By Ashley Zsedenyi, staff writer
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – After three full-house performances and a sold-out encore performance, the ride is just beginning for recent Campbellsville University graduate Matt Hodge.
Hodge, of Taylorsville, Ky., received a bachelor of arts in music, theory and composition, in the May 2008 commencement ceremony.
Since the first performance of his original contemporary musical production, “Just a Breeze to a Hurricane,” the compliments were flooding in and doors began opening for the composer, who has already begun writing his second musical.
The storyline of “Just A Breeze…” follows the lives of a close-knit group of friends as they journey through college.
With 17 original songs and fully choreographed dance sequences, the musical combines both humor and drama to present an insider’s view into the lives of three college students, all with different ideas about what their college experience should be.
Friendship, acceptance, love, pain, betrayal, jealousy, fear and forgiveness combine to create a tale to which people of all ages and backgrounds can relate.
Hodge said he wrote the musical “because it had always been a dream” and his senior year of college was “just as good a time as any” to write one.
“My parents really encouraged the arts. They took us to go see Broadway plays every year to show us that there was more to entertainment then just a television,” Hodge said.
“I began writing the musical the summer in between my junior and senior year. I wrote it in my dad’s office. I set my keyboard up next to the computer and wrote the whole thing right there on his desk,” he said.
Hodge returned to CU in August with a 50 page, 13 song rough draft of his then-unnamed musical.
He said he began rehearsing with the three main actors, David Rodgers (’08) of Hawesville, Ky., Josh Hensley (’08) of Vine Grove, Ky., and Taylor County High School senior Chanelle Gardner, during the semester with his assistant director, Heather Campbell, a December 2007 graduate of CU.
“Over the course of the fall semester and Christmas break, I made many changes to the musical,” Hodge said. “I added more songs and deleted a couple of songs. By January I had the final draft of the musical,” which he said was about a 90-page script and 17 songs.
Starting in January, he said he began working with the rest of his cast, which included Dr. Frieda Gebert, associate professor of music, Brittany Hall of Lawrenceburg, Ky., Rachel Morrison of Crestwood, Ky., Dillon Mays of Campbellsville, Erin Johnson of Russellville, Ky., E.J. Pavy of Campbellsville, Jennifer Tinnell, director of the Tiger Marching Band and instructor in music, and Anne Gibbs, secretary in the School of Music and adjunct instructor in music.
“We rehearsed insane amounts of hours every week to put this thing on. Learning the music, dialogue, dancing, lighting, microphones, the orchestra pit and numerous other things…it was a very hectic and stressful couple of months, but I loved every minute of it,” Hodge said.
He said he titled the musical “Just A Breeze To A Hurricane” because he wanted to “intrigue people.”
“I purposefully picked a title that was creative and didn’t give away what the storyline was. People kept asking me ‘what does the title mean?’ and I always responded, ‘you’ll have to come to the musical to find out!’ It was a ploy on my part to get people in the seats,” Hodge said.
“The whirlwind in my life that this musical has created for me has been unreal. The past two months of my life have been surreal,” he said.
“The reception to the musical was overwhelming to say the least. People really clung to it and came back to see it over and over. I know many people who came to every performance. I had people that doubted I could get enough people to come to three performances, but we ended up being completely filled up every performance.”
“The last performance was standing room only, and even then we had to turn away some people.”
Hodge said he couldn’t walk to class the next week without getting stopped numerous times by people complimenting his musical.
“I was getting stopped at restaurants and at stores all over the town,” Hodge said.
He said he and his cast were “so honored and shocked at how big the musical had gotten.”
Campbellsville University also took notice at the overwhelming response to the musical.
“CU offered to finance us to have an encore performance…and have it professionally recorded on DVD,” Hodge said. Tickets were sold and were completely sold out in a week.
CU also provided resources for Hodge and the cast and musicians to go to Nashville to professionally record the musical soundtrack.
“I was so honored by all of it,” Hodge said. “It’s been an amazing experience, especially the Nashville recording.”
“We’ve gotten to record with Mr. Buzz Cason, an extremely well-established veteran in the music industry,” he said.
“(Cason) has been a wonderful person to work with, and has also given me lots of great advice about this industry and what I can do to succeed in it.”
Hodge said his new musical, entitled “Prodigy,” will be performed at CU in spring 2009.
“I am really excited to write a new (musical) and see how I can grow and improve from my first one.”
He said he is also working on getting “Just A Breeze To A Hurricane” copyrighted, mailed off to different publishing companies to look at and is showing it to music industry representatives in Nashville.
“I’m hoping to sell it to schools as well,” Hodge said.
“I have been so blessed with what has happened in my life the past few months. It’s been an amazing journey. And I owe a huge part of it to my cast and crew that worked so incredibly hard on ‘Just A Breeze…’
“They believed in my vision and my dream, and they allowed me to see my dream come to life. I will always have eternal gratitude and love for all of them. I thank God every day for what he has blessed me with. I pray that this is just the beginning for me.
“What I’ve learned from all of this is that you never know what life will throw out at you. Just when you think something’s over, it could actually just be the beginning of something,” Hodge said.
“Three months ago, I prayed that I would have just a handful of people come see my musical. And now, three months later, I’m recording in Nashville. Even my own life is proof that something in life really can be ‘a breeze to a hurricane.’ This musical was my breeze, and I pray that everyone finds their breeze one day.”
Hodge is a 2004 graduate of Bullitt East High School and is the son of Roger and Monica Hodge of Louisville.
For more information about Hodge and his musicals, visit www.matthodge.com.
Campbellsville University is a private, comprehensive institution located in South Central Kentucky. Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has an enrollment of 2,405 students who represent 98 Kentucky counties, 25 states and 29 foreign nations. Listed in U.S.News & World Report’s 2008 “America’s Best Colleges,” CU is ranked 22nd in “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the South and eighth in the South for “Great Schools, Great Prices.” CU has been ranked 15 consecutive years with U.S.News & World Report. The university has also been named to America’s Best Christian Colleges®. Campbellsville University is located 82 miles southwest of Lexington, Ky., and 80 miles southeast of Louisville, Ky. Dr. Michael V. Carter is in his ninth year as president.