ASU music student performs theme song for 'CBS Mornings'

April 10, 2023

Samuel Oatts, a doctoral student in trumpet performance, is having a busy spring semester at Arizona State University.

It’s been filled by performances with the Phoenix Symphony, the New Mexico Philharmonic, the Phoenix Theatre Company and Arizona Opera. But, Oatts said his most exciting event was meeting and playing for CBS News anchor Gayle King as she received the 39th annual Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism at ASU. Samuel Oatts Download Full Image

Oatts performed the “CBS Mornings” theme song, the “Abblasen” fanfare, live at the ceremony. He was accompanied by a brass trio featuring School of Music, Dance and Theatre graduate students Alex Austin (horn), Brandon Dicks (trumpet) and Sean Holly (trombone).

In addition to performing at the awards ceremony, Oatts also performs the “CBS Mornings” theme song that airs Monday through Saturday mornings. Oatts said when the Cronkite School event coordinators learned he played the show’s theme, they contacted him to perform at the ceremony.

“They thought it would be a special touch to surprise Gayle with the theme song performance, because she didn't know that the person who played it was from ASU,” Oatts said.

Oatts was selected to perform the show’s theme song in fall 2021 when “CBS Mornings” rebranded. Through a series of friends and connections, Oatts was referred to Ant Food, a sonic branding company that was bidding on the contract. Ant Food was looking for a baroque trumpet player to play the “Abblasen” fanfare, the original theme for "Sunday Mornings" since the 1970s. Ant Food had Oatts record various arrangements of the piece at Clarke Rigsby’s Tempest Studio in Tempe. When the company was awarded the bid, Oatts was selected to record the theme.

Oatts, a Conn-Selmer/Bach performing artist, studies with Josef Burgstaller, professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre.

“Sam and I met around 2002 when I was teaching summers at the Music Academy of the West,” Burgstaller said. “From his playing alone, we all knew that Sam was a star in the making. But what really set Sam apart was his tremendous work ethic, the breadth and quality of his musical ambition, his soulful interpretations and his wonderful spirit. It was such a privilege to work with him recently as part of our School of Music, Dance and Theatre teaching staff, as he had a tremendously positive impact on our classical and jazz departments. We all continue to be so proud of Sam, his accomplishments and especially who he is as a person.”

Oatts is one of the most sought-after trumpet players in the United States with extensive international credits across more than 35 countries and 49 U.S. states in classical, commercial, lead, jazz, chamber, rock, pop and world music. He is also a songwriter, arranger, producer and musical services coordinator. 

Originally from New York City, Oatts studied classical trumpet with members of the Metropolitan Opera and at night would play bass for punk rock bands in circuit clubs. Prior to coming to ASU, he had been a Broadway show musician in New York and on the road. He also freelanced for many years and made numerous connections through his contract recording work for classical music, television and rock bands.

“When you commit to being a musician or artist, everybody you meet along the way is important,” Oatts said. “Every relationship that you forge could come back, and you need to be ready when you get these opportunities.”

Oatts said his advice to students is to practice great self-care and preparation, to focus on the enjoyment of the process and to forgive yourself when it doesn't go well. He added that the energy you put into loving what you do will allow you to be able, ready and excited to act on an opportunity when it arises.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music, Dance and Theatre


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ASU students use the power of storytelling to drive awareness of water scarcity at Idea Jam

April 10, 2023

Collaborative storytelling hackathon aims to educate, inspire communities

More than a dozen Arizona State University students came together to develop creative ideas to increase public awareness of the critical water issues affecting Arizona communities at Idea Jam 2023

From undergraduates to doctoral students, groups combined their expertise and creative thinking to find solutions that could have far-reaching impacts on the state’s agricultural, industrial and residential communities. 

Student ideas ranged from interactive movies with alternative endings to immersive virtual reality video games and apps that tell consumers how much water it takes to produce their food.

“As I worked with my team members, our ideas started to really gain momentum and turn into something tangible,” said Sanjana Mukherjee, a graduate student studying computer science at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Impact Water - Arizona, which is housed in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, joined forces with Learning Futures and Decision Theater to sponsor the event in an effort to reach new audiences and address the state’s dwindling water resources through student innovation. The collaboration also aims to provide student internship opportunities and real-world experience.

“We know that when people play games and get involved in immersive experiences, they are much more emotionally connected,” said Dan Munnerley, executive director for Learning Futures. “They have much more empathy with a problem because they've invested in the story — role-playing a character in the game."

Two teams tied for first place at the event. The project ideas included an interactive movie with different endings driven by the viewer’s decisions and a dystopian survival game set in 2150 with limited water reserves. Mukherjee was a part of the team that designed the interactive movie concept.

Looking ahead, Decision Theater will offer one student a paid internship to develop their idea into a product during the fall semester. Learning Futures will support students in the winning teams during the summer semester and again in the fall semester. This will include paid hours, mentorship opportunities and other resources from Learning Futures and Decision Theater.

The iterative process not only enhances problem-solving abilities but also instills a sense of confidence and resilience, laying the foundation for a future generation of technology pioneers ready to tackle the world's most pressing challenges with creativity and collaboration.  

“We really wanted to leave a lot of space open for creative thinking,” said Olivia Hernández, who organized the event and is the creative manager at Learning Futures. “So their imaginations, in particular, are unencumbered with doubt or how technically feasible something may be right now.”

“The Colorado River shortage is a massive crisis that we need to come up with ways to address,” said Chelsea Dickson, assistant director at Decision Theater. “It’s inspiring to hear new ideas of how to engage people in that topic, from a perspective and a generation that hasn’t historically been a part of that conversation.”

Lake Powell and Lake Mead — resevoirs that provide water to more than 40 million Americans across seven states, as well as Mexico — are at record-low levels despite rainy and snowy winter conditions. Last year, the federal government cut over 20% of Arizona’s Colorado River water allotment due to ongoing drought conditions. 

RELATED: Why you should care about Colorado River cuts

“I think the people who've really been focusing on Arizona’s water crisis could use new ideas and approaches,” said Sarah Porter, director of ASU’s Kyl Center for Water Policy. “I’m excited about the possibility of bringing completely new approaches and philosophies to our water challenges.”

This cross-disciplinary collaboration is emblematic of a broader movement toward interdisciplinary problem-solving, one that recognizes the interconnectedness of environmental, social and economic issues surrounding Arizona’s water challenges.

As learners continue to pioneer new ideas and technologies, events such as these are a reminder of the power of collaborative exploration in addressing complex challenges.

“It’s truly inspiring to see how our mentors’ passion and excitement motivated a new generation to tackle complex problems in innovative ways, leveraging new technologies and creative storytelling to reach their peers and families,” Munnerley said. “Their eagerness and forward-thinking approach promises a brighter future, and I'm thrilled ASU can be a part of the solution.”

Top photo: Sponsored by Impact Water - Arizona and hosted at ASU Learning Futures, the half-day "jamathon" generated innovative ideas to address the Arizona's water crisis through immersive creative media. Photo courtesy Enterprise Technology/ASU 

Kevin Pirehpour

Editorial Specialist , Enterprise Technology