Alumnus Michael Thurber Reinvents Musical Fun

Crescendo issue: December 2013

Fresh off of the YouTube Music Awards, alumnus Michael Thurber has become legend, along with his CDZA bandmates, for their ability to brilliantly combine comedy, talent and education in a musical form.

CDZA, short for Collective Cadenza, has become an instantly popular group of talented folk who bring their musical prowess and comedic abilities to bear on musical theory, history, timelines and more. 

CDZA's YouTube videos have earned them a legion of fans and many millions of views. Most of the members of CDZA - a loose-knit group of musicians who oftentimes switch out lead vocal and musical roles - are graduates of The Juilliard School, including the co-founder of the group, Interlochen alumnus Michael Thurber.

The most recent bit of success that this group enjoyed came courtesy of the newly established YouTube Music Awards. CDZA closed the show, performing alongside the likes of Eminem, Lady Gaga, Arcade Fire and more. CDZA was also recently featured in an NPR Morning Edition story.

On his own, Thurber is certainly a force to be reckoned with. As soon as the awards show's curtain dropped, he was on a plane back to London to finish off his work composing the score to The Royal Shakespeare Company's "Antony and Cleopatra."

One of CDZA's most popular videos, with more than 1 million views, is a perfect example of what they are all about. Titled "A History of Lyrics That Aren't Lyrics," this video features a playfully adorned Thurber, on guitar and Jonathon Batiste, on piano, as well as some incredibly endearing vocals by Jane Lui. It takes the viewer on a journey through Manfred Mann's 1964 doo-wop to the Beatles and their 1968 na-na-nas; a 1973 Billy Joel classic, a 1983 Michael Jackson bit, a well known Seal piece from 1993, Hanson's "M-Bop" of 1997, 1998's Will Smith, 2001's Kylie Minogue, 2008's Pink and many more. Throughout the video, the atmosphere is light and fun, with Thurber pulling a few entertaining faces and Lui cracking up a bit when Thurber and Batiste join in on vocals.

The official word on CDZA is that Joe Sabia is the video guy, Michael Thurber is the music guy and Matt McCorkle is the audio guy. Together, they founded CDZA and they create "musical video experiments." The list of artists that CDZA partners with is massive, at last count it was well over 100. They've been featured on and in Mother Jones, Entertainment Weekly, Fast Company, CNN, played at Google's annual Zeitgeist conference and more. This is a group that certainly is taking the industry by storm and is another example, amongst many, of how Interlochen Alumni are taking art, making it their own and releasing it upon an adoring world.

More information on CDZA can be found here.