DFW Music News

Robert Trusko is Writing Songs Based on What People Want to Do Before They Die

The "Before I Die" project allows communities all over the world to share some of their deepest, dearest and even darkest fears, thoughts and goals about their own mortality and the things they are doing before life catches up with them.

University of North Texas music composition master's student Robert Trusko wants to bring one to his neck of the woods but he has an interesting twist for Denton's "Before I Die" wall.

"What I plan to do is create one of these walls in Denton, put it in a few public locations and have people write on it," Trusko said in a video for his Kickstarter page that he made to raise funds for his project. "Then what I'm going to do is take the text that people have written and set it to music."

The "Before I Die" wall project was created by Candy Chang, an artist from New Orleans. where she built the first large chalkboard wall that lets anyone write in their answer to the board's big question. Chang's idea has spawned similar walls in at least 230 other cities across the US and the world including countries such as China, Germany, India and the Czech Republic, all of which have been featured in a comprehensive book about the walls.

Trusko first heard about the project from Chang's TED Talk on the project.

"It really spoke to me," Trusko said. "At this point in my life, I've known a lot of people who have died. I'm originally from Philadelphia and in my graduating high school class, a lot of people have died, which is weird because we're not that old. So the idea of this is that you're not alone and getting your community together and letting everyone express themselves."

Plans call for building a 4-foot wide, 9-foot tall chalkboard wall and placing on the UNT campus and Denton's downtown square where passersby can write the things they want to do while they still have time to do it. Once the wall is filled with ideas, Trusko said he'll take it to The Panhandle House in Denton where he plans to hold a concert showcasing the songs he's written and composed using the board's life goals and observations as the inspiration for his songs.

He's organized a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $1,800 not just to fund the building of the wall but also the expenses for the live concert and a documentary film chronicling the project. The concert will be at The Panhandle House's Warehouse Room at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23rd. Trusko's show will also feature a performance by the Dallas jazz fusion group The Funky Knuckles.

"The logistics for this whole thing is ridiculous," he said. "Everyday I'm making eight phone calls to make sure the wall construction is going on alright or audio engineers and the venue and the promoters and stuff like that. I've got a wonderful team of friends helping me."

Trusko said he hopes the entire project will provide those who participate with the wall and the concert a chance to experience some serious introspection through the music he's been studying and working on since he moved to North Texas.

"It's like you're on a beach and the waves are going back and forth," Trusko said. "Then someone peels back the sand and you see all these things going on underneath it."

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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.