Category Archives: Texas A&M Media & Gaming Lab Conferences

Storytelling in the 21st Century – Our Academic Selves – Conference, Spring 2024



Storytelling in the 21st Century – Our Academic Selves was a smash success. With roughly 70 attendees from all over central Texas, it was an amazing crowd of film makers, artists and academics showcasing their approaches to both teaching and practicing storytelling in the 21st century. The stories and lived realities shared by those about experiences inside and outside the classroom was inspiring and set an amazing tone for the conference. Below you will find a short summary of each presentation, along with photos and video that document them, we hope you enjoy them and can join us at next years conference.


Texas A&M University, Department of Communication & Journalism, Media & Gaming Lab

The Media Gaming Lab was presented by professor Jonathan Guajardo and graduate student Rick Pulos, they introduced the approach of lab in terms of facilitating student, faculty and community engagement. Then student Connor McCormick presented experience as a year student. Senior and graduating student Zayno Rayne gave a presentation about his experiences of wanting to be part of the music scene, to becoming a booking agent for the Grand Stafford Theatre in Bryan, TX. Doctoral student David Dockery then gave a presentation about gaming and personalized experiences of narratives and spoke about the lab’s facilitation of a weekly gaming meet up. Overall the presentation was well received, great questions fielded, check out the video for more.

University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown made their presence known at the 21st Century Storytelling Conference. Dr. Albert DeJesus, Dr. Anthony Ramirez, who are the co-directors of the Center for Latino Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown along with their student assistant Jasmin Rojas, brought various student organizations and alumni including Latinas Achieve, Conjunto Cultural Appreciation Group, and Que Onda Magazine. During the presentation, each group had an opportunity to share their experiences at UHD and their collaborative efforts with the Center for Latino Studies. What made this presentation special was how closely tied the group was. They called themselves “familia” or family. This was evident throughout the presentation as each presenter was very open and vulnerable while sharing their work, experiences, and more. During the Q&A portion of the presentation, led to a further discussion about Latinidad and identity with the audience as many of the audience members felt a connection to the presentation. This led to a very powerful emotional moment for everyone at the conference. It was a real honor and privilege for the University of Houston-Downtown’s Center for Latino Studies and our various student organizations to be at this conference. We hope to make this an on-going tradition. 


The keynote was presented by joey lopez phd and focused on the theme of the conference Storytelling in the 21st Century, Our Academic Selves. His presentation works through his own lived reality and how he uses storying telling as his way of publishing works.

Texas A&M University, Department of Communication & Journalism 

The Texas A&M Department of Communication & Journalism’s Graduate Program presenters were Dr. George Villanueva and Dr. Anna Wolfe. They both contextualized the program and it’s efforts to foster multimodal works, as well as provided insight into course work performed in their courses. Then Ph.D. students Rick Pulos and Valentina Aduen presented their multimodal works with a great response from the audience. Master student Nathan Carr presented on video gaming and it’s role in mental health and it’s impact on society.

Texas A&M University, College of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts

Representing the School of Performance, Visualization, and Fine Arts, Dr. Michelle Simms reflected on her adjusted approach to teaching that she expanded to embrace a master-apprentice style model. Dr. Matthew Campbell went on to discuss project-based education, involving STEM students in liberal arts studies, and a festival supported by the PVFA Performance Studies program, Lorefest, in which students were charged to research local or glocal folklore, then take that research and creative a performative presentation with the information uncovered and gathered. Campbell’s argument being that an approach to exposing non-humanities students to the benefits of humanities research may be through the production of creative output related to that research. Dr. Will Connor wrapped up the panel with a discussion of teaching methodologies incorporating a traditional Presentation-Practice-Production model and Constructionism philosophy that encourages a personalization and therefore internalization of materials taught by inviting the students to build an asset based on the course material. In his case, Connor’s students build noise-making devices and musical instruments and performed with them in “real-world” settings to solidify connections and understandings of the related practices and cultures associated with the instruments.

Community Panel

Curated by professor joey lopez, the community panel consisted of three unique individuals who practice community building through art in varying ways. Than Niles presented about his journey of community building as a film maker and then showed a trailer to one of his films that was suppose to be released right when COVID occured, he ended up working with the San Antonio Food Bank to put together a drive in theater experience which raised funds for the food bank. Then Victoria Snaith gave an amazing “academic self” performance jamming and riffing on the presentations and her own lived reality, bringing an energy and breath to the space that thespians are so good at doing! Inspired by the artists before him, Ernesto Cuevas seized the opportunity to expand upon the energy and incorporated some of Dr. William Connors presentation to do perform a live mural building exercise using the whiteboard and volunteers. What was created were intermodal works of art that built community and meaning through the sharing of symbols and their meanings. Check out the video:

Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Film Production Program

Professors Gabriel Duran, John Darbonne, alongside student Sara Carlson, delivered an enlightening presentation on TAMUCC’s Advanced Narrative Pedagogy. Professor Duran provided a comprehensive insight into the Advanced Narrative Film course, a distinguished 4000-level program meticulously crafted to immerse students in real-world film production scenarios. From the intricate art of casting to the nuanced orchestration of crew dynamics, and from the meticulous management of budgets to the seamless coordination of departments, this course stands as the bedrock of professional filmmaking education.

Expanding on this discourse, Professor Darbonne underscored the collaborative ethos of the curriculum, underscoring how students actively engage with complementary courses such as Advanced Editing. As a unified department, the goal is to amalgamate diverse talents into a singular project, pooling resources and expertise with the audacious ambition of clinching a nomination for the revered Student Academy Awards. This collective endeavor not only marks the pinnacle Capstone project for the department but also serves as a testament to the university’s unwavering commitment to nurturing cinematic excellence.

During the presentation, TAMUCC student Sara Carlson, who is enrolled in both Advanced Narrative and Advanced Editing, shared her firsthand experiences as the project lead. She elaborated on the challenges encountered and the invaluable lessons gleaned from participating in a class structured to mirror real-world environments. Following the presentation, an engaging Q&A session ensued, with attendees eagerly seeking insights into the implementation and outcomes of such an immersive educational approach.


joey concluded the conference speaking about building community and reflecting on our own journey’s and how they impact each other.

What’s Next?

Our take away’s from this conference is that we are definitely having another! We have begun working on one to take place in San Antonio, TX. We will see where that goes, our hope is to include k-12 and higher education alternative pedagogically based programs. So stay tuned!

Music & Movie Making in Texas Conference Spring 2024


Music and Movie Making In Texas Conference Write Up

The 2nd annual Music and Movie Making in Texas Conference was a success this year.  With around 60 people in attendance on Saturday and over (get amount from Zayno) at the School of Performance Visualization and Fine Arts Friday concert at the Grand Stafford Theatre.

Organized by the Texas A&M Media & Gaming Lab, the three main organizers were student Zayno Rayne, Professor Jonathan Guajardo and joey lopez phd.  We would like to thank them for all their hard work.

Sponsors of the conference

  • Texas A&M Race Ethnicity Studies Institute ($500 grant)
  • Texas A&M English department (facilities)
  • Texas A&M Performance Visualization and Fine Arts (equipment)
  • Texas A&M Communication & Journalism Media & Gaming Lab. ($1000 for food (special thanks for Professor Jonathan Guajardo)

We would like to thank them for the support given.  The conference went smoothly and offered a well rounded set of panels with good interactions and questions.  Lunch was provided by Blue Baker, a special thank you to Rubi Ruiz, the department of Communication & Journalism administrator for all her help, she makes our lives so much easier.  


Media Studies Panel

The media studies panel consisted of four professors, Dr. Campbell, Dr. Ramirez, Dr. Connor & Dr. Sullivan. Each presented about their research. Dr. Campbell presented about AI and the premise of AI’s from outterspace and music knowledge, it was highly engaging. Dr. Connor presented about licensing and we quickly learned he should give a full workshop with local musicians sooner than later. Dr. Ramirez presented about comics and media studies and his journey studying borderland culture in the media, such as comics. Dr. Sullivan discussed his research into television. They then answered questions moderated by joey lopez. Check out the video stream:

Student Media Panel

The student media panel consisted of Diego Valle & David Kang of CSTAT Collage, Kyle Heise of SZNS, Claire Thessen of A Line Magazine and Sophie Villarreal Battalion. Each student media publication previewed their work and spoke about the opportunities and challanges of creating student media. It was great to have two organizations who are officially part of Texas A&M and two orgs that are independent of Texas A&M but started and run by A&M students.

Max Nied Key Note

Max Nied of Monstercat Records delivered a “boots on the ground” presentation where he worked through what it is like to develop a music career and how his career has evolved working with Mostercat Records.

2am Productions Key Note

2am Productions gave a keynote, which consists of Alazar Asrat & Marco Mireles, both graduates of Texas A&M and former participants of the Media & Gaming Lab. Their presentation featured their journey to becoming media makers and how they decided to create 2am Productions, highlighting their successes and lessons learned.

BCS Music Scene Development Panel

The BCS Music Scene Development Panel consisted of local music producers and two music making student org presidents. Their presentation revolved around their approaches to impacting the music scene in the BCS area as well as discussing the challanges of creating an overall community.

Regional Bands & Creators Panel

The regional band and creators panel featured local performers Dylan Zientek, 4kace and Daniel San. Moderator Zayno asked questions about their approach to music making, performing and then had the performers show off their work.

Media Making Panel

The Media Making Panel consisted of students and local media makers. Each media maker spoke about their approaches and then showed their works. It was great to see such creative work being done.


Plans for the 3rd Annual Music and Movie Making in Texas conference are already in the works. One of the major take aways was the need to have more workshops for the practitioners of music and video production pertaining to revenue streams, business structures and licensing. We have also noticed a desire for a full on film screening, so we may add that into the mix with a film festival. Another take away was the need to have our live music event after the conference, not before. We also are planning to have a new media production track where panelist show their works in VR/AR and other new media fields.

We would like to thank all those who participated in the conference and we hope to see you all again at the 3rd annual Music and Movie Making in Texas Conference in the Spring 2025!

Synthposium Spring 2024


On February 4th, 2024, the Texas A&M Media & Gaming Lab, along with faculty from the School of Performance Visualization and Fine Arts hosted Synthposium, an event which brought together local synthesizer enthusiasts, musicians, engineers and academics to discuss and explore the cultural and technical aspects of the art form.

Director of the Media & Gaming Lab, joey lopez, facilitated the Synthposium and developed its calling through multiple meetings with Media & Gaming Lab members.  The finalized ideation procured a one day event at local coffee shop, Tavo Coffee, which would include five presentations and a final performance.  Lia Stevenson, a representative of Synthrotek and a genius synthesizer electrical engineer in the making, also flew in from Moscow, Idaho to join us.  

The event was successful and well-attended, with roughly 40 participants coming to join in on the fun. Over the course of the event, even patrons of the coffee shop would wander into the space and begin interacting with the equipment, tinkering and playing with the sounds they created.  

The presentations themselves were enthralling and informative, with each one being aimed towards beginners and advanced users alike.  Each presenter would give a general overview of their work and then give in depth explanations of their processes. Event facilitator, joey lopez, also moderated a Q&A session and asked questions of the presenters to further add to the informative nature of the event.  

Presentation Recaps

David Kang & Diego Valle – David Kang presented his video synthesizer along with Diego Valle.  Both are students at Texas A&M and media makers.  They noted their use of Kang’s analog synthesizer to develop graphics for  their “gonzo journalism” project College Station Collage.  It was great watching them give a full demonstration of Kang’s custom built synthesizer and vintage composite media production gear. In addition to their presentation, Kang & Diego would provide visuals throughout the Synthposium and would perform with Lia Stevenson and William Conner, Ph.D. at the end of the conference.

Jeremy Zunker – Jeremy Zunker, an electrical engineer from Austin, gave a demonstration of multiple projects he has developed over the years, ranging from a custom designed DJ scratching device to a hardware implementation of beatbyte (on which Professor Morris would later give a demonstration). Jeremy also answered general questions about circuit design and the process of having boards made. He demonstrated this process by showing three versions of a prototype.  

Jeff Morris, Ph.D (website) – Jeff Morris Ph.D. is a Professor in the School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts. He presented on the software side of synthesizers, giving an in depth workshop on the web based implementation of Bytebeat and Pure Data (PD).  Professor Morris’s workshop further broke down the fundamentals of electronic music composition.  Audience members thanked Dr. Morris for his workshop and mentioned how it impacted their general understanding of music composition as well as the functions of their equipment.

William Connor, Ph.D. (website) – Will’s presentation was based around his Lovecraftian-themed Monstrous Synthesizer that has been a concept of his for over a decade and which he implemented and built over the last year.  Will would later present on the fundamentals of synthesizers by demonstrating his own build and explaining the process of how he designed and implemented his setup.  It complemented Professor Morris’ presentation well, venturing into the physical aspect of synthesizers.

Lia Stevenson (website) – Lia Stevenson is a Synthrotek employee and electrical engineering student at the University of Idaho, where she is studying electronics.  Her presentation consisted of giving a full walk through of synthesizers, aided with an awesome slide presentation with embedded videos of herself explaining basic terminology and components.  She also provided a great condensed history of the synthesizer as well. Her presentation amazed and informed the audience, and she also brought her own synthesizer and discussed a company she is starting based around eurorack components that she is building, one of which was an intricate and exemplary sequencer.  

Final Performance – The conclusion of the event was celebrated with a performance by Lia Stevens, William Connor, Kang, and Diego Valle. This final performance was well received by those in attendance and ended the event on a high note.

Special Thanks – We at the Media and Gaming Lab cannot thank everyone enough for their attendance and support. Tavo Coffee was an amazing host, and their customers were kind, curious, and gracious. Victor, of the Vortex, and crew came by and showed support and directly engaged with the presenters.  Again, thank you to the community for all the support!

Our goal is to continue holding local synthesizer meet ups and develop a scene for performances and workshops to continue throughout the calendar year.

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