Students, faculty and administrators alike are singing the praises of UTD’s new alma mater that was played for the first time at the May 8 commencement.
The playing of the new alma mater represented the culmination of more than a year-long collaboration among students, faculty and administrators alike to realize outgoing UTD President Franklyn Jenifer’s desire for the university to have its own school song.
Robert X. Rodriguez, professor of aesthetic studies and renowned musical composer and conductor, penned the melody for UTD’s alma mater two years ago while he was in Rome, Italy.
“I was working on the alma mater the last time I was in St. Peter’s,” Rodriguez said. “I remember not being able to get that tune out of my head while I was trying to concentrate on all the sculpture and architecture.”
Rodriguez donated the music for the alma mater to the university. The project to create the school song that will soon be synonymous with UTD.
With Rodriguez’ melody set, the search for lyrics became a daunting task. Twenty people formed a committee to put words to the alma mater’s music. The committee sent the music to four professional songwriters who altogether submitted 16 sets of lyrics.
Darrelene Rachavong, interim vice president for student affairs, said the process of finding the right words proved difficult at times.
“We went about the process backwards,” Rachavong said. “[The lyricists] had to write within the box. We had the lyrics created for the music rather than creating music for the lyrics.”
Rachavong emphasized that the student members of the committee – also members of the SGA – had the greatest voice in the lyric selection process. Professional songwriters Bill Dunn and Neely Reynolds of Auburn Mae Publishing Company took top honors as the winning lyricists for UTD’s Alma mater.
Dunn and Reynolds received $10,000 for their lyrics that incorporate the vision that UTD founders had when they created UTD.
Interim Dean of Students Donna Rogers is a fan of the lyrics.
“It’s simple yet it has a message,” Rogers said. “It’s easy for people to remember.”
While the message may be simple, some are wondering whether the song is simple enough for the average person to sing.
Sophie Rutenbar, former SGA vice president, questions whether students and faculty will be able to hit all the musical notes when singing the lyrics.
“I think the music is hard to sing at some places, but I think it captures UTD,” Rutenbar said.
Rachavong said minor changes are being made to the lyrics to make the alma mater easier for people to sing.
She said the committee wanted the lyrics to emphasize UTD’s scholarship, excellence, space science program, the founder’s intentions and UTD’s goal to challenge its students to be the brightest and the best.
“We wanted a song that could live for a hundred years,” Rachavong said.