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Spotlight: UI senior masters upright bass

BY KENDALL MCCABE | FEBRUARY 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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Olivia Rose Muzzy’s big break nearly killed her.

On Dec. 12, 2008, the day after the upright bassist’s first show at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., talent buyer Andre Perry called to ask if she wanted to do a Daytrotter session in Rock Island.

Thrilled, the University of Iowa senior accepted the invitation, only to find out that the session was scheduled for the next day, right in the middle of finals week.

She made the trek and, despite having to drive through a snowstorm on the way back, she never once regretted it.

“I was like, ‘Well, if I die, at least there’s some sort of recorded thing of my music,’” Muzzy said. “It’s recorded. I can die happy now.”

Fellow UI symphony bassist Jared Fowler explained Daytrotter as a nationwide trendsetter for alternative music.

“They seem to spot and record a lot of up and coming artists,” Fowler said. “As far as indie music goes, Daytrotter is definitely a big deal.”



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Self-described as a musical child, Muzzy played the trumpet briefly and picked up piano before she finally found an instrument that felt right in the sixth grade.

“When I played the bass, I excelled pretty quickly,” the Bloomington, Minn., native said. She went on to attend Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley, Minn., for her final two years of high school.

At the UI, Muzzy has studied bass under the direction of Professor Volkan Orhon, and she will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in bass performance.

“No backups,” Muzzy said, grinning.

Her days at the UI have been packed with Symphony Orchestra rehearsals, theory classes, her own lessons, and giving lessons to two students of her own.

She hauls her bass to and from campus music buildings in her two-door Chevy Cobalt, where she removed her front passenger seat to accommodate her behemoth instrument.

“A career in music is demanding,” Muzzy said. “Life is demanding. There’s no excuse to have music not challenge you.”

In addition to her rigorous classical studies, she composes music.

She has been playing shows since the fall of 2008. During live performances, she uses an Akai Headrush loop pedal to create lush background sounds on her bass, over which she can play and sing.

“She has this really awesome Bulgarian singing style,” Iowa City violinist and singer Skye Carrasco said, comparing Muzzy with Iva Bittová, the Czech avant-garde violinist and singer. “Her vocals are very reminiscent in an authentic way [to Bittová], and she adds her own personal touch with it. The textures she creates with her bass loops pull you into a trance.”

She also puts on the “Roller Muzzy Act,” in which she plays the accordion on roller skates.

In July of 2009, Muzzy recorded her début album, Fisherman’s Dream, at Flat Black Studios in Iowa City. She sells the CD at her shows and gives it to friends, but promoting it is not a priority for her right now.

“I’m looking for a place to focus,” Muzzy said.

So far, she has applied to three graduate schools. One of her potential bass professors is an Internet sensation for playing the Jimi Hendrix song “Purple Haze” on the upright bass.

“I’m going to have an interesting life,” Muzzy said.


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