The music takes stage to bring “Coco” to life

The Appalachian
by Makayla Muñoz
Oct. 24, 2023

Although Hispanic Heritage Month came to a close on Oct. 15, the celebration of Hispanic culture continued through a special showing of Disney’s “Coco” with a live orchestra in the Schaefer Center on Oct. 19.

This concert, which is a part of The Schaefer Center Presents series, brought the Orquesta Folclórica Nacional de México, National Folk Orchestra of Mexico, to Boone as a part of their two month long tour of North America.

According to Allison West, the director of marketing and public relations for the Office of Arts and Cultural Programs at App State, this live-to-film concert was the first time App State has presented this type of performance. The movie “Coco” was shown on the screen, but instead of the musical score being played as a part of the movie, the live orchestra was on stage playing the score in time with the movie.

West said there is a magical nature of pairing a film and live music together.

“It’s wonderful to see it on screen or hear it through speakers, but when you have an orchestra, it heightens it,” West said. “And to see those instruments come to life, like you can see on screen Miguel play the guitar and other musicians playing their instruments, but to see the real thing and hear it, you get goosebumps, because it’s all coming to life right there in front of your eyes and your ears.”

Part of what heightens the magic of the music is the blend of instruments that create the orchestra.

“The Orquesta Folclórica Nacional de México stands out as a musical ensemble recognized for its keen ability to fuse instruments from both the pre-Hispanic and colonial eras to create a unique and distinctive sound that evokes the rich history and culture of Mexico,” the concert program said.

The concert used a mix of traditional orchestral instruments such as violins and cellos and cultural instruments such as a guitarrón and drums like the huehuetl and the teponaztli.

That’s not the only part that makes the concert stand out. Michael Giacchino wrote the original musical score for “Coco,” but the orchestra had its own spin on translating the score in the movie to live performance. Conductor and Music Director Esin Aydingoz spoke of differences between the two.

“The music that you hear in the movie was recorded by a bigger orchestra, but we cannot tour with a philharmonic orchestra,” Aydingoz said. “So Jeff Kryka from Michael Giacchino’s team reduced the score to be for a 20 piece orchestra.”

Along with Giacchino, the beauty of the performance would not have been possible without the songwriters working on the music. Artists such as Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez who wrote the award winning song “Remember Me,” along with co-songwriters such as Germaine Franco and Adrian Molina who worked on the piece.

The music brings fun and liveliness, but it is the culture that makes both the movie and the music impactful.

“It’s entertainment, but it’s also cultural awareness and introducing that to people who might not really have that opportunity to see or hear that all the time,” West said.

Aydingoz reflected on the similarity and sharing of culture between herself and the members of the orchestra with whom she has fostered fun yet meaningful relationships during the time of the tour.

“I’m from Turkey, they’re from Mexico. Even though we’ve grown up on the complete opposite sides of the world, I think both cultures are very similar in the sense that family means everything and that we are so welcoming to others,” Aydingoz said. “We very quickly became a family. Performing with them and bringing “Coco” to life every night in this new way while discovering more about Mexican culture on the road is such a party.”

Culture manifests itself in fascinating yet exciting ways no matter where in the world people are celebrating it, but what makes it truly beautiful and meaningful is how it can be shared with others.

“We want to offer something for everyone and to engage the community and engage students,” said West. “That’s really what we want to do – to create a rich cultural experience right here in Boone.”

Orquesta Folclórica Nacional de México to Play Live with Disney/Pixar Film Coco at Schaefer

The Mountain Times
by Derek Halsey
Oct. 12, 2023

The Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts at Appalachian State University in Boone will host a very special performance on October 19, that will combine live music of an acclaimed orchestra from Mexico performing in unison with the showing of the hit movie Coco.

In 2017, Disney Studios and Pixar Studios created and released the computer-animated movie Coco. Grossing over $800 worldwide after its release to theaters, the plot of the film focuses on the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead with the official synopsis describing the story as being about “the aspiring musician Miguel who, when confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Héctor and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.”

Now, in 2023, the idea was hatched to highlight the music side of the Coco story by gathering together 20 of the best musicians in Mexico to perform the soundtrack of the movie live onstage as it is being shown on a big screen behind them. That is the origin story of the Orquesta Folclórica Nacional de México, who will be performing in Boone next Thursday.

Presented by the Appalachian State University Office of Arts and Cultural Programs, the Coco Live-To-Film Concert will take place at the Schaefer Center on October 19, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $28 for the general public, $23 for App State faculty and staff, and $10 for students and kids. There will also be VIP tickets available for $75 that will include a commemorative lanyard necklace, a ‘light-up wand,’ and Coco Live fleece blanket, none of which will be available at the merch table at the concert.

During its initial run, Coco won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature as well as winning an Oscar for the film’s original song “Remember Me.”

Conducting the Orquesta Folclórica Nacional de México will be Esin Aydingoz.

Hailing from Istanbul, Türkiye (Turkey), Aydingoz earned a degree in both Film Scoring as well as for Contemporary Writing and Production at the famed Berklee College of Music. Since then, she quickly rose up in the field of film scoring while also writing original music for TV shows and video games.

Since her graduation in 2017, Aydingoz has become the Assistant Chair of Berklee’s Film Scoring Department while writing music for shows found on streaming services ranging from Netflix to Apple TV, Amazon Prime and the Hallmark Channel. Aydingoz’s arrangement of the Rolling Stones’ song “Paint It Black,” featured on the Tim Burton-directed hit show Wednesday on Netflix, not only reached the Number 1 slot on the Billboard Classical Music chart; the video version of the tune has garnered millions of views on YouTube and other various outlets as well.

While growing up in Turkey, Aydingoz grew to love music at an early age.

“When I was about four years old, my grandfather got me a toy keyboard and I loved it and it became my favorite toy,” said Aydingoz. “Later on, my parents brought in private piano teachers and then I eventually started going to a part-time music conservatory program. I love playing the piano, but I didn’t think that I would pursue it as a profession. Then, around the time that I was 13 years old, I discovered that I could write new music and that became my real passion.”

Once Aydingoz was captivated by the process of composing, she worked towards studying the art form at the collegiate level.

“That led me to the Berklee College of Music where I studied Film Scoring and Contemporary Writing and Production with a Musical Theater Writing minor,” said Aydingoz. “After graduating in 2017, I moved to Los Angeles and began to do internships there, including at Hans Zimmer’s studios. Eventually, I got to work on some cool projects as a music writer and arranger, including on the Netflix show Wednesday. And now, this is my first-ever conducting gig with the Coco Live-To-Film Concert and I am very happy that I get to do this every day for two months.”

While this 20-member version of Orquesta Folclórica Nacional de México was created especially for this tour, all of the musicians in the troupe have previously played together with the famed Ballet Folclórico Nacional de México de Silvia Lozano.

“Ballet Folclórico is a very famous ballet company in Mexico and they have been performing for over 60 years now, and they have a roster of musicians that work with them,” said Aydingoz. “Some of these musicians are more folkloric with their sound and some are more symphonic, and they put together this special orchestra for the purposes of this show. So, the group consists of musicians who have played together before on various other ballets.”

Because of the camaraderie and professionalism of the musicians in the Orquesta Folclórica Nacional de México, it has made Aydingoz’s inaugural run as a Conductor memorable and enjoyable.

“It has been beautiful,” said Aydingoz. “I love Mexican culture and everybody has been so friendly that it has been very festive, and surprisingly not intimidating at all. Of course, going into this project and having my first conducting experience being such a huge opportunity, I had my self-doubts as every artist does. But, starting from the very first rehearsal, everything went so smoothly. The score of Coco has already been written perfectly by the amazing Michael Giacchino. So, I don’t really make creative decisions, I just get to shape the sound of the performance. I have power over how soft or how loud the orchestra plays, or how emotional and how passionately they perform. Through my body movements or facial expressions, I can change the sound and the energy, so I get to bring my musicality to the performance. Even though we are not changing the music and are performing it as written, it is different every show because it is being performed live. It is an adventure every night.”

Though Conductor Aydingoz is from Turkey and the orchestral musicians are from Mexico, with the two nations having oceans and continents and 7,000 miles between them, it is the shared love of music that has made this connection a positive one.

“Even though I am the conductor, I want them to first perceive me as a friend, as one of them,” said Aydingoz. “We don’t all speak the same language, but what we do only works when we share equal responsibility, trust and passion in delivering this performance and spreading joy together. We are like a family now, and that’s what Coco is all about: family.”

Hall of Famer and Soul Music Great Mavis Staples to Perform in Boone Saturday

photo by Myriam Santos

The Watauga Democrat

Long-time Staples guitarist Rick Holmstrom gives scoop on playing with a legend

by Derek Halsey

While the Staple Singers would go on to produce some of the most important soul music to ever hit the turntables and airwaves in the 1970s, the family band was making their mark with gospel hits in the previous decades. With guitar-driven songs like “Uncloudy Day,” a cut released in 1959 that influenced artists like Bob Dylan and more, the Chicago-based Staple Singers traveled extensively while on tour, including in the South in the time of Jim Crow Apartheid.

Back in the day, Mississippi was the home of Pops and Oceola Staples, a young couple who eventually moved north to Chicago so Pops could work in the mills and plants of Illinois. It was there that Mavis, Pervis, Cleotha and Yvonne Staples were born in the 1930s. As the kids grew up, and with Pops perfecting his soon-to-be-famous tremolo guitar style, the family band went from their beginnings in the church to recording on record labels such as Vee-Jay Records, United Records, Checker Records and eventually the Epic Records label.

Full story HERE.

Béla Fleck’s World Music Troupe Brings Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer to Boone

photo by Jeremy Cowart

The Watauga Democrat

by Derek Halsey

If Béla Fleck was in another line of work, he would be called a “Renaissance Man.” Throughout his whole career, he has been known as a musician who is at home playing many different types of music while finding success going from one project to another.

Fleck came up in the bluegrass world as a young, innovative and open-minded banjo player from New York City who first performed and recorded with the Boston-based band called Tasty Licks. Soon, the future International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Hall of Famer Sam Bush asked Fleck to join the legendary group New Grass Revival in the early 1980s, a gig that lasted about nine years.

Full story HERE.

Yola Hits the Boone Stage

photo by Chase Reynolds

The Appalachian

Arianna Bennet, Reporter

Yola, a six-time Grammy-nominated English singer-songwriter, performed Friday night at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts. The concert was a technicolor, powerhouse show. Her charismatic attitude and infectious voice had audience members roaring with enjoyment as they applauded Yola.

Throughout the show, Yola switched between multiple guitars, a tambourine and a music shaker. This, combined with soulful singing and attention grabbing raspiness had audience members brimming with joy as they cheered throughout the performance. It was clear Yola enjoyed performing as she danced along to her music

“The color changes were cool and the way they pulsed was cool,” said Gigi Upchurch, a senior elementary education major.  “Then I really liked when it was the yellow lights behind her, and then dark the rest of the stage so it made a frame around her.”

The lighting design of the show helped to emphasize the pace as well as engage the audience. For audience members, the flashing lights and booming music made the experience quite electric.

“In the program it said that she was genre bending, and that’s what it was.” said Lily Vowels, a senior geology major.

Yola performed covers of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John and “Day Dreaming” by Aretha Franklin with “a symphonic soul, mellifluous pop melody, disco groove, rootsy and ecstatic gospel twist.” Every song that was performed flowed into one another, which was executed by the quick transition of instruments and rhythms of the incoming song.

The continuous flow of the set list had audience members moving along and taking in the moment. The show ended with the entire audience up on their feet and dancing to the encore, cheering and celebrating Yola.

“I also hope at the end of the concert they feel absolutely elated and energized by the talent and the message and the sense of experiencing Yola here with the Boone community.” said Allison West, director of marketing and public relations for the Schaefer Center.

Yola received two standing ovations from the audience, mixed with newcomers and fans, which was filled with dancing, singing and excitement to end the night off.

Country-Soul, Pop-Funk and R&B Rising Star Yola Comes to Boone on Her “Stand for Myself” Tour

The six-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter kicks off The Schaefer Center Presents fall season on Friday, Sept. 16

BOONE, NC — The Schaefer Center Presents (SCP) series, presented by Appalachian State University’s Office of Arts and Cultural Programs, opens its 2022-23 season with six-time Grammy Award nominee Yola to Boone on Friday, Sept. 16 at 7pm. The genre-fluid singer-songwriter stops at App State on tour to celebrate her critically acclaimed 2021 sophomore release, Stand for MyselfThe New York Timessaid, “Stand for Myself draws from the same Americana soundbook as Yola’s first record [Walk Through Fire], but it’s also shot through with disco and pop,” and NPR’s All Songs Considered anointed the album “the best soul record of the last 20 years.” Yola is a 2022 four-time Grammy Award nominee for Best New Artist, Best American Roots Song, Best American Roots Performance, and Best Americana Album. For tickets and more information, visit or contact the Box Office at 828.262.4046.

Occupying the intersection between country music’s roots and Americana’s hybrid of pop, folk and soul, the British superstar is at the forefront of a generation of Black female artists — including Allison Russell and Joy Oladukun — who are helping evolve Nashville, country music and American society. In a February 2022 article in The Tennessean about her tour’s kickoff at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, Yola said, “I’m making the statement now for women in music broadly, and women of color in music specifically, that you don’t have to be in service to someone else’s art or vision of yourself to be worthy of appreciation.”

Everything about Stand for Myself — musically, lyrically, spiritually — explores the epiphany that making decisive choices leads to freedom. The album seamless blends disco, funk, rock and country into a fluidity of sound that defies categorization, weaving elements of symphonic soul, mellifluous pop melodies, disco grooves, rootsy rawness, and ecstatic gospel power into a package that is as eclectic as it is groundbreaking.

“The album is like a window into my mind, my life experiences, my politics, my hopeful and sentimental sides, and my hope for humanity at large,” she says of the 12-track collection. At her most melodically and lyrically free, it is an album of both artistic freedom and subtle social commentary that Yola hopes will connect personally with anyone who has experienced being made to feel “other.”

Yola, who appeared on the big screen this past summer as Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis, makes exciting new vocal choices on Stand for Myself. While her gale force power remains undiminished, she probes the layers of both higher and lower registers, exploring new textures on songs like the transporting title track, the addictive “If I Had to Do It All Again,” and the slow-burning “Great Divide,” which deftly balances grit and light.

Lyrically, she explores the difference between surviving and thriving (the languid R&B soul-searcher “Barely Alive”); inventively imagines new outcomes grappling with mortality (the inventive “Break the Bough”); frolics in the intersection of sentimentality and sexuality (the deeply sensual “Starlight”); recognizes the value of allyship (“Be My Friend,” featuring vocal contributions from Brandi Carlile); and takes control of her own destiny on the anthemic title track. In examining and embracing the various elements of her identity: black, female, empathic, creative, erotic, bawdy, sophisticated, curious, intelligent, and more, Yola takes listeners on a journey to self-actualization that they might not even realize they’ve been on until the album ends.

On the title track, she urges the listener to stand for themselves and those around them by challenging biases that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism which have deeply impacted her personal life and professional career. “It is about how people continue to bury their heads in the sand to hide from inconvenient truths that create a profound need to change how they think,” she says.

Yola was able to record Stand for Myself as the person she has known herself to be for years. She wanted to show her vulnerability, her hope, her intricacies, and to ultimately uncover all of those things for the listener.

“I want people to feel like they know a dark-skinned black woman a little better,” she says. “I could be the first, and all with an English accent and a chocolate-bar skin tone. I will be an example of nuance that one can reference that someone might not have had, because the media does not want to portray us in a way that is nuanced.”

If, she says, the first record was about introducing a person who, at a low point, recognized the need to ask for help, this second one illuminates that “I’ve been proven through this fire and I’m back to where I started, the real me. I kind of got talked out of being me and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life.”

Buy Tickets:
$35 Adults, $30 App State University Faculty/Staff, $20 Students

Tickets are available to purchase at, in person at the Schaefer Center box office (733 Rivers Street), or by calling 828-262-4046.


Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs
An Appalachian Summer Festival
Appalachian State University
PO Box 32045
Boone, NC  28608-2045

For more information contact: Allison West, Director of Marketing & Public Relations, 828-262-6084, ext. 107 or

For event details, visit