Weekender

Penn State professor adds to vast catalog of music

Penn State professor Will Diehl has released new all-original music.
Penn State professor Will Diehl has released new all-original music. Photo provided

Living in Centre County is awesome. I live in Port Matilda, work in Bellefonte and “go into town” in State College, and I simply love all three places.

I’ve worked in a variety of settings since moving to the area, including a few years at Penn State, which in retrospect was not my style, but was absolutely a great learning experience. I met some great people while I worked there, and I enjoy keeping up with them.

One of those great people is Will Diehl, a Pennsylvania native a Penn State alumni at both the undergraduate and graduate level. He is now an assistant professor of education and coordinator of online graduate programs, specifically a lead faculty and liaison to the World Campus, which delivers the college of Education’s Lifelong Learning and Adult Education program. But, long titles and professional roles aside, Diehl also happens to be an accomplished musician who is coming out with some new, all-original music, adding to a catalog of dozens if not hundreds of original songs.

“In the past I released some CDs,” Diehl said. “So, what I did this past year is I went back and I remastered a whole bunch of stuff, and I released three sets of albums, and then I started recording a bunch of old songs I never recorded before. I just released last month another five songs.”

Diehl avoids using labels, but a lot of what he has recently released could be called meditative music, because it is contemplative, acoustic and instrumental, and also features the sounds of nature. When Diehl lived in Hawaii and on the West Coast, he would go into natural settings — sometimes very early in the morning — to capture the sounds of a rain storm, or to record waves crashing during different times in the tidal cycles.

“I was in Maui in the up-country and started at 4:00 in the morning,” Diehl said, “and recorded probably for an hour and a half. Then, I took a chunk of time and laid piano tracks and keyboard tracks on top of that. When I have to categorize them, they’re sort of in the New Age category.”

Whatever the category, his catalog is vast, with one of his three remastered albums containing around 50 songs, and his time as a songwriter goes back a number of years, back to a time when Diehl was looking to give music a shot while he had the means and flexibility to do so.

He was a staple on the San Francisco scene for a number of years in the early ’80s, fronting a band called The Boxes, touring the region, having original music played on the radio and gaining fans. Despite the success, things shifted and it became time for members of the band to move on.

“We were all about to play full time. We were going to quit our jobs,” Diehl said. “I was a teacher at that time in Tahoe and we were playing part time. (But) the band broke up, and I decided I’m never going to have the chance to play music full time if I don’t do it now.”

So, Diehl spent the next decade or so doing just that, playing solo gigs on the West Coast, moving back east to play to a more condensed population and touring all up and down the East Coast, as well as throughout the northeast. He eventually gravitated back to education after being out of it for quite a while. New interests started to emerge, which led him to graduate school and earning his Ph.D. in Adult Education.

Even though he chose to immerse himself in academia, his remastering work and his decision to continue releasing music show his musical interests — and ideas — are flowing, although that may not necessarily lead to performing.

“I would like to find some people to collaborate with and play with,” Diehl said. “I’m not actively pursuing that right now, just because of the time that I don’t have. I’m going to actively record and release music, and do a little more on the marketing side of things. I think if I put the vibe out and be more active in the music community and talking to people, I’m thinking that I’m going to meet some people that I gel with who have the same sort of goals.”

Of course, Diehl is an academic with clear ideas and observations about the musical process, and what it’s like for him while he’s in the midst of the process.

“There’s something about the time sort of disappearing,” Diehl said. “That’s what it feels like, so when I’m writing it’s like a stream of consciousness. Some writers talk about how they pull it out of the air, and that’s what it feels like. I have knowledge of what is actually happening. I know it just sort of happens.”

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.

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