The duo Michael Stensland, a major radio television film pioneer, and Ben Baker, who graduated in the spring with a degree in business administration, spent most of their time in college establishing and then developing music careers that will continue when Stensland leaves UW Oshkosh later this year.
An important milestone in the astronomers story is coming on November 4th, when their debut album has taken root Occasion Reaches. It is the result of years of work within the university’s creative community.
“We know this is going to be a huge step for us because any artist’s debut album is a huge hit for his fans and upcoming fans,” Stensland said. “We know there’s a lot of pressure on this to do as we want it to, but our goal is also to make this thing that when people listen to this album, it brings them back to the first time they heard him-she. Hopefully five years from now we’ll have Fans say wow, Occasion It is what astronomers started. ”
Finding the community
Stensland and Baker grew up in Fond du Lac and became friends in a middle school jazz band. They shared a passion for music and created a high school band that played contemporary pop songs — think Fray, The Script, Plain White T’s, AJR — and called themselves BMC. They mostly played around Fond du Lac and this experience made them a performance addict.
Then college came. Stensland stayed close to home, enrolling in UWO thanks in part to the early attraction of the campus. “There’s this very personal feeling that UWO has,” he said. “I feel that if you make an effort you can be friends with a lot of people. It got me going.”
On the other hand, Baker went to UW-Platteville to study construction management. In their second semester there, he and Stensland began working together on music from a distance, often using FaceTime to collaborate. That summer, Stensland found himself in need of a roommate at his Horizon Village and recruited Baker to transport him. The two came together under the same roof for Precision Hall and truly recognized astronomers as a musical institution.
“Our drive to work on music just jumped,” Steinsland recalls. “It was really hard for us to try and work on anything when Ben was just taking a trip to UWO or trying to FaceTime. So when we got our dorm room that year right away, the first thing we did – we didn’t go to any welcome activities, we didn’t Hanging out with any of our friends we came back with, we just sat in our dorm room and started rearranging and setting up our little studio.”
On campus, astronomers put together a series of songs — the first being “Area 51” in the fall of 2019 — and worked to make a name for themselves on campus.
They plan to play live for the first time on campus on a day that ends up being memorable for completely unrelated reasons: Instead of performing in front of a crowd of students at Titan Underground, the campus is closed due to the new coronavirus that’s starting to spread all over the country. across the country. Like much of society in 2020, astronomers’ aspirations have been put on hold. It wasn’t until May 2021—more than a year later—that they could finally play for the UWO. And although they took the podium, the conditions were far from normal. As part of the mostly virtual Bye Gosh Fest, the crowd was a mixture of seated, socially distant students and online spectators.
“We still delivered it at 100%, and we had so much fun,” Stensland said. “There was an old band that moved to UWO and opened up for us called Happy to Be Here, and then we played, and then there was a virtual BoB performance… I think it’s a great story for the first performance, we opened up to the virtual BoB game with a seated crowd.”
With a sense of normalcy returning, astronomers continued to get busy with live play. Although they act as a duo, on shows they are joined by one friend on drums and another on bass and keys—two high school buddies from BMC days—for added oomph. Jack Rendall, graduating with a degree in Radio and Television Film from UWO in 2021, is another significant business, working as a director, photographer, videographer, social media specialist and more. (“The question is what isn’t Jack’s role?” joked Stensland.)
Focus on the future
Being in a creative environment like UWO’s award-winning radio movie television program was a huge plus throughout the band’s debut. Not only because of the opportunity to learn and practice new skills that sometimes translate directly into what astronomers do, but because of the people who are there day in and day out.
“It’s about who I am, it’s about the people I meet through (the show), through these like-minded creators,” Steinsland said. “I think he’s been really inspiring me. … We’re around these people constantly — people who yearn to be successful or creative and do things and make it work as something more than just a hobby.
“I think it was the atmosphere here that helped me the most. Just being around people who would love to do the same.”
Baker finished school of course, studying business administration. That gave him a different path down the line as astronomers progressed. And once Stensland completes his degree, he goes anywhere Occasion take them.
“Once he graduated, our agent told us all bets are off, and we’re making every show you can get,” Baker said. “We’ve had to turn down some tour opportunities and some other show opportunities because graduation is really close and we didn’t feel it was worth stopping his college education so close. So yeah, frankly the way we look at it is we’re young and we’re going to make it.”