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From cellist to country rock

Jonathan Kampfe ’05 tours the country with The Phillip Fox Band

Jonathan Kampfe ’05 used to picture himself as a professional cellist playing in ensembles — a career classical musician.

He trained for years to fulfill this dream, attending BGSU on a music scholarship and earning a bachelor’s degree in cello performance from the College of Musical Arts in 2005.

Then, an offer from an old friend changed everything, and Kampfe found himself playing music not in  symphony halls, but in stadiums, rock clubs and country western saloons.

Today, the one-time classical cellist is the bassist for the Columbus-based country-rock quartet, the Phillip Fox Band. Kampfe will return to Bowling Green on Saturday, when his band plays a 9 p.m. show on Saturday, Dec. 6 at Grumpy Dave’s Pub, 104 S. Main St.

The band is currently touring to promote its first full-length album, Heartland.

The Phillip Fox Band is a full-time gig for all of its members, Kampfe said. They don’t work side jobs and make the band their sole career focus, playing about 200 shows in 2014.

“At some point, you have to take that leap of faith,” Kampfe said. “I think one thing that helped me from the get-go was knowing there was no plan B. We all knew we wouldn’t be making money for awhile, but that just pushed us harder to make it work.”

Although the Phillip Fox Band is more popular than ever now, Kampfe struggled after graduating from BGSU to find his purpose.

“For a change of scenery, I moved to Virginia and started working for a company that did window treatments,” he said. “I did some music gigs on the side, but it didn’t take long before I knew this was not what I should be doing.”

Kampfe’s life and career took a new direction when he reconnected with a friend from the Toledo area, fellow musician Phillip Fox.

Fox told Kampfe he was looking for a bass player for a new band.

Unsure whether this was the right move for his music career, Kampfe reached out to his former BGSU professor and mentor, Dr. Alan Smith, for advice.

“I wanted to get his reaction, because he was my cello teacher, and I wasn’t sure he would take it well,” Kampfe said. “To my surprise, he told me, ‘Go for it.’”

Kampfe accepted Fox’s offer and moved to Columbus. By March 2011, Fox and Kampfe had been joined by guitarist David Morckel and drummer Austin Nill.

While the band produced the album Heartland without the support of a record label, its fans helped offset recording studio costs by raising $18,000 via the popular crowd-funding website In return, the band took fans’ input on what songs they should include on the album.

Although they have built their biggest fan base in Ohio, the Phillip Fox Band performed last month in Houston at the APCA South Central Regional Showcase. The showcase allows entertainers to connect with university event planners to book campus appearances.

While he prefers to tour for a week or two, rather than for months at a time (he and his wife welcomed a baby boy six months ago), Kampfe hopes doors will continue to open for the band.

“We do hope for that national exposure, but the main goal is to continue to do what we love to do, and to keep finding creative ways to do it,” he said. “I think we have a bright future ahead of us.”


Chamber Music remix

Project Trio


By DAVID DUPONT, Sentinel News Editor

Project Trio doesn’t have the usual classical chamber ensemble biography.

The musicians –  flutist Greg Pattillo, cellist Eric Stephenson and bassist Peter Seymour – were “all good buddies” at the Cleveland Institute of Music in the late-1990s.

Seymour said in a recent telephone interview that they loved playing together, both within the walls of the conservatory and “extracurricular” gigs where they explored rock, hip hop and jazz.

After graduation and grad degrees, the three headed off on the difficult path of making musical careers for themselves. Still they got together when they could, and when they could they talked. Those conversations turned to the eclectic mix of music they had always enjoyed.

Seymour said they wanted “our own little project that we could do a couple times a year and make music we really wanted to do.”

After lots of talk, in 2005 they played their first show. Then in 2007, Pattillo posted a video, “Inspector Gadget Remix.” It featured his distinctive beatbox technique for flute which  incorporates vocal sounds and percussive effects into his playing.

The video exploded. It has now had 26 million views.

On the basis of that the trio was able to focus on  Project Trio full time. Since then the trio has toured worldwide. Project Trio will perform Nov. 22 at 8 p.m. in Kobacker Hall as part of Bowling Green State University’s Festival Series. Tickets are $15 and $5 for BGSU students. Visit or call 419-372-8171.

That video represented a lot of hard work, Seymour said, and it took more hard work to exploit its popularity to show presenters an audience existed for the ensemble’s twisted blend of musical styles.

The musicians match their stylish repertoire with an appealing stage manner.

“There’s no question that concert music, instrumental music is changing, and that engaging the audience is one of the most important things we do as chamber and jazz musicians,” Seymour said. “There’s a lot of cool new music going on in classical, jazz and instrumental music and we’re trying to add our voice to that.”

They put high priority in connecting with audiences. “We speak to the audience regularly,” Seymour said. “We smile. We have fun. We dance.”

That’s not an act though, “it’s who we are.”

“We love to perform, we love to share music with people,” he said.

As the band arranges and composes new material “we truly think about what the audience  might like.” That prompts adventures into new genres – Brazilian choro music or Indian ragas.

“We’re always trying to push forward.”

And there’s one way to test those experiments: “The only place you can find out if an audience will like stuff is to bring it to the stage and see what happens.”

Seymour said the Bowling Green audience can expect a mix of what the trio has to offer. That includes off-beat versions of classical masterpieces such as “Peter and the Wolf” and the finale to the opera “William Tell.”

The show will include original music, as well as the sound of jazz composer Charles Mingus, and some hip hop, Seymour said. “Truly something for everyone.”


Mikel Kuehn awarded commission from the Barlow Endowment

Mikel Kuehn

BOWLING GREEN, O.—The happy phrase “embarrassment of riches” might apply to music composition faculty member Dr. Mikel Kuehn, in terms of recognition for his work this year. He recently received the Barlow Endowment Commission for Music Composition, one of the leading commissioners of contemporary music in the United States.

This comes on top of his being named a Guggenheim Fellow last spring, when he also received a 2014 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award.

“This award is not only wonderfully prestigious for our Prof. Kuehn, but also a confirmation of the very high level of our composition department faculty,” said Dr. Jeffrey Showell, Dean of the College of Musical Arts. “Among the current four composition professors, there have been two Guggenheim awards, one Fulbright, and one Barlow Endowment Commission. Extraordinary!”

A prolific composer, Kuehn’s work is performed frequently worldwide and he has numerous composition commissions. Among his recorded music is an in-progress solo CD from New Focus Recordings. In March 2013, six of his works were featured at the Vienna Saxfest held at Konservatorium Wien Privatuniversität.

His work was described as having “sensuous phrases … producing an effect of high abstraction turning into decadence,” by New York Times critic Paul Griffiths.

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CMA announces The Hansen Music Fellowship Program

Hansen's 2014

By Terri Carroll

To attract the brightest students, universities traditionally offer the best scholarships. But when it comes to convincing top music students to choose BGSU over, say, Julliard or Indiana University, even the most generous academic and music scholarships are no longer enough.

Dr. DuWayne and Dorothy ’62, ’69 Hansen hope their initiative for the most talented music students will be too good to refuse.

“We wanted to figure out what more we could do to make BGSU the most attractive choice for talented students to consider.”With the newly launched Hansen Music Fellowship Program, the best students will receive funding for beyond-the-classroom musical experiences and education. Students can tailor their fellowship experience to include activities that are best suited to their needs and career aspirations, from attending summer camps, conferences and festivals to recording, seeking new performing opportunities or touring.

“A scholarship only goes so far,” DuWayne said. “We wanted to figure out what more we could do to make BGSU the most attractive choice for talented students to consider.”

The Akron couple, who both have strong ties to BGSU’s College of Musical Arts, decided that giving the University a truly competitive edge would require funding a set of professional musical experiences for students above and beyond the typical scholarship.

The Hansen Fellowship can help students stand out from their peers by enabling them to participate in activities that will become an asset for them in today’s highly competitive job market.

The Hansens believe a music fellowship that allows students to pursue professional development in addition to their BGSU studies will be advantageous not only for the fellows themselves, but also for their peers and the music faculty.

“They can benefit enormously from a summer spent at the Chicago Symphony or the Cleveland Orchestra — it can open their eyes in a marvelous way,” DuWayne said. “They come back with so many new ideas.”

Back in the classroom and residence halls, fellows can share what they’ve learned from those experiences and serve as examples for other students of how broad the scope of a musical education can be, the Hansens said.

“We hope having these model students interacting with other students will help raise the bar for everyone around them,” Dorothy said.

The Hansens, who met at BGSU more than 50 years ago, are longtime supporters of the University’s music programs. Dorothy is a two-time alumna of the College of Musical Arts and DuWayne is a former chair of the Department of Music Education.

The Dorothy E. and DuWayne H. Hansen Musical Arts Series has brought dozens of renowned performers to the University since 1996. Dorothy has also served on the BGSU Foundation Board of Directors.

“We feel a very strong connection to BGSU. We lived here, we raised our daughter here, we worked with so many fantastic faculty and students here,” DuWayne said. “Our goal is to help improve the music programs and the University in whatever way we can.”

Two incoming freshmen will be chosen as Hansen Fellows each year.

Fellowship applicants must demonstrate a record of exceptional musical performance and strong academic achievement, including a minimum ACT score of 26.

A committee appointed by the dean will oversee the selection process, and the Department of Music Performance Studies chair will manage the program.

Once selected, each Hansen Fellow will receive funding on a yearly basis, and will work with faculty to identify goals and determine how best to use the funds. Each fellow will be expected to maintain a grade point average of 3.5 each semester and to perform in a recital or featured concert each year they receive funding.

‘Frankenstein’ plus live music equals Halloween fun at BGSU

BOWLING GREEN, O.—Audiences will have a chance to celebrate Halloween in a uniquely scary way this year and experience the film “Frankenstein” as never before.

The Festival Series event will feature a screening of the 1931 Boris Karloff film with a new musical score played live by BGSU music faculty members. It begins at 8 p.m. Oct. 31 in the Thomas B. and Kathleen M. Donnell Theatre at the Wolfe Center for the Arts.

Cashbox Classical Music Editor Rob Tomaro said of a previous performance, “The audience was riveted to their seats. The power of the live music with the classic film was hypnotic.”

Audience members are invited to dress up in costume. There will be a costume contest, with three winners selected before the concert and awarded prizes.

Conducted by Bruce Moss, director of BGSU band activities, the “Frankenstein” musical score was composed by Michael Shapiro, music director and conductor of the Chappaqua (New York) Orchestra.

“When the Film Society of Lincoln Center opened an adjunct theater in Westchester,” Shapiro recalled, “I spoke to executive director Steve Apkon about doing a joint project during their opening season with my orchestra and the theater. During our discussion I offered to write a film score for ‘Frankenstein’ that would be played simultaneously with the 1931 film by live musicians,” he said.

The original picture has spoken dialogue, qualifying it as a “talkie,” but no musical score, Shapiro explained. The technology did not exist in 1931 to have a separate music track on the film, he said, adding that the first through-composed film score was Max Steiner’s “King Kong” in 1933.

“Writing for a ‘talkie’ with a simultaneous live score is in many ways a new art form, so it’s tremendously adaptable and exciting to do,” Shapiro said.” He also noted that live orchestral performance with film attracts a new audience to experience this hybrid medium.

“I love writing music that has a dramatic impulse,” he said. “I thought of this Frankenstein score as almost a one-act opera … but instead of writing music to move singers across a stage, I thought of moving actors through their dramatic action, commenting on what is being portrayed emotionally by (director) James Whale in his masterpiece.”

“I try to write music in every form that gets under the listener’s skin,” Shapiro said.

There is no intermission for the performance. The audience is invited to a special after party at The Melt Shoppe in downtown Bowling Green.

Tickets are $12 for the public and $5 for BGSU students and can be purchased online at or by calling the Arts Box Office at 419-372-8171