A local star shines in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

Janine Volkmar
Mad River Union

ARCATA – Whether you are a serious Star Wars fan or just loved the first movie, it’s hard to forget that bar scene with the assorted monsters, glowing drinks and mesmerizing music played by some seriously strange musicians. “Cantina,” the music composed for that scene by John Williams, has been covered by symphony orchestras, jazz bands and solo artists around the world since the film debuted in 1977.

Composer John Williams and Tyler Hunt.

Now a musician who attended Arcata High School and graduated from Humboldt State University has been tapped to contribute his unique musical stylings to the latest Star Wars epic, The Last Jedi (2017).

Tyler Hunt plays the steelpans in the track, “Canto Bight” and John Williams loved his performance. Williams was quoted in an article in Pan Magazine, written by Ted Goslin. “I am delighted to be able to congratulate and thank this outstanding performer,” Williams said. “It was a surprise and a complete delight to have crossed paths with Tyler Hunt and be able to appreciate his outstanding artistry.”

Hunt’s artistry has been developing for years, according to his professor at Humboldt, Dr. Eugene Novotney. “Some people you know are going to succeed, not only by their talent and artistry, but also because who they are as people,” Novotney said. “I’m happy to see him succeed, but I always knew he would.”

Hunt graduated from Humboldt in 2011 with a music degree in percussion performance. He went on to earn a Master’s in Music in percussion at California State University, Long Beach.

“In addition to being an outstanding steelpan player, Tyler is an outstanding classical musician,” Novotney added.

Hunt plays all types of percussion instruments and the piano as well. He performed with the Eureka Symphony as well as with many bands and ensembles at Humboldt.

Now based in Long Beach, Hunt is in his own description, “a full-time freelance musician and educator.”

He teaches at “a variety of schools, performs in a variety of bands, and works as a recording engineer.”

His most recent gig is playing in the Feliz Navidad parade at Disneyland, which is launched six times a day for around two months, “but I don’t play in every parade,” he said.

How did it happen that he got involved with The Last Jedi?

Tyler Hunt drumming.

“I’ve watched all the movies and enjoyed the bar scene in the first one but I didn’t realize it had steelpan in it,” he said. Hunt hadn’t started playing the pans at that time. He started steelpan “in the Humboldt State Calypso Band,” according to Novotney.

“I’ve actually played the piece in a steel band setting,” Hunt said.

Hunt was recommended to Williams by percussionist Greg Goodall. He had a meeting with Williams and was chosen. The Academy Award winning composer was writing a new work but one that paid homage to the earlier “Cantina.”

Hunt talked about the recording of the soundtrack. “It was an incredible experience, kind of surreal to see the orchestra playing and Williams conducting. I got to talk to him one on one. He was extremely nice, very friendly and very positive. It was just a delightful experience,” he said.

“Of course, it was terrifying,” he added.

This was Hunt’s first film experience but he hopes it will not be his last.

Here’s a young man who is performing, teaching and composing his own music.

Wait and see how the stars will shine for him. Hunt has a website “under construction” which should be completed in a few months.

Watch for tylerhuntpercussion on social media and see what else he gets up to! And if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi yet, here’s your chance to give an extra careful listen for one of our own stars in the “Canto Bight” scene.



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