Ode to the Mother Road - Albuquerque Journal

Ode to the Mother Road

Nolan Stolz, University of South Carolina Upstate associate professor of music and composer, has traveled up and down Route 66 since July 1, 2021 getting inspiration for his next major composition for orchestra. ( Courtesy of Nolan Stolz)

When folks talk about their summer vacation, they typically refer to going to the beach, learning a new hobby or working on their tan.

For one professor, it was a time to tour the country.

“They gave me a sabbatical to do this for a year,” said Nolan Stolz, associate professor of music at the University of South Carolina Upstate. “They’re very interested in commercial music, popular music.”

Stolz has spent time in numerous towns along Route 66, getting to know the community, including its business owners, residents and historical buildings.

U.S. Highway 66 turns 100 years old in 2026, so Stolz will have the composition ready for orchestras to perform it during their 2025-26 season.

He said the composition, “Route 66 Suite,” is a musical reflection of the historic highway, representing various aspects of the road.

“The goal is to have it performed by various orchestrators in 2026, so I’m trying to finish it by 2024 to get it in the hands of conductors,” Stolz said. “So that they can evaluate to see, can we put this on the ’25-’26 season or maybe a ’26-’27 season or maybe we think they put it on in the summer of 2026 on one of their summer pops concerts or something, trying to make it available for them.”

He will continue traveling Route 66 through the end of July and commence writing the music in August.

Albuquerque is one of the numerous stops on the way.

“I have gone to the New Mexico Philharmonic three times and I have gone to see concerts at University of New Mexico,” Stolz said. “I usually take a couple of days from driving. I ended up spending a lot more time (in Albuquerque) than other cities.”

With over a year before the piece is completed, there is still a lot of work to do.

“The piece will be divided into several sections, or movements, each depicting a different aspect of the historic road,” Stolz said.

“The ‘Neon Dreams’ movement, for example, is inspired by the many neon signs one finds along the road,” Stolz said. “For instance, around these old theaters, like the Lobo, they have a neon sign with their marquee so there is inspiration that I will get from the logo that will go into the neon dreams movement, but also on the one.”

Other movement titles include “26 Gas Stations,” “Among the Trees,” “A.D. 1926,” “Desert 66,” “Vacancy/No Vacancy,” and “66 Ghost Towns.”

This is Stolz’s second piece of this magnitude.

“I had done once before, that I took a year off of teaching 2012 to 2013 that academic year to write the ‘Lincoln Highway Suite,’ ” Stolz said. “This is a little bit different as I am not actually writing the music during this year, I’m only traveling, getting to know it really well. So I’d say I feel like I know the Route 66 much better than I do the Lincoln Highway because so many times, this is my seventh trip.”

While Stolz wraps up one portion of his project, he is currently headed towards the West Coast before hauling back to South Carolina.

“Tonight I’m staying in Gallup and the last two times I stayed in Gallup, I stayed at this old hotel called El Rancho historic place,” Stolz said.

Home » Entertainment » Arts » Ode to the Mother Road

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

A look at five items from the National Museum ...
The National Museum of Nuclear Science ... The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History provides an objective, accessible window into the past, present and future of nuclear science.
For Elizabeth Kirk and her father Michael, crafting jewelry ...
Elizabeth credits growing up watching her ... Elizabeth credits growing up watching her father mold, incise and polish jewelry with jump-starting her own career.
Adobe Theater brings the Tony Award-winning musical to stage
The first few minutes of 'The ... The first few minutes of 'The Drowsy Chaperone' occur in complete darkness, while an anxious but companionable voice drifts from the stage.
NMPhil celebrating winter with a series of concerts
The New Mexico Philharmonic is gearing ... The New Mexico Philharmonic is gearing up for its Winter Festival with multiple 'Messiahs,' holiday pops and the 'Carol of the Bells.'
Vortex Theatre to bring folk tales, legends and more ...
The show opens on Friday, Dec. ... The show opens on Friday, Dec. 2, continuing on weekends through Dec. 18.
Here's what happening at Bishop's Lodge for the holidays
Santa Fe resort hosts its first-ever ... Santa Fe resort hosts its first-ever holiday market
Corrales Winter Craft Show to showcase 40 local artists
The three-day event kicks off on ... The three-day event kicks off on Friday, Dec. 2, at the Historic Old San Ysidro Church, 966 Old Church Road in Corrales.
Want to force bulbs this winter? Here's how.
You need to decide which of ... You need to decide which of the two traditional methods of forcing you are going to employ. You can force in a draining ...
Albuquerque author David E. Stuart writing book exploring Chacoan ...
'The Chacoan World: A Legacy of ... 'The Chacoan World: A Legacy of Gardens' is part of a new book series from the University of New Mexico Press titled 'New Century ...