The Quarantunes of Ricky Roshell

Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.

Ricky posing next to a saxophone, flute, and clarinet. He is wearing a black suit an white tie.

Ricky Roshell, a jazz studies MA student, is keeping busy during his time away from the stage. Ricky has been creating videos of himself performing show tunes, jazz charts, and classical arrangements. The catch? Ricky is the only performer. He’s been creating these videos for a few years, but in the days of COVID-19, they are especially entertaining because of how much they resemble our current social interactions. Think big WebEx conference call but with a rotating cast of woodwind instruments rather than people.

Ricky makes it look easy on video, but the process he uses to create these videos is incredibly meticulous. A single video can require weeks to complete from start to finish because of how much work it takes to create. It starts when he gets a song stuck in his head that he can’t shake. “I’m humming constantly just on and on and on and I don’t even realize it. I’ll just have a song stuck in my head and be like man I’ve got to arrange that,” he says. “I’ve got to get it out onto paper, which usually that gets rid of the problem. The process is usually very spontaneous. I usually don’t premeditate what songs I’m going to pick.”

Once Ricky knows the song he wants to perform, he begins the process of transcribing the notes so it can be arranged for the set of instruments he wants to play. Transcribing and arranging the music is usually what takes the longest amount of time. “’Penny in My Pocket,’ for instance, took me two weeks to transcribe by itself, and then another week to arrange it for the woodwinds I was playing on that specific video,” he says. Once he has the parts written, arranged, and practiced, he starts the recording process. Ricky starts each video with the lowest instrument, such as a bassoon or bass clarinet first, and then works his way up the range one instrument at a time until he has recorded each track. “I always try to get it in the first take,” he says.

The final product is highly entertaining to watch, with each instrument (sometimes up to nine or ten at a time) perfectly in sync with the others. Ricky’s musicianship is on full display in these videos, as he shows off his mastery of a diverse set of woodwind instruments from oboe and saxophone (the first instruments he learned) to piccolo and bassoon. Many of Ricky’s videos also have skits laced throughout, where his ‘clones’ argue or poke fun at each other. This adds a level of humor that fits perfectly with music and allows Ricky to tell a story outside of the music itself. 

These videos are not the first time Ricky has created content for the internet or taken part in a viral internet trend. Ricky took part in the “Flip-A-Day Challenge,” which he engaged in for over three years (he completed 1,147 days of flipping). He posted a daily video of himself to Instagram doing a flip and encouraging others to do so as well. “I think internet engagement can really help get people out of their box, at least in the situations I was in. It feels good to do something and share,” he says. If you pay close attention to his music performance videos, you may see the Flip-A-Day Challenge in action…

Ricky’s music performance videos give him another outlet to express his passion for music, especially in this time off from performances in front of a live audience. When Ricky isn’t in the studio recording himself, he performs in the pit orchestra at Broadway shows downtown (he was scheduled to perform in the Anastasia tour that was coming to Cincinnati before COVID-19 broke out). His first national Broadway tour was last year when Hello Dolly came to Aronoff Center. “That was a big learning experience for me, playing with the top dogs for the first time,” he says. At 24 years-old, Ricky was the youngest member of the pit orchestra (the next oldest member being in their 30s).

Prior to bringing him to Cincinnati, music had taken Ricky on a tour of the world to places all over Europe and the United States. He also worked for a summer as a music performer at Disneyland in California. “It’s pretty crazy, I never thought music would take me this far when I was little,” he says. “I really appreciate what it has done for me and I look forward to where it will take me in the future.” 

Ricky posing with his instruments in front of a building on campus.

Check out more of Ricky’s videos on his YouTube channel.