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Updated 10:00 AM October 15, 2007




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Four U-M students land record deal

Jack Stratton may not sound or perform like the "hardest working man in show business," but he sure toils like James Brown.

On his winning composition, Stratton plays bass, drums, guitar, organ and trombone. Infused with throbbing funky beats, Stratton's engaging piece blends contemporary dance rhythms and, he points out, the spirit of James Brown, the godfather of soul.

"I was thinking of how formulaic funk music is, and tried to fuse it with other upbeat, driving forms of music," says Stratton, a sophomore and one of four winning entrants in Block M Records' annual "New Music on the Block" competition.

Other winners are Rob Alexander and Dave Fienup from Rackham Graduate Studies; and Alejandro Guerrero from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

A concert featuring performances of the four winners from the annual contest will be held 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19 at the James and Anne Duderstadt Center.

The winners will have their original compositions recorded during Winter 2008 semester in the University's state-of-the-art Audio Studio at the Duderstadt Center. The recording will be released on Block M Records and available through iTunes Music Store.

"Much of today's music is really a synthesis of musical traditions," says Stratton, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Stratton follows a path forged by independent music artists. Today's songwriters, Stratton says, "can do it all," writing, recording, producing and distributing their original compositions. The key, he says, is learning how technology is shaping the art and craft of producing music.

All it takes to produce and distribute a CD is a laptop computer, recording software and access to audiences via the Internet. That shouldn't mean, however, that the great intangibles of talent and originality are marginalized, he says.

Stratton and co-winner Alejandro Guerrero are students in the School of Music's performing arts technology, audio production and producing program.

Guerrero, a resident of Mexico City, draws on his musical experience with a range of cultures, from Spanish to western rock to European dance music.

"I try to represent the versatility of cultures that I've come in contact with," he says. "My goal is to have an impact by creating very emotional music. It's all about representing how I feel."

Contestant submissions ranged in styles from classical to jazz, renaissance-inspired music to electronica. Entries were accepted from groups ranging from one to 100 members. Only original compositions performed by U-M students were accepted.

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