Chadron State College
Chadron State College

Student composition airs on public television

Jan 19, 2022

Thomas Hughes (Courtesy image used with permission)
Thomas Hughes (Courtesy image used with permission)

CHADRON – A music composition by Chadron State College student Thomas Hughes aired Jan. 6 during Nebraska Public Media’s television series What If, a show about innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity in Nebraska. The theme music, Swashbuckling Revelation, is Hughes’ first concert band score.

The creation of the piece was sparked by a link Hughes received from his Chadron High School band teacher, Joe Rischling, during his junior year.

“I didn't take contests too seriously until my band teacher sent me the ‘What If’ link, then I was interested,” Hughes said.

Hughes composed Swashbuckling Revelation from Dec. 2018 through May 2019 using what he calls a scientific approach related to his interest in mathematics. At the time, he was dissatisfied with the composition and discarded it. About two years later, he found a recording of the score on his phone and an archived paper copy. Realizing the piece had potential, he revived it with some adjustments and brought the composition back to Rischling, who encouraged Hughes to submit it.

“We have premiered a couple of Thomas’ pieces and the crowd responded well in March and May of 2021. The students enjoyed performing them, as well. If he continues to hone his abilities and craft, the sky is the limit as far as what he can do. He’s got a talent that most people don’t have,” Rischling said.

In May 2021, Hughes submitted his composition to Nebraska Public Media along with six other original pieces for consideration.

Swashbuckling Revelation is the theme music when Mike Tobias, host of the show, is introduced while paddling a canoe made of mushrooms.

“A piece titled Swashbuckling Revelation, how could that just not fit? It's just a wonderful element of this project,” Tobias said in a Nebraska Public Media radio interview.

In addition to Swashbuckling Revelation, Hughes’ piece, That Evening, plays at the end of Grain Weevil, a story in What If about a remote controlled robot being developed to work in grain bins.

Although Hughes has not declared a major, he is enrolled this semester in a composition course taught by Dr. Michael Stephens. The course is a continuation of a CSC composition class he took as a high school senior.

“Thomas made some great strides on his own, and he made good progress with me last spring. He has some great instincts, and I would be very happy to see him pursue his musical studies more at CSC. I believe he could develop into a very fine composer,” Stephens said.

Hughes plays the clarinet for the Eagle Band and is the rhythm guitarist in a cover band called Second Avenue with two other former CHS students who are also CSC freshmen, Josh Fernau on drums and Nathan Burch on bass guitar.

“I'm interested in pop music and rock music. I'm trying to put some of those elements into my compositions too, to make them more interesting,” Hughes said.

Hughes’ future plans include completing two compositions for Chadron High School including a possible collaboration between the high school and CSC. He also intends to compose and offer two original compositions to be performed by various CSC musical groups.

—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator