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About The Project

We are in search of how the roots of arts and music formed and maintained themselves in the Midwestern American city of University City, Missouri, founded in 1906 adjacent to St. Louis, Missouri.  The hypothesis is that since there seems to be an unusual number of people that have passed through University City (aka "U. City") that have gone on to be professional musicians or music professionals at some point in their lives over generations of residents, that music and the arts have transcended being just a pastime, but a part of the culture of the city.


Sounding The Chord is the search for and recording/reporting of individuals that have 1) lived in the city of University City for at least 1 year of their lives, 2) gone to school in at least one of the public University City schools for one year of their lives, and 3) spent at least 1 year of their lives as a paid, professional musician or music professional.  The goal is to interview these people in the places where they live and work now and show them doing what they do currently or what they did in the past as it related to music.

This is a "documentary project" and not just the traditional "documentary".  What does that mean?  It means that there is not just going to be a 90-120 minute film that can be watched on movie screens or TV sets once all the work is completed years down the line.  This is the early 21st century, so the plan is to approach this task so that full advantage can be taken of the audiences and distribution methods of today.

We already have a Facebook page where we have spread the word about the project, updated followers of on-going recordings, posted rough pictures, and shown early versions of videos.  This will continue.  We also share the project status on Facebook and Twitter.  Already here on this site we have a page devoted to articles and a blog that will have stories about the subjects of the project, stories from the road about making the project, and additional facts and related notes about this subject.  In the near future we plan on starting an audio podcast that can be subscribed to and downloaded by anyone so that they can hear original interview and performance experts and even previous recordings by the interviewees.  And finally on the multimedia front already have some videos posted.  We'll put up fresh interview snippets, features, old U. City related video, and possibly streaming live feeds.

In short, you are already taking in the documentary and wil be able to continue to do so with fresh content until final shooting ends (tentatively scheduled to end at the end of 2011- early 2013).  We don't anticipate a finished movie or series of movies until at least 2014.  But we also want to have still photo gallery shows and even a multi-media gallery show in New York and St. Louis at least.

With the number of subjects that fit the criteria already at more than 175 and the list growing quickly, you won't have to wait until we toil in the background to enjoy the work.  This is the work.  Shooting for this project began in February of 2011, but the idea for everything began long before that.  (Click here to read a bit more about how it all got started.) As of June 2012, we have done full interviews with 51 people, videoed in 37 different cities in 15 different US states/territories  in the US and have been in touch with other U. City musicians in Canada, Scotland, Spain, Jamaica, Bolivia, Brazil, New Zealand, St. John, and Australia.  We'd like for all that see this site to connect via the links on the sides for the mailing list, Facebook, and Twitter so that we can keep spreading the word and make sure that we find as many people as possible to interview. 

About The People Behind The Project

 Rod Milam - Director/Executive Producer

(Click here to download Rod Milam's full project bio)

Rod Milam is a native of University City, Missouri. He began participation in the music programs in the U. City School District by playing percussion in 5th grade at Flynn Park. He continued by playing in the bands throughout middle school and in the Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, Marching Band, and Jazz Bands 1 and 2 while at U. City High.

After high school, Rod went to the University of Missouri - Rolla to study Aerospace Engineering for a year and a half. After finding the student run radio station KMNR, he moved back to St. Louis and spent all of the 1990s filling up an alphabet soup of radio stations and media outlets by working as an announcer, show host, and radio news journalist on the air at KWUR, KDHX, KWMU, and KMOX and contributing to HEC-TV, the AP, CBS, NPR, CNN, ESPN, RFI (Radio France Internationale) and others. Meanwhile, he worked all over St.Louis as a Pizza Hut assistant manager and pursued and completed his Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.

While at UMSL, Rod added to his 6 years of French in the U. City school district and took 3 semesters of Spanish. He then took a leave from his restaurant and radio work and spent 3 months living in Madrid, Spain studying spoken Spanish. In 2000 he left St. Louis and the US again and moved to Tokyo, Japan to teach conversational English, work as a freelance international journalist, and learn some Japanese for a year.

Rod changed paths after 9/11 and moved to New York City. He got some voiceover work, but made his living working at Wall Street financial firms. Eventually he ended up being a Business Technology Educator for UBS in charge of training all of the firm's offices in the US, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil in the company's largest client relationship global software (putting his French, Spanish, and Portuguese to use).

After getting laid off with a lot of the rest of the planet in 2008, Rod decided to go back to his media related roots by opening up his multimedia production company, MilamNYC Productions LLC. The company produces video and audio products for companies/actors/artists around the world that wish to use videos or podcasts on their websites, for training, for conferences or on TV/Radio advertising. Rod conceived the idea of the University City Musician Documentary Project while meeting many of his fellow alums of many graduating classes that lived in New York that were involved in the arts, dance, and music professionally long after their stints in the same while back in U. City.

 Cara Reedy - Researcher/Photographer/Videographer

Cara Reedy is a University City native and has a passion for her home town and its history. Although she didn't attend U. City High, she did have the privilege of going to Flynn Park for a time.

Cara currently resides in Brooklyn in New York City and works at CNN as a production coordinator for CNNMoney.com and a contributing writer to CNN.com. She previously worked in CNN's documentary unit where she associated produced several documentaries including Black In America: Solutions and Noose: An American Nightmare.

Cara has also kicked off her own blog where she lets everyone in on her fairly unique view of life.  The site is called "Infamously Short" and it spreads her tales of interactions with other people as a little person and the often strange attention that she gets.

Cara holds a BA in Political Science and Theatre from Loyola University Chicago and an AAS in Photography from the Art Institute of Philadelphia.

 Christie Mitchell - Researcher

Christie Mitchell was born and raised in University City, Missouri. After a short stint at the JCCA, she attended McKnight and later Jackson Park. Similar to several other UCitians, she was exposed to the wonderful visual and musical programs in the community. While at Brittany Woods, Christie was a member of the choir, an interest that followed her to Rosati-Kain High School through graduation in 1993.
Christie moved to New Orleans where she attended Loyola University and majored in Sociology with a minor in Film Studies. A month into school, she re-connected with a crew of UCity expatriates (most of them working jazz musicians and local artists). In her spare time, Christie volunteered her time working in various underserved areas of the city and simultaneously became an active member of the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (AAPRP) headed by Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokley Carmichael). It was during an internship with Xavier University’s Deep South Center for Environmental Justice that Christie discovered a hidden passion for research and community organizing.

Upon graduation from Loyola, Christie took up residence in the lower ninth ward section of New Orleans. A home that was later washed from its foundation from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
In 1998, after spending a few months traveling through Europe, she decided to make her way to New York City. She worked at Time Warner Publishing for three years and after 911, decided to pursue her passion of working for Social Justice and Education Reform. In 2006, Christie earned a Dual Master’s Degree from Columbia University and Bank Street College of Education. Today, she is a non-profit leader and community advocate. When she is not traveling, she can be found playing around on her guitar under a tree in the Inwood section of Manhattan, checking out books at the local library, toting her yoga mat or just chillin’ with friends at one of the many jazz venues in the city.
Christie is passionate about the arts, in particular Jazz History and is in full support of the UCity Musician Documentary Project.

 Diane Davenport - Researcher Diane Davenport has been an arts educator for 45+ years and has chosen a life mission of engaging children of all ages in the joy of creating expression through dance, music, drama, and language.  To reach children, she has attempted to look at their being and what makes them work.  Through the theory of Multiple Intelligences, her learners have had many successes in the arts.

She has taught at all levels and been an administrator and curriculum specialist in the arts in schools in Illinois and Missouri.  She taught music for 26 years in the U. CIty School District and 19 years at The New City School in St. Louis.  She has had many opportunities to reach children for many years at COCA as well as the former CASA-the community music school.  Her continued interest in arts education includes conducting workshops around the United States about literacy and the connection to the arts.  She is presently an Artist In Residency for Metro Theater Company for Metro Theater Company, Urban Arts, and Arts Intersection Program.  Diane has degrees from Millikin University and Webster University.

Diane has also always been active in civic causes.  As a younger person, she was involved in the Civil Rights movement in the US  and has continued to find places to continue work in that area.  She has been actively involved in University City both in city government and various school & city committees.
 Tom Seltzer - Graphic Designer/Illustrator/Artist Tom Seltzer grew up in University City. His parents also went to U. City, and both sets of grandparents lived there as well. He went to U. City schools starting in kindergarten at McKnight and ending when he graduated UCHS in 1988. Cut him and he bleeds black and gold.

Tom has always been proud of his involvement in the U. City band program, in which he played saxophone, badly. If not for his participation, some genuinely talented musicians in that program might not have sounded quite as brilliant in comparison. (He also played piano badly, but that was on his own time.)

Tom moved to New York in 1988 to attend Columbia University, where he studied history. This is confusing in that he has made his living since graduating as an illustrator and graphic designer. He is the owner and principal designer of Seltzer Studio Graphics, where his clients include or have included Deutsche Bank, Second Market, The New York City Opera, American Lawyer, The Deal and the New York Times. He recently created the cover art for former U. City resident Jeremy Schonfeld’s Iron & Coal CD. Tom lives in Brooklyn with his wife Inés and seven-year old daughter Iliana.