North Texas Daily

Despite accident, the show will go on for UNT alumna

Despite accident, the show will go on for UNT alumna

Despite accident, the show will go on for UNT alumna
June 27
08:00 2019

Before graduating from the UNT College of Music last spring, 22-year-old composer Mason Bynes received an early graduation gift — an acceptance letter from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

Getting into a top performing arts school was cause for celebration, but it was Mason’s journey during her undergrad years that made it even more special. Mason discovered her affinity towards music at an early age and began taking singing and piano lessons. In middle school, she learned to appeal to diverse audiences by performing mashups of two songs from different eras.

Composer and vocalist Mason Bynes poses in a studio at The Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia in the Music Building at UNT on June 18, 2019. Bynes lost her left index and middle fingers in a car accident her first semester at UNT and now uses prosthetics to play the piano. Photo by Kara Dry

Mason continued to use this formula of blending traditional and modern music styles when composing her own music, like merging classically trained vocals with electrifying synths. Mason said she pulls inspiration from her favorite ‘70s rock bands by including Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones idioms in her music.

“We’ve started to categorize music so much in the past hundreds of years,” Mason said. “I find joy in bringing [types of music] together. That way my mom can like a piece of music and my boyfriend can really like a piece of music.”

During her first semester at UNT, Mason lost her left index finger and middle finger in a car accident. A month after the accident, she failed her barrier examination which put her chances of moving forward in the music program at risk. Mason said these setbacks made her feel insecure about her livelihood and her future as a composer.

“It was horrible,” Mason said. “I was done. Over the summer I just took a month to not even think about it.”

Mason said that the recovery process was “brutal.” She suffered a panic attack when she took off her hand cast for the first time and discovered that two of her fingers were no longer there. What used to come naturally to Mason became very challenging for her. Her fingers are now half the size they used to be, making it difficult to press keys on her piano or strum her guitar.

Bynes’ scores lay on a desk in a studio at The Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia in The Music Building at UNT on June 18, 2019. She describes her style of classical music as “a blend between traditionalism and modernism.” Photo by Kara Dry

“I know this amputation is much smaller than what other people go through,” Mason said. “Losing a leg, losing an arm, those take years to get over, but with this it was my livelihood.”

When Mason lost hope of ever playing music again, her mother encouraged her to return to school and continue refining her musical skills with the tool that started it all — her voice.

“It was absolutely a life-changing thing for her, but we learned more about what she’s made of,” Mason’s mother Stacy Bynes said.

After taking a break from playing music to focus on her singing, Mason returned to UNT her sophomore year with purple prosthetic fingers. With great practice and determination, Bynes learned to play the piano with her prosthetics and passed the barrier examination and piano proficiency test.

Leading up to her senior year of college, Mason had the opportunity to write music for various short films, concerts and commercials. More notably, she worked under the mentorship of film composers Bruce Broughton and Drew Schnurr.

“Mason’s music is very expressive and appealing,” Schnurr said. “She has a broad range of artistic potentials and we are all excited to hear her future musical artistry unfold.”

Associate professor of composition studies Kirsten Broberg said that Mason’s injury never affected her performance during her sophomore composition seminar class.

“It never seemed to be an impediment or roadblock for her,” Broberg said. “She just seemed to keep charging forward and following her dreams and her passions.”

In 2017, Mason began releasing music from her upcoming album titled “Goddess of Spring.” The album includes tracks titled after different Greek gods and goddesses. One song that she showed excitement about was “Zeus,” which features electric guitars and an electric bass to symbolize Zeus’ power over thunder and lightning.

Mason described her music to be “evocative, immersive and polystylistic.” She said each song tells a different story and evokes different emotions. Mason said that she feels validated when she hears what each listener takes away from her performances.

Nancy Mich, discipleship leader at the First Baptist Church of Denton, said she met Mason one Sunday morning at church and has formed a special bond with her ever since.

“Mason has brought a new dimension and new appreciation of music to my life,” Mich said. “When I hear her sing, I imagine that is what the angels in heaven sound like.”

Mason looks forward to immersing herself in Boston culture as she studies for her master’s in composition. Mason said her acceptance to the Boston Conservatory at Berklee was a “godsend.”

“It reassured me that it was all worth it,” Mason said. “It was all worth the hard work, the crying, the pain — all of it was worth it.”

After years of powering through the physical and emotional trauma of her car accident, Mason said she realized her determination and her passion for music allowed her to push forward. Mason said she hopes to one day compose for Disney and be an example for young, black women like herself.

“It’s crazy to look back and see where you are now, but also think how hard you pushed yourself to get there,” Mason said. “After you get over each mountain, you feel like you can make it over the next one.”

Featured ImageComposer and vocalist Mason Bynes poses in a studio at The Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia in the Music Building at UNT on June 18, 2019. Bynes graduated from UNT in the spring of 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in composition and is now heading to Boston Conservatory at Berklee for her master’s in composition. Photo by Kara Dry

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Bridnee Bizor

Bridnee Bizor

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2 Comments

  1. MM
    MM July 02, 13:58

    I’ve been following the stories about her. She’s very strong and inspiring.

    An amazing young woman.

    Reply to this comment

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