If you watch HBO's popular series "True Detective," odds are you've heard Lera Lynn Buettner's (AB '08) songs. The Nashville-based singer-songwriter has had four songs featured on the show's soundtrack. The UGA Alumni Association recently sat down with Lera to learn more about her musical career and time spent studying anthropology at UGA.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up and what led you to UGA?
I was born in Texas, but my parents left soon after and slowly made their way to Georgia, stopping in Louisiana for about five years first. We moved around a good bit in Georgia, and I finished high school in Woodstock. It was around that time I visited Athens for the first time, to hang out with friends and see live music. I fell in love with the town's energy and lively music scene. That's ultimately what led me to UGA. My family stressed the importance of college, though I had my sights dead-set on music. UGA and Athens were my ticket to satisfying both.
As a student, were you involved in any activities or student groups on campus? Did you have a favorite professor or any fond memories from your time in Athens?
I worked my way through college, waiting tables, bartending and saving up as much as I could between semesters so that I could work fewer hours and still survive when school was in session. That said, I didn't have a lot of extra time for student groups. What time I did have was always devoted to music. Attending UGA still endures as some of my most fond memories. What a luxury it is to go to college and just learn all day! My senior year was definitely my best, as the courses were digging deeper into the things that truly interested me. I loved study groups that were assembled by classmates. I loved sitting in the group and discussing the subject matter in-depth outside of the classroom. It's easy to take that for granted when you're so young, but those are some of the most important conversations you can have; just digging in and bouncing ideas off of other people who are dedicating so much energy to the same things as you.
One of my favorite memories was a beautiful and moving lecture by Dr. Peter Brosius. He was recounting time spent researching in the field and the relationships he'd developed there; the focus being love at the center of everything in life. His lecture brought the whole class (100+ students) to tears. I think he was in tears, too. I will never forget the passion he has for what he does. It reminds me to do what I do for the right reasons.
Since graduating, you’ve moved to Nashville. How did you establish yourself as a musician in there?
I've yet to establish myself anywhere, really, because I'm trying to establish myself everywhere all the time. As an artist, you're often trying to establish yourself on a national level. There's a difference between a studio musician in Nashville and an "artist."
You’ve had several songs featured on the soundtrack for HBO’s True Detective. Tell me how that project came about and what doors it has opened for you.
I've had four songs featured in the series so far. I was lucky to have my manager set up a meeting with legendary producer, T Bone Burnett, after he expressed an interest in using the title track from an EP I released last year called "Lying in the Sun." We got along well. Burnett asked if I wanted to collaborate on music for the show and the rest is history. I got to appear in the show several times and I've learned a lot about the business side of music and show business. The show has exposed my music to many new eager ears - that's been the best part of the whole thing.
Do you have any other big projects in the pipeline? Where do you envision your career in five years?
I'm currently writing and recording my next LP. I'm really enjoying the process. I feel like there are so many more possibilities to explore. I hope that in the next five years I can buy a sensible new car. That would be success!
J. Scott Angle, who has served as dean and director of UGA's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences for the past decade, has announced that he will step down from his position to lead a global organization that works to alleviate hunger.
As president and CEO of the International Fertilizer Development Center, Angle will oversee an organization that has been active in nearly 100 countries and is focused on increasing food security and agricultural productivity through the development and transfer of effective and environmentally sound crop nutrient technology and agribusiness expertise.
"Over the past decade, Dean Angle has provided outstanding leadership to the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences," President Morehead said. "He has been one of the strongest champions of UGA's land-grant mission, working tirelessly to connect the vast resources of the college to the challenges and opportunities faced by the agriculture industry across the state. We are grateful for his many years of dedicated service and wish him well in this new endeavor."
Are you a proud UGA graduate under the age of 40? Do you know a successful young alumnus?
The university is seeking photo submissions for Profiles, the e-magazine for young alumni of UGA. View the most recent issue of Profiles and then search your computers and phones for spirited photos of you showing the fruit of a Georgia education! UGA wants to feature alumni from around the world, doing great things professionally and personally. Ideas for photos include:
- Work experiences/travel
- Community service projects
- Weddings and additions to the family
- UGA alumni events and gatherings
A record-breaking number of contributors—63,784 at final count—led the University of Georgia to its best fundraising year in history.
After all contributions were tallied for the year on June 30, the university received nearly $144.2 million in new gifts and commitments for the 2015 fiscal year, a 14 percent increase over last year's record total of $126.4 million.
"Once again, the University of Georgia community has joined together to provide an unprecedented level of financial support to advance the academic mission of this great institution," said President Jere W. Morehead. "I am grateful to our generous and loyal alumni and friends for their significant contributions; to the UGA Foundation board of trustees, to the development team, and to the senior leadership across our schools, colleges, and other units for their hard work and dedication; and to our outstanding faculty, staff, and students, who continue to make UGA the very special place that it is."
The 63,784 donors represent a 12 percent increase over fiscal year 2014, in which 56,897 donors contributed to the institution.
"Having established an all-time fundraising record just one year ago—and to exceed that total by a significant margin just 12 months later—is an incredible tribute to our donors who have stepped up and answered the call to support the university," said Kelly Kerner, vice president for the Division of Development and Alumni Relations.
"Words are inadequate to express the depth of appreciation I have for our alumni and friends who have committed their financial resources to help ensure the University of Georgia maintains an upward trajectory as one of the world's great institutions of higher education."
Fiscal year 2015 at UGA marks a continuation of significantly increased support from individual donors—no single major gift had a disproportionate impact on the total—and the second year the university has been under Morehead's direction.
"The university's development team, support staff and the foundation's board of trustees all played major roles in this milestone achievement, and I am appreciative of what was truly a team effort," said Ken Jackson, chair of the University of Georgia Foundation. "Of course, I am most grateful to our donors, who continue to exhibit a great spirit of generosity and a commitment to enhancing the academic mission of the University of Georgia."
Matt Tommey (BSED '96) spent 13 years in the metro Atlanta area making baskets as a hobby before moving to Asheville, North Carolina’s River Arts district to make one-of-a-kind sculptural baskets professionally. Harvesting all the materials himself, Matt is passionate about creating baskets that reflect the rustic elegance of nature for his clients.
The UGA Alumni Association’s communications intern, Sarah Rose ’16, had the opportunity to chat with Matt Tommey about his career as a sculptural basketry artist and his UGA experience.
When and how did you realize that you wanted to make your hobby of basket weaving into a full-time career?
After I had been making baskets for around 15 years, I started feeling drawn to doing basketry full-time. I started doing more shows to get my work out there and around the same time, my family and I moved to Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville is the center of the universe for fine craft in the United States, so the creative community, luxury clientele and natural environment all made it possible for me to go full time.
Where did you learn to make baskets? What artists have inspired you?
I'm self-taught through experimentation, a love for nature and an insatiable curiosity. Throughout the years, I've been influenced by many artists in a variety of mediums including clay, fiber and sculpture.
What's your favorite type of piece to make?
This is always changing, but right now I love making pieces that incorporate mountain laurel branches and baskets that are reminiscent of pods and nests.
How long does it take you to complete a custom piece?
Usually 2-3 weeks, which includes a personal visit to the client's home to harvest materials from the property. Many of my clients are in the Cashiers, Highlands and Lake Toxaway area, which allows me to harvest branches and vines from their personal land. This really makes each piece special for the client.
What is your favorite memory from UGA? Are there any specific places you liked to visit in Athens as a student?
My wife and I met at UGA while working at the Tate Center / University Bookstore on campus. We harvested kudzu by my apartment at College Park on Riverbend Parkway and loved to eat at Peking. Lots of great memories!!
How did you time at UGA shape you into the artist you are today?
I started making baskets while I was a student at UGA in the Therapeutic Recreation department. The professors in that department, specifically Dr. Diane Samdahl, really encouraged me in my creativity. I also led adventure trips through GORP and was a ropes course facilitator. All of those experiences, along with my love for nature, solidified in me the importance of following my creative passion in basketry.
To learn more about Matt or see examples of his work, please visit www.matttommey.com.