Category: ACM@UCO

Grammy’s and Cellos: Good Times With Better People

A Spotlight on Kitt Wakeley and Tess Remy-Schumacher’s collaborative piece: “Asa”

by Ange Coronado Olmstead

“At first, ‘Asa’ was a piece that stood on its own.” –Grammy Award Winning Composer, Kitt Wakeley

From the beginning, Kitt Wakeley understood the disposition he wanted to convey on his [now] Grammy-winning album, mirroring the sounds of love, heartbreak, empathy, and humility. He began collaborating with artists worldwide to complete his album “An Adoption Story.” Kitt soon realized what he needed to bring his vision to life: Cello.

Enter Tess Remy-Schumacher, stage left.

Tess Remy-Schumacher is a well-decorated musician, who tells her stories through the cello and her projects. She relates to Kitt through her own experiences describing, “When we talked about the proposed cello solo piece ‘Asa’, we shared our common concern wanting to help Foster Youth.”

The duo bonded from there and Kitt listened to Tess bring his story alive. Throughout the recording process, Kitt admires her ability to light up the room, and her humility throughout their time working together.

Tess Remy-Schumacher

Tess Remy-Schumacher

“Her humility in the recording process is my favorite. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to make sure we get a great track.” He admired and respected her vision for the piece creating an effective collaboration. “Tess also happens to be someone with a huge heart for others. Therefore, Tess wasn’t merely playing this solo. She was using the cello to convey a story to the listener.”

You can find Tess around the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) School of Music and around campus. Whether it is working with her students, colleagues, or other musicians Dr. Remy-Schumacher is always ready to collaborate on her next performance. She makes each and one of her interactions genuine inside and outside the classroom. Although—her students are always at the top of her priority list. Dr. Tess Remy-Schumacher is a Strings Professor for graduate and undergraduate applied cello and aims to bring some of Kitt Wakeley’s leadership style into her teachings. “He always has a clear vision, works incredibly hard, and he and his wife are the kindest human beings.” Even though this is not her first time going through the full recording process, she continues with advice to pass on to her students who are interested in pursuing a musical career.

“I advise my students to take a chance and learn from each opportunity. There are no shortcuts in this world, and nothing can substitute extremely hard work and experience.”

After collaborating on and releasing more than 20 CD projects and albums, Tess mentions that listening to Kitt’s music, story, and message, has had a deep impact on her growth as an artist. “It has been very inspiring and uplifting to collaborate with Kitt Wakeley… I am very excited to share and pass on this experience to my cello students every day.”

For this performance specifically, we see teamwork even beyond the UCO School of Music. Kitt and Tess both send their sincere thanks to Patrick Conlon, Assistant Director of ACM@UCO (Academy of Contemporary Music) and Christina Giacona. Patrick and Christina founded Onyx Lane where “Asa” was recorded and engineered.

Patrick Conlon and Christina Giacona

Patrick Conlon and Christina Giacona, photo by Dylan Johnson @giantclick

“I was proud of the message and even more proud of what Tess had done with it… It was a key chapter in the overall musical journey.” – Grammy Award-winning composer, Kitt Wakeley

The University of Central Oklahoma School of Music and ACM@UCO would like to extend many thanks to Kitt Wakeley for taking the time to discuss the creative process and working with our colleagues throughout the album’s journey. Congratulations to the entire team of musicians who made the Grammy win for “An Adoption Story” possible.

Kitt Wakeley, "An Adoption Story"

Listen to “An Adoption Story” on YouTube.


Q&A with Kitt Wakeley

Q: When you first heard Tess bring your story of “Asa” to life with Cello, how did you picture it bringing that part of the story together?
A: “At first, “Asa” was a peace that stood on its own. I was proud of the message and even more proud of what Tess had done with it. However, as other parts of my vision for a new album developed, I knew that “Asa” needed to be a part of the bigger project. It was a key chapter in the overall musical journey.”

Q: On your website, it mentions that “The prominence of the cello represents the ‘disposition of one little boy. Very little support in his life.’” Do you feel like Tess was able to convey that disposition? Was the creation of the song more of a collaboration or more inspired by the heartbreak?
A: “Tess is why this peace is so special. She knew the premise of the song and understood the periodic heartbreak of what happens to foster children and adoption. Tess also happens to be someone with a huge heart for others. Therefore, Tess wasn’t merely playing the solo. She was using the cello to convey a story to the listener. The emotion, the beauty of the notes, and the flow of the music were all brought to life at once.”

Q: There is a photo of Tess on your Facebook page [para-quoted] saying that her smile “lights up any room” (which, she does!) What was your favorite memory of her during the creative process?
A: Her humility in the recording process is my favorite. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to make sure we get a great track. She made the process very easy. She had her vision of how things should be while being open to other ideas. It was very much a team effort.

Q&A with Dr. Tess Remy-Schumacher

Q: What leadership qualities do you see in Kitt as a composer/artist that you would want to integrate into your teachings/musical practices here at UCO?
A: “Everyone who knows Kitt Wakeley has commented on his incredible artistry, his genius as a composer, and his superb leadership skills. He has always had a clear vision, works incredibly hard, and he and his wife Melissa are the kindest human beings. He is a role model for every artist! I feel very fortunate and honored to be part of Kitt Wakeley’s CD amongst the most fantastic artists and producers. It was a musical lifetime experience.”

Q: During the creation process, did you ever struggle with conveying the disposition that Kitt wanted you to represent? How did you overcome that together?
A: “Kitt has always been a very collaborative composer. When we talked about the proposed cello solo piece “ASA”, we shared our common concern about wanting to help Foster Youth. My husband and I had established a scholarship at UCO in honor of our parents to benefit Foster Youth, and I had received a grant from UCO’s Office of Research and Grants to create a recording to benefit Foster Youth. Kitt Wakeley dedicated ASA to “the Foster Children of the world”. He completed the composition on April 27, 2020, the day my dear teacher Lynn Harrell passed away. ASA was also dedicated in memory of Lynn Harrell.”

Q: After going through the recording process, what advice would you offer to your students who want to move forward with a musical career?
A: I advise my students to take a chance and learn from each opportunity. There are no shortcuts in this world, and nothing can substitute for extremely hard work and experience. I have released over 20 plus recording (CD) projects.
In terms of the actual recording process, it makes all the difference to have the composer present, and to work with great recording engineers like Christina Giacona and Patrick Conlon at ACM for “ASA”. I am very grateful to Kitt Wakeley for his productive guidance during the recording of “ASA”.

Q: How has going through the entire process impacted you creatively?
A: “It has been very inspiring and uplifting to collaborate with Kitt Wakeley. His music, story and message had a deep impact on my growth as an artist. I am very excited to share and pass on this experience to my cello students every day.”

#CFADWorks: Mariah Saffa

Hard at work in a 7,000-seat arena in northern Colorado, ACM@UCO alumna Mariah Saffa reflects on her path to a marketing career in the entertainment industry.

After receiving a B.A.T. in Music Business and a minor in Marketing from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2017, Saffa used the skills she gained through real-world industry experience at ACM@UCO in her job as a Digital Marketing Specialist and Radio Accounts Manager at Tyler Media. This role led Saffa to her current position with Spectra, an international venue management and hospitality company that serves the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, CO. As a Marketing Manager, Saffa directs marketing strategies not only for the venue itself, but also for touring musicians and entertainers, continuing to apply her education in Music Business.

As students today are dissuaded from pursuing their passions in arts-related fields, we’re flipping the script on “starving artists” and highlighting the breadth of success our alumni have achieved as musicians, artistic directors, talent managers, dancers, actors and so much more. As our alumni can attest, #CFADWorks!

Are you a CFAD alum? We’d love to hear from you! To get involved, just post a selfie or video of you at work to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Use #CFADWorks, and we’ll share your story! Thank you for inspiring our students and the future generation of creators!