University of Minnesota, Crookston
University of Minnesota, Crookston
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Phillip Seibel

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) Grant Profile

Some classical music. Some blues. Some top-40 pop, and some punk tunes, too. Some easy listening, and some instrumentals.

It sounds like the types of music one might find in a very impressive and eclectic CD collection. But for University of Minnesota, Crookston student Phillip Seibel, every one of those genres of music can be found on the compact disc that he recently produced at UMC.

With the help of George French, music professor, and some funding from the University of Minnesota’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), Seibel was able to make one of his longtime dreams a reality.

“It was George that brought UROP to my attention and the possibility of creating a CD with original UMC compositions on it,” Seibel recalled. “It’s not what you’d call a common project on a college campus.”

After French piqued his interest, Seibel, a Morris, Minn. native, pitched a UROP proposal that would have him producing a CD featuring 10 songs. He’d write six and other UMC students would write four. Seibel would do all the mixing.

When the project wrapped up, Seibel had 100 CDs that were distributed, free of charge, to all of the University of Minnesota campuses. But enthusiasm spread so much during the project that the finished product features not 10 songs, but 17.

“It’s pretty cool,” Seibel said. “There’s no way anyone is going to like every song on there; it covers too much ground. But if you like any type of music you’re probably going to find a song or two on there worth listening to.”

So why the decision to distribute the CD for free?

“Sure we thought about selling it, and I’ll admit I was thinking, ‘Wow, I have my own CD now; I’m a producing artist,’” Seibel explained. “It seemed pretty big, but then I realized that more than anything this was about learning new things and having fun. I didn’t need to make money off it.”

Music vs. food

Saying he’s been interested in string instruments as long as he can remember, Seibel played cello in high school. When the orchestra program fell victim to budget reductions, he said he took up the guitar.

“I felt like I had to play something,” Seibel said. “I felt like I couldn’t not play an instrument, if that makes any sense.”

He wrote songs and lyrics, mostly within the pop music genre. He started studying music more intently and tried to apply theory, harmonies and progressions to his songs.

Seibel loves food and cooking as much as he loves music. Given that, he attended his first year of college at Southwest State University, which has a sister program to UMC’s hotel, restaurant and hospitality program.

“Music has always been my love, but cooking and eating, too,” he said. “How can you not love eating?”

During his first year at Southwest State, Seibel began asking himself what he truly wanted to do with his life. He said he loved the idea of cooking food and working in the hospitality industry, but that his passion was music. In the end, the hospitality industry won.

“I figured I would do something that I could afford to get sick of when I’m older,” he explained. “I don’t ever want to risk getting sick of music. I just couldn’t do that.”

Seibel was playing guitar in a band at the time and liked the idea of being able to dabble in music while studying in UMC’s hospitality program.

“It’s been great here,” he said. “The classes are smaller and I have a lot of contact with my professors.”

Hard work

Seibel said French was closely involved in the CD project from the beginning. Seibel was able to purchase some studio and recording equipment from Stefan Robberts at the Xerio Studio in Crookston, and he subsequently transformed some dressing rooms for UMC’s Music/Theater Department into a recording studio.

“That’s one of the main reasons we went beyond the original idea of 10 songs,” Seibel said. “Once we weren’t limited to reserving blocks of studio time, the songs just flowed.

Robberts and French each wrote a track, the latter of which was recorded with the pipe organ at Trinity Lutheran Church, where French is the organist. Seibel’s bandmates and other UMC music students contributed pieces and backing vocals, including Bryan Christensen, Joe Linder, Carrie Koplin, Jason Ray, Mark Gangler and Jordan McCormick.

“From top to bottom it’s a UMC production,” Seibel said. Even the artwork on the CD cover is a UMC product, courtesy of student John Burger.

His full-time course-load and work study job didn’t keep Seibel and the other students from putting in several hours a day working on the CD.

“It was an obsession, but in a good way because it was so much fun,” he said. “It was hard to pull myself away and devote enough time to other things.”

He was especially drawn to the technical aspect of the production. Prior to the UROP project, he said he was basically a musician, a guitar player in a band.

“I was using all these different programs and ten hours would go by because I just couldn’t stop,” Seibel said. “Next thing you know, it was four in the morning and I had class in four hours.”

He’s a big fan of the UROP opportunities available to students and faculty. It’s a hidden gem that he says shouldn’t be so hidden.

“I knew nothing about UROP until George told me, on the deadline day for applying,” he said. “I cranked out the application in five hours.”

The hotel, restaurant and institutional management major went through UMC’s spring commencement exercises last spring, but he still had an intern to complete and independent study credits to finish. He took care of both at Madden’s Resort in Brainerd, Minn., and had a full-time job waiting for him this fall.

“It’s a great place to work,” Seibel said. “It’s a huge resort; you’d get lost if you didn’t know where you were going. But I think I’m ready for big things.”

* Seibel is a 2005 UMC graduate.