Alumnus conducts Terminal Orchestra for exhibit

John LaPine

NMU graduate Jesse DeCaire has always had a passion for music.

“I’ve always been taken with instrumental music that evokes a mood or enhances an atmosphere like movie soundtrack music does,” said DeCaire, who graduated with an English degree in 2002. “[I] would write these little pieces on my acoustic guitar and squirrel them away with the grand plans of eventually recording them and layering multiple instruments on top of them.

“Around 2005, I found myself without a band and [with] tons of time on my hands. I decided to take those pieces I had stored away and finally try to bring them to life.”

Today, DeCaire’s project has evolved into the Terminal Orchestra, a group of musicians that will be performing live music at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 22 in the rear gallery of the DeVos Art Museum.

Terminal Orchestra’s performance is part of artLAB2, an “ongoing series of exhibitions featuring artwork and projects proposed by students from the NMU School of Art and Design,” according to the DeVos Art Museum website.

Diane Kordich, a retired art education and photography professor at NMU, said ArtLAB gives students an opportunity to exhibit art in their areas of concentration.

“The opportunity is not often given to undergraduates,” Kordich said. “To come up with a show of their own is an important learning experience.”

This year marks the second ArtLAB exhibit in the Museum, the first in 2011. The exhibit features four mini-exhibition spaces, containing pieces from the Student Photographic Society and Industrial Designers Society of America, two national groups, each with student chapters at NMU.

The exhibit will be open through Sunday, March 24, with a closing reception Friday, March 22 from 6 to 8 p.m., including Terminal Orchestra’s performance.

“At the beginning, there were no plans to ever perform that music live,” DeCaire said. “But somewhere along the line, Jerry [Dirr] from Phratry Records asked if I would do at least one live performance to promote the record.

“So when it was finally released, I had already formulated this idea that the live band would be a really big ensemble to really bring these songs to life.”

According to DeCaire, the group will perform one piece from “The Seasons,” featuring the group’s signature atmospheric sound and emotional strings, at artLAB2.

In addition, the group will perform a number of newer pieces inspired by Richard Adams’ 1972 novel “Watership Down,” as well as “a few surprise covers.”

The orchestra’s website cites legendary composers Ennio Morricone, Carl Stalling, Igor Stravinsky, William Basinski, Nick Cave and Brian Eno as among their influences, which should come as no surprise to Terminal Orchestra fans: the group’s minimalistic sound calls back to Eno’s innovative ambient tracks of the 1990s.

“It’s all an homage to these songwriters and composers that made cinematic music, and that’s the driving direction behind the project,” DeCaire said.

The orchestra has had a large number of contributors over the years: 11 current collaborators, and almost as many past contributors since its inception.

However, according to DeCaire, each contributor shares one thing in common: a love of music.

“All of the musicians that I collaborate with are voracious devourers of music,” DeCaire said. “They get and understand all the touchstones of what I’m trying to achieve with this project.

“Luckily, I know a lot of musicians that just ‘get it’ without any explanation whatsoever.”

The future of Terminal Orchestra looks bright; DeCaire hopes to begin the group’s next album, based on “Watership Down.”

In addition, the group hopes to continue touring.

“It’s not logistically easy taking 12 people on the road,” DeCaire said. “[But] as long as it comes as easy as it has in the past three years, we’ll continue to do modest touring.”

For more information about the artLAB2 exhibit or the Terminal Orchestra performance, call the DeVos Art Museum at (906) 227-2235.