Essay Question. “It’s a good thing I never throw anything away!” Mrs. Baril laughed lightly. I wrote my essay that day with breathless joy and tear tracks on my face. I smiled the entire time I was penning thoughts to that piece of paper. I remember it being the most effortless essay I had written up to that point. I got an A+ on that essay and came to a profound realization. I learned that I can write and be successful if I invest myself, and find something enjoyable to focus on.
I don’t recall if I ever thanked Mrs. Baril for the massive amount of time she spent on me junior and senior year. I know that while my writing improved greatly over the course of senior year, I only got one more A paper. Looking back on all the writing assignments I did over those two years, I found a pattern. All the essays and projects that I scored the highest on were related to creative writing and subjects that I was personally interested in. I was captured in the experience of using my creativity to write about something I was emotionally invested in. Writing creatively was, for me, the key in being a successful writer. I had finally found my niche, my voice, in the open and unfiltered lawless realm of creative writing. I found I could immerse myself with limitless possibilities and no boundaries on what and how I could write. I carried this knowledge into the rest of my writing senior year and it has grown into a hobby that enjoy to this day.
In addition to an essay, a graphic novel page featuring the climax of the literacy narrative was created as part of the English assignment. Said Ms. Hearl, “I really had no idea how to approach designing a graphic novel page. On my best days, I’m not what someone would deem tech savvy…. I downloaded a dozen picture and collage apps on my phone, … [but] no one app could manage to do everything I needed…. I didn’t want to just settle for a basic page with pictures that didn’t inspire me. I finally had to settle with a multi-step process where I found my pictures and even staged a few photos myself. I then ran them through one of the apps for the filter I wanted and assembled the pictures in another app in the configuration that I had envisioned…. Once I had a system in place, I enjoyed the creative aspect of it.”
We are hybrid creatures.
Paupers and Princes,
Serfs and Kings.
We dine on gold,
Sleep in dirty sheets.
With fire in their bellies,
Exploding them into the world
To the nearest McDonald’s.
We watch electric signals
Burst across a pane of glass,
Painting with colors more brilliant
Than the concrete world around,
While drinking two dollar beers.
We are lords of our own shit
Sitting on porcelain thrones
Devouring the world.
Are we more like gluttonous rulers
Gorging themselves at Royal feasts?
Or like the ravenous beasts
Starved of truth and fed with lies?
Jaden Tabb is a Fine Arts major studying graphic design at Middle Tennessee State University. He grew up in Hendersonville, Tennessee. His other passions include reading, writing, illustrating, and playing guitar and bass, as well as studying history, philosophy, science, and a multitude of other subjects. Jaden’s goal as a writer is to connect with other people and bring them together through language.
With great thanks to Bronson Mahrt for supplying MTSU Creates‘ first post, we revisit his hometown band, Two Piece Dalmatian, to listen to “Trippin’ on Her”
Bronson is the writer, bass player, and singer for Two Piece Dalmatian, an OKC psych-pop band. “Stylistically, the group creates a sonic experience that fuses the rhythm based grooves of Hip-Hop and R&B with the cosmic and shimmering tones of both modern and classic psychedelia. …The group is best known for highly interactive and engaging shows that have been known to include a variety of exciting acts of showmanship. Fans generally expect to witness frontman Bronson Mahrt perform a variety eccentric stunts that range stage climbing to eating a handful of lit cigarettes. Two Piece Dalmatian is an excellent band to catch for those who are looking for a high energy pop group that certainly likes to get weird.” You can keep up with the group on Instagram and Twitter–@2piecedalmatian–or check out their Facebook page.
THE WORLD IS A PLAY
I wear a harlequin mask, I cannot throw it away.
I dance around in robes and colored cloths,
In shoes with gold buckles and ringing bells.
I recite great verses and sacred psalms
The crowds applaud and cheer and the sounds ring in my ears.
I am on the stage, for the whole world to see,
And I am the toast of every ball
And I am the envy of every parade.
I sit upon my silvery throne,
I look down at the crowds, their eyes all a wondrous glow
With the joy they act out as they join in and sing,
But it is all a show, a simple play.
A performance acted out every day.
I wear a mask in every act and scene
Whether it frowns or laughs, or under it is a giggle or a sneer,
I have no choice but to put it on, anyway, every day.
Without it who would know my name?
I would be nothing but a wash up, wearing sackcloth,
The man the world stage threw away.
We wear our harlequin masks,
We cannot throw them away.
If we ever put them down, we would have no life, there would be no play.
The great show must go on.
So, let us put our faces on and sing.
Bryce Bivens is a Political Science student studying International Relations (Specializing in East Asia) and Japanese language at MTSU. He has lived in several states across America and in Australia, as well as having traveled to many countries. He enjoys studying history, philosophy and politics, and his interests include outdoor recreation, gaming, science, and mechanics. Some of his favorite franchises are Star Wars, Warhammer 40k and Fantasy, Halo, the Sheanera series, and many others.
Indeed, his interests extend into many areas, including writing, wherein he specializes in science fiction and fantasy, which he loves most; he prefers to write short stories but dabbles in poetry. He also is an amateur blacksmith learning the craft.
Nashville based singer-songwriter and MTSU Recording Industry student Anna Waggoner wrote her first song when she was 10 years old, and has been in love with songwriting ever since. Her songs span multiple genres, and she cites her main influences as James Taylor, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, and Taylor Swift. Playing guitar, piano, ukulele, harmonica, and self-recording most of her songs, Anna is a musician as well as a wordsmith. Lyrics are usually her favorite part of a song, and she tries to write lyrics that are introspective and cognizant of the human condition.
Anna keeps God at the core of everything she does, and she feels her purpose in life is to inspire others. She hopes that as you listen to her music, you will be comforted, encouraged, and inspired.
Along with releasing her music online, Anna debuts many of her songs on her weekly radio show, “Around The Waves” on WMTS 88.3 FM. She has been a radio DJ for the past few years, and was recently hired at another radio station as an on-air personality.
“Lips of a Stranger” is her most recent release, and is fairly different from anything she’s released prior. If you like this song, you can check out more of her music at https://soundcloud.com/anna-waggoner . You can also keep up with her on social media @AnnaE_Nashville to get updates about her song releases and radio show.
Dana Tri was born at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and has traveled most of her life. She found the constant moving exhilarating and discovered she had a passion for culture and language. She is a veteran of the United States Air Force and spent her time in service as a Korean Linguist. Currently, she and her husband reside in Spring Hill, Tennessee. After obtaining her Associate of Science at Columbia State Community College, she has now transferred to Middle Tennessee State University to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts where she plans to graduate in Spring of 2018. Her medium of choice is oil, both on canvas and board. She has had work published in print and web media. Coordinating both nationally and internationally, she has completed personalized commisions in both traditional and digital mediums from places such as Hawaii, Florida, and England.
The essence of the human spirit is what I am driven to study. It is not a path driven by religion, culture or politics, but rather one birthed from a desire to share and connect with individual members of society who, over time, have become increasingly more isolated and compartmentalized from one another. In the creation of each piece, there is the ambition that each viewer of the finished product will feel a sense of community, unity and belonging.
My process continues to evolve as I delve further into the field of oils. Application of the paint in thin glazes over the initial background color enables deeper colors and sets the mood of the artwork. Using the technique of glazes is a tool to better tell the story, to better describe the feelings I wish to evoke in the artwork. The application of thicker paint is also a choice that involves the sensations I want to evoke. The glazes allow for a luminescence, while the thicker paint is used for emphasis. There is a sense of thoughtfulness within an artwork created this way, and I believe that the process along with the actual message of the piece are both equally as important for the final piece.