James Webb, a Physics professor that doubles as an avid musician

By Bryan Palacio/Staff Writer

Nestled amid a half-empty Barnes and Noble cafe, musician James Webb has his weekly Wednesday evening performance. However, he isn’t just a musician. He also happens to have a master’s in physics and a doctorate in astronomy.

Director of the Stocker AstroScience Center, a physics professor, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy, Webb became interested in music at a young age.

“I recently took classical lessons – becoming a much better guitarist. And started performing here on campus on a weekly basis.”

Growing up, it wasn’t just Carl Sagan that he idolized, he also was inspired by artists like Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, and George Harrison.

“I was around in the sixties during the Beatles Invasion,” said Webb.

Fulfilling another childhood dream of becoming a performer, he never imagined that his side gigs on campus would ever lead him to recording his first studio album, Reaching for the Stars.

It was on one of these impromptu nights on campus that Webb said he connected with a guitarist who had particularly enjoyed his astronomy songs. This guitarist then introduced Webb to Keith Morrison, the eventual producer of the album.

Morrison has had numerous gold, double and triple platinum records, #1 Billboard Dance records, and Grammy nominations. Also, he has worked with Grammy winning artists like Stevie Nicks, Ricky Martin, and Andres Cepeda.

According to Webb, they connected instantly. Webb accepted Morrison’s offer to produce the entire album as a joint project. Never having any professional voice training or studio time, he had to learn what it takes to make a professional album the hard way.

“Being a studio musician is very different,” said Webb. “[Morrison] is very detail oriented, if you miss a single beat anywhere, you have to start over again. It would take about 30 takes until he was satisfied with my vocals or guitar playing.”

Webb isn’t looking to win a Grammy or go platinum, though. The astronomer turned artist has very humble expectations for his debut album he hopes will be done by October. He plans on mainly sharing it with the planetariums and science centers hoping it may inspire guests and listeners to do their own space exploration.

“What I would really like is get it out to a wide variety of people so they can hear the message and get them thinking. It can actually have science and come out good,” Webb said. “It’ll be like normal music but instead of ‘I love you’, it’ll say, ‘I want to understand the universe’.”

Webb said Reaching for the Stars may not revamp the music industry any time soon. but he sees nothing wrong with settling for being a professional astronomer and studio recorded artist, even if his performances are held in the university bookstore.

“That’s the ultimate goal, to have people listen to it and inspire them. It may not do it, but I’ll give it a shot.”

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