Into the Music

Logan Metz ’10, left, and Lincoln Mendell ’10, whose band is called The Wind & Rain, are the musicians behind the Marymount Institute’s first Alma Mater Records release.

At a time when the music industry’s business model struggles for survival, LMU’s Marymount Institute for Faith, Culture and the Arts has established a nonprofit record label, Alma Mater Records, to support artists and arts education.

“Commercialization is a problem that leads to selling out certain qualities,” says Theresia de Vroom, professor of English and director of the Marymount Institute. “All we want is to do good work and leave something meaningful behind. It might not make a lot of money or be at the top of the charts, but we hope to create something that is transformative.”

The idea for the record label began to form when Logan Metz ’10 turned in a musical composition about “King Lear,” co-written with his musical collaborator Lincoln Mendell ’10, as a final paper in a Shakespeare course taught by de Vroom. The piece was so well regarded that Metz received a grant from the Marymount Institute to professionally produce the five-song suite on CD. That’s when de Vroom, the Marymount Institute staff and the Metz-Mendell team decided a niche exists for music that draws on classic literature and the stuff of college degrees.

“There is great music being written that no one is listening to; it’s disappearing,” de Vroom says. “We’re not sure what difference this is going to make, but it’s a good opportunity to put good music in front of people and hope they like it.”

In March, Alma Mater Records released its first CD, “True Love and Other Filthy Lies,” a work of experimental folk also by Metz and Mendell, who perform as a duo called The Wind & Rain. They produced 1,000 copies, and the CD also is available for download on iTunes.

“The small scale of Alma Mater Records is liberating,” says Metz, who is also the label’s creative director and composer-in-residence. “We hope to just create projects and then raise enough money to produce the next one.”

Metz and Mendell, under the Alma Mater banner, also are working on a CD featuring K through fifth-grade students from St. Bernard Catholic School in Los Angeles’ Glassell Park neighborhood, where Metz is a music and Shakespeare teacher. Metz created songs with students, noticing themes that mapped the development of a child, from kindergarteners’ tunes about raindrops to the fifth-graders writing about a star-crossed love between a starfish and a star in the sky. The students recorded the songs in a studio and a percentage of sales will go back to St. Bernard.

“The students experienced the thrill of working as a team and the existential joy of making something out of nothing,” Metz says. “They were able to deconstruct the mystery of how and where music comes from.”

Alma Mater also plans to record Wole Soyinka, Nobel Prize novelist and professor-in-residence at LMU, reciting his poetry. The Marymount Institute has published several books successfully, says de Vroom, and making an audio book is a logical step to take.

“The Marymount Institute has a professed interest in supporting the arts, especially the underdog arts,” Metz says.

(Photo by Liz Dupuy)


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