Barry is a composer, arranger, performer, studio musician, orchestrater, producer, pipe organist, pianist,
music director, conductor, sound designer, synth programmer and recording engineer.
International Gymnast Article
The following article was published in the March 2003 issue of International Gymnast.
always seems to be smiling and/or laughing, and he
speaks like a typical musician. Glad you could
make it! Cmon in, man!
he says as his visitors arrive. Its freezing,
the ground is covered with snow and ice, and Nease
is outside in stocking feet. For the next hour you
are transported into another dimension, a delicious
world of music and gymnastics. Brahms, Bach, Beethoven........
Strauss, Tracy, Karolyi.
learn all about the ebullient character whos arranged
and played the memorable tunes for just about every famous
American gymnast since the 1980 Olympics. Kathy Johnson, Tracee
Talavera, Dianne Durham, Kelly Garrison, Kim Zmeskal, Betty
Okino, Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Jaycie Phelps (deep
breath), Amanda Borden, Kerri Strug, Morgan White and Kristen
Maloney (and lots more). His client list also includes several
college teams, the Australian team and Frances Ludivine
never set out to do this. He started playing piano when he
was four, and was an ice dancer with his sister until he was
18. As a highschooler in Pennsylvania, he played organ at Penn
State gymnastics meets. Not for floor routines, but as part
of the entertainment package produced by head coach Gene Wettstone,
who knew how to transform a gym meet into a Broadway show.Nease
eventually studied music at Penn State, where he received a
degree in composition. Then he earned a masters degree
in the same field from Pittsburgh, where he met Gail. But what
to do next?
1978 Ed Isabelle, an assistant under Wettstone, invited Nease
to write floor music for athletes at his summer camp (Woodward).
When fall arrived, Nease stuffed a piano inside a Ford van
and toured the eastern U.S., stopping at various gym clubs.
In the next four years he produced about 1,700 piano pieces
years later you cant count the routines anymore. Nor
can you realistically enumerate the instruments in a single
piece of Barry Nease floor music. I just finished a piece
that used 140,
Nease says. But
sometimes I work with just a handful.
to 1980, the rules allowed for only one instrument
to be used for floor music. Then full orchestration
entered the picture and Nease was pushed further into
his element. Composing in a recording studio
was basically what Id done my degrees in and
I was totally cranked, he says. A large
part of my masters degree was in the compositional
aspects of editing. I was wicked with the blade from
the get-go. Id done hundreds of thousands of
cuts [laughs]. I started cutting tape when I was 16.
course, that was then. Technology and computers have enabled
Nease to do what he loves. He calls it virtual orchestration.
home may feature a grand piano on the main floor, but you need
to ascend various stairways to reach this musicians heaven.
The top floor is a state-of-the-art studio, with every possible
gadget necessary to create any sound imaginable. (Just when
you think youve hiked your last step, you notice the
studio also has a 12-foot rock-climbing wall!)
music in this day and age is produced in a studio like mine,
using the instruments that Im using, says Nease,
surrounded by keyboards, computers, a giant mixer, speakers
and various unidentifiable boxes with lots of knobs. Nease
isnt just talking about floor music, either. He means
everything from movie soundtracks to pop tunes.
Nease gives his visitors a quick demonstration. He
goes over to a very fast Mac G4 and cues up a piece
hes been working on. Its a medley of Brian
Setzer tunes for Tia Orlando of the Parkettes. Sound
fills the room and Nease starts moving his head and
various other body parts to the rhythm. You can see
how the music fills his being, tapping an inner chord
of passion. The computer screen shows nothing but cold,
squiggly lines. Nease explains what he has done, but
it sounds too confusing.
he grabs a handful of CD-ROMs and explains, Thats
very expensive software. Each CD case is titled Strings
or Percussion or Woodwinds. Its
all starting to make sense.If a gymnast wants a specific
tune from a movie, a Broadway show, or just about anything,
Nease creates it as a gym routine. He literally plays
the sport itself has evolved, so has floor music. Nease still
plays the piano, but the notes go through a Macintosh computer
loaded with Digital Performer 3.0. In the beginning,
when I used to visit gyms, I would play a piano piece, Nease
begins. And then floor music went through the whole cut-and-splice
editing thing. Ever since Kims (Zmeskal) Rock Around
the Clock piece, which was my first virtual orchestration
for gymnastics, Ive come back around to playing and composing
from scratch again.
in the early 90s Nease did most of the music for the
Karolyi gymnasts, Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy and Dynamo.
Hes worked with the Parkettes forever. I can remember West
was one of the best floors weve ever had, and
it was one of the first pieces that he ever did for
us, says Parkettes coach Donna Strauss, whos
worked with Barry since the 1970s. In those days
you still had the reel-to-reel (tape recorder). Hes
quite a character
he had the ability to really
stick to something and he was willing to try.
were in dire need we give him a call, and its
just been a very good working relationship.
Cincinnati coach Mary Lee Tracy, I have called Barry
and described a vision of what I wantthe athletes
body type, personality, etc.and he creates the perfect
the Karolyis discovered Nease, they were sold as well. He
was working with the individual needs and he was ready to do
all kinds of work [and] corrections, Marta Karolyi recalls. Basically,
he was a good man. We dont have too many in our country,
unfortunately [laughs]. So it was good.
Marta is a veteran of the sport, so she knows great
floor music when she hears it. The most important
thing is that the music fits the gymnast, she
says. Thats the hardest part.
certainly there are a lot of other things. It has to
have some public appeal, we want to catch the attention
of the audience, and we want to please the judges.
does all that and more, despite the increasing demands of the
ever-changing rules. Older routines usually had only three
tumbling passes, but todays exercises often have four.
In other words, every secondand every notecounts. The
music is requiring a high level of density in terms of stuff,
things for choreographers to work with,
says Nease, who also did the freestyle music for the
U.S. ski team for seven years. The routines are
so much more loaded with elements.
early January and Nease has just received a new request from
WOGA coach Yevgeny Marchenko. He needs floor music for Carly
Patterson, Hollie Vise and Kaitlin White. These are custom
pieces that often take several days to complete. I make
the arrangement on piano,
says Nease, who also plays for his church and in a
fusion jam band.
And then I orchestrate it and I become all these
different instruments through the power of technology. And
if he cant create the specific sound he needs,
he brings in studio musicians to play additional parts.
the music is finished, it eventually becomes a part of Gails
company, Floor Express Music, where it becomes available to
everyone. Nease has had his favorites through the years. Of
course, Zmeskals music ranks right up there, but Nease
also names the 1996 routines of Dominique Moceanu (Charlie
Daniels) and Amanda Borden (Jerry Lee Lewis). Nease is an unusual
man. Talented artists are often temperamental, but Barrys
like the guy next door. Hes not after personal acclaim.
For him, its all about helping the gymnast. Im
looking for the athlete to be happy, he says.
can witness his work at just about any gymnastics meet these
days, whether its for beginners or Elites. And dont
worry. Youll know which pieces were created by Nease.
Theyll be the ones that rise well above the rest.
Born in 1948, Barry grew up in State College, Pennsylvania. He began playing the piano when he was four,
switching to pipe organ as soon as he could reach the pedals (around age twelve). Soon after, he joined
his first rock band and was playing the Hammond B-3 professionally by age fourteen. He is a graduate
of Penn State with a BFA in composition and the University of Pittsburgh with an MFA in compositon.
He studied with Lewis Spratlan (2000 Pulitzer Prize), Earl Wild (legendary Grammy winning pianist and
composer), jazz musician Nathan Davis, and composer Frank McCarty.
In 1968, Penn State installed one of the first electronic music studios in the country, built around
the 3rd Moog synthesizer ever assembled. Barry composed many of his early electronic works in this
studio. To offset the absence of live musicians, live performances frequently involved dancers.
He continued his fascination with early synths at Pitt in a studio established by west coast composer
Morton Subotnick. This studio was built around a Buchla synthesizer and had an army of tape recorders.
He composed several huge pieces involving synth generated sounds and thousands of tape edits.
He became dedicated to composing in the emerging modern studio.
After a year as music director for a 10 piece band, followed by 2 years playing piano in an Italian restaurant,
he established his first composing studio. In the summer of 1978, he began working with gymnasts and
in 1980, he did the first orchestrations for gymnastics in the USA - the first 10 pieces were for the 1980
US Olympic Team.
He married fellow musician, Gail, in 1975. In 1988, they moved from the east to the west and established
Barry Nease Studio and Floor Express Music near Frisco, Colorado. For the last 15 years, he has returned to
one of his first loves - liturgical music. He has composed numerous Christian chamber pieces and a large
number of compositions in the form of Choral Preludes - most notably, a large collection of Christmas
preludes. A prolific composer, he has produced over 40 CDs of music for gymnastics and continues to
write custom arrangements for some of the best athletes from all over the world.