Music Alumnus Hailing from Home

Michael Buckstein (A&S ’18) would rather be conducting an ensemble or playing music in a group than be social distancing. But the University of Pittsburgh music alumnus is passing the time with the three keys to musical success: practice, practice and practice.

Buckstein recently put his talents to use by becoming a one-man brass ensemble, creating multitracked videos of him performing the “University of Pittsburgh Alma Mater” and the “Pitt Victory Song” with his own trumpet, trombone and French horn, and posting the finished product on Twitter.

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“I saw various groups doing similar music video projects and thought that was really cool. I have a lot of the core band instruments in my basement and thought I should use these skills I have to get better with these instruments sitting around and experiment more with multitracking,” said Buckstein, who graduated from Pitt in 2018 with degrees in music, concentrating in trumpet, and psychology. “I thought it would be a nice thing and I consider myself a big Pitt guy. I’m also a brass guy.”

Before COVID-19 spread to the U.S., Buckstein finished his first teaching placement at Kiski Area Upper Elementary School in Pittsburgh and was about to teach at his second placement at Deer Lakes High School in northeast Allegheny County. The teaching placements are part of his post-baccalaureate music education studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. For now, he is teaching remotely.

“I had a feeling I wanted to go into music, but I still had an interest in psychology,” he said. “I toyed around with music therapy to combine both degrees, but now I’m into music education.” Of the current circumstances, he added, “It’s interesting to see how people are reacting to these quarantine measures, including myself. It’s been quite a transition going from 60 miles per hour to zero.”

At Pitt, Buckstein performed with several University musical groups, including marching band, pep band, concert band, symphony orchestra and jazz ensemble. He also became a brother at the music fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi, where he established and conducted smaller ensembles such as a brass quintet, a trumpet ensemble and a woodwind quintet with friends.

“I had leadership opportunities in music with Kappa Kappa Psi, so I got to create and lead my own groups,” he said. “We got to play around and we performed at some benefit concerts. The brass quintet also got to perform at Heinz Chapel my senior year.”

Buckstein said he hopes musicians work on individual growth during the current stay-at-home period.

“If we all become better individuals and then come together to play again, the music we make will be tremendous,” he said.