Luke Ellis

Headshot of Luke wearing a lei
View my resume here

Senior Recital - Duo Pianos

I've had the great privilege of studying under Dave Solazzo during my time at Cornell, and this concert concept felt like the right way to close out my time in the Cornell Music Department. We had a great time learning to play duo piano while creating each of these arrangements, and hopefully we get to do it again one day.

Pianist on the left: Dave Solazzo
Pianist on the right: Luke Ellis
Recording engineer & mix: Jack Dobosh

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I'm not a trained cellist, but I learned enough technique to take a consistent measurement.
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Before I was able to obtain a cello, I used a violin in the office to take exploratory data and practice measurement techniques on a string instrument.
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I compared vibration measurements in a reverberation chamber placing the endpin on three different surfaces: vinyl/concrete floor, MDF board on Getzner foam blocks, and a cello podium that was previously built for a local symphony orchestra.
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I also used a force hammer with accelerometers to create transfer functions of the floor surface. I used these transfer functions to visualize the vibrations of the podium using a software called MEScope.
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This graph compares vibrations measured at the bridge to vibrations measured at the floor next to the endpin. The solid black and blue lines show the benefit of a raised surface, but there are measurable harmonics on even the cement floor. This graph emphasizes the importance of considering structure-born vibrations when designing concert spaces.
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Acentech has many talented musicians among their ranks, and I enjoyed planning after-hours jam sessions.

Cello Podium Vibrations

I spent the Summer of 2023 working as an Acoustic Consulting Intern at Acentech. Part of my internship included an individual project in the field, and I chose to investigate the acoustical benefits of Cello Podiums, a reverberant platform upon which a cello can be played. I took a wide range of accelerometer and microphone measurements, then used MATLAB to analyze the data. At the end of Summer, I presented my findings to the whole company to inform the consultants about the beneficial effect of Cello Podiums and the structure-born vibrations associated with cello and bass endpins.

Twisted Stories

Twisted Stories was inspired by a 2 year old voice memo in my phone, and it came alive when I brought it to the wonderful musicians of After Six. This song is about not tolerating someone's "twisted stories" and lies any longer. We recorded this video as a submission to NPR's Tiny Desk Contest.

Composition/arrangement: Luke Ellis
Band: Austin Burgett (vocal), Noëlle Romero (vocal), Summer Seward (vocal), Kobby Adu (trumpet), Josh Sokol (tenor saxophone), Turner Aldrich (guitar), Luke Ellis (keys), Kaleb Kavuma (bass), Tife Sokan (drums)

Recording engineer & mix: Jack Dobosh

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Screenshots of the performance atmosphere. If I do this project again, I have a list of dozens of ways to make the atmosphere more immersive.
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At the start of this project, my group spent some time coming up with every idea we could for features of our dream product. These post-it notes hold many great future features; I'm glad we took a picture.
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Every project starts somewhere. I took this screenshot after I successfully connected the red cube to the movement of my right hand. This was a huge victory for me at the time :)
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Another key moment of development was when I got the piano to play chords in the correct octave! This breakthrough led to a rapid advancement of the harmonic music theory happening behind the scenes.
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The most enjoyable part of the project was sharing the experience with friends and seeing how a first-time user interacted with the product.
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I presented this project at the Milstein Junior Project Expo and let anyone try it! Many attendees enjoyed the experience, but we all agreed that the project still has a long way to go before it can truly recreate the feeling of performance.


There is nothing quite like performing live music. The emotions and enjoyment when playing with other musicians on a stage in front of tens or thousands is a feeling that all musicians chase. I teamed up with my good friends Gordi and Mary of the Milstein Program in Technology and Humanity to create VRockstar, a VR experience asking the question: how might we recreate the feeling of performing virtually? We designed this experience so anyone could use it, not just a musician. The keys you played when hitting the piano were always correct. There were colorful lights and audience cheers. We tested this experience with our peers to explore if that feeling could be artificially created.

Course Correction

I wrote the song "Course Correction" in November of 2023 for my jazz combo at Cornell. The song takes place on a small vessel in the open ocean; no land in sight on the horizon. The saxophone represents the voice of the captain, while the other instruments play the role of the ocean, waves, and weather. As this small vessel falls victim to the harsh elements, the steadfast voice of the captain rights the ship and overcomes the turbulent seas.

Composition and Piano: Luke Ellis
Saxophone: Sasha Loayza
Guitar: Turner Aldrich
Bass: Adam Dixon
Drums: Tife Sokan
Recording engineer: Jack Dobosh

Silver Bells

Published on Dec 23, 2023, Silver Bells was the fourth installment of my annual holiday season video series. Each year, I've tried to learn and implement as many new technical capabilities as possible. In the creation of this video, I applied new skills in music theory, new audio plugins, generative AI consumer tools, and even some basic animation. This recurring project has become a way for me to share my progress as a musician and video editor, and I hope to publish such a video every year for the rest of my life.

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First pic of the kit with all the pieces assembled (except the shaker)
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The first time we played the full kit (after a lot of troubleshooting, of course)
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We built a prototype of the entire kit out of cardboard and legos before 3D printing, laser cutting, and fabricating the actual components. This picture shows the pedal that hits the kick drum.
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This demo shows the method of upload for the MIDI file. MIDI messages could be sent via our phone hotspots, but for testing and demonstration purposes, we simplified to a direct signal via USB.
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We presented the project at the course's final exposition, and it performed well (despite breaking during transportation).
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After many hours of design and trial, it felt so good when this mechanism worked for the first time.

MIDI Drum Kit

As the final project of a course on rapid prototyping and physical computing (INFO 4320), I was part of a three student group that built a drum kit that could play itself. This drum kit would translate a MIDI pattern coming from a computer and actuate the corresponding motors in precise rhythm. I enjoyed the many hours spent struggling on this project, and I learned a lot about circuitry and prototyping in the process.

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Three virtual galleries displayed a wide range of patient art pieces.
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I spent many late nights in our workspaces throughout the summer.
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A more traditional gallery appearance
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We added this gallery to display the art in a way that only technology could.
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Attendees of our expo presentation could experience the galleries in VR too!

Coler Virtual Museum

In association with the Coler Nursing Hospital in NYC and the Milstein Program in Technology and Humanity at Cornell Tech, I created a virtual museum to display art pieces from the state hospital’s art program. I completed rigorous, back-end programming using Node.JS, Google Cloud Platform, and Unity (C#) to create a simple-to-use method of digitizing and displaying art in 3D virtual galleries, and we even trained the nurses how to use the tool. The purpose of the project was to give the art program more exposure for fundraising, let the residents’ families see their work, and give the artists an opportunity to see their work displayed in a gallery setting. It remains one of the most complete programming projects I have ever worked on, and it’s a shame that legal issues ultimately hid the final product.

A6 Funk!

After helping to lead After Six for two years, I finally said "I've had enough; we need a theme song now!" A6 Funk was born, and it instantly became our opener for every set. I wrote it to show off everything that makes our band unique and memorable: a talented trio of vocalists, a wailing horn duo, a groovin' rhythm section, and an unwavering confidence in our sound.

Composition/arrangement: Luke Ellis, Kobby Adu, Josh Sokol
Band: Austin Burgett (vocal), Noëlle Romero (vocal), Summer Seward (vocal), Kobby Adu (trumpet), Josh Sokol (tenor saxophone), Turner Aldrich (guitar), Luke Ellis (keys), Kaleb Kavuma (bass), Tife Sokan (drums)

Recording engineer & mix: Jack Dobosh
Video: Evan Volkman, Will Maloney

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A video demonstration of my Speaker Pillow.
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A 3D rendering of my first prototype.
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3D Printing the first prototype.
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The resulting speaker cabinet.
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I'm loving it, I promise. I just didn't smile :)

Speaker Pillow

I could never decide whether to call it “Spillow” or “SoftSleeper,” but both of these names are not worthy of the sensory experience afforded by this magical pillow. I made this as a personal, tinkering project during the Summer I spent at Cornell Tech. The pillow achieves something headphones cannot: feeling the sound on your body rather than just in your ears. I believe this is the difference between live performance and Spotify playback; live music is experienced on all surfaces of the body. I have paused this project until I have more confidence that there are no negative health effects of prolonged exposure to magnets near the head.

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Unfortunately, this is the best picture I have of the experience. If I gain access to more pictures or any recordings, I will upload them.

Winter Morning Walks with Dawn Upshaw

One of my most challenging/nerve-wracking experiences as a pianist was performing Maria Schneider’s “Winter Morning Walks” album with 5x Grammy-winning soprano Dawn Upshaw in February of 2023. The piece required technical and emotional maturity, both of which I had to improve during my preparations. I had the opportunity to meet with Maria Schneider, an NEA Jazz Master, before the rehearsal process to discuss the role of the jazz rhythm section in a classical chamber orchestra. She spent over an hour explaining her motivations behind each line of the piece, and now she is one of my composer heroes. The final performance of the piece was exhilarating as I experienced my many hours of preparation pay off.

Performance with Marcus Printup

In the Spring of 2023, esteemed trumpeter Marcus Printup of Jazz at Lincoln Center performed with the Cornell University Jazz Ensemble (CUJE). He encouraged us to take the lessons taught by jazz music wherever we end up in life. I also enjoyed talking about the NBA Playoffs with him. As pianist of the CUJE, I’ve played with Camille Thurman, Christine Jensen, Steve Brown, Wynton Marsalis, and several other notable musicians. I always feel nervous when playing with some of my heroes, but most of them have been very kind and encouraging.

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That's me on the keys.
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Biggest crowd I've ever played for.
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Playing with these talented friends has been one of the greatest privileges of my time at Cornell.

Slope Day Performance 2x

For the past two years, I have had the awesome opportunity to open Cornell’s Slope Day music festival with my band called After Six. Our nine-piece band puts our own twist on music ranging across the R&B, Soul, Funk, and Pop genres. We earned the spot by winning a battle of the bands competition, and this publicity has led to many other fantastic performing opportunities in the Cornell and Ithaca communities. We are currently focused on recording some of our original songs for an EP coming out in January (hopefully).

Sleigh Ride

Every holiday season for the past 3 years, I have released my take on a traditional song as a fun video usually with many Lukes present. I aim to continue this tradition for the rest of my life! This one was my biggest yet, and if you'd like to see the past videos, they are all accessible on the same YouTube channel as this video.


One of my best friends since middle school, it is always a treat to perform with Miya Heulitt! Although we go to different colleges now, we can always pick up right where we left off in our friendship. The cool part now, is whenever we get back together to record a tune, we have both improved! Somehow, she always sounds better than the last time I saw her. This tune is by the up and coming Laufey, who we both love. Check out her other work on major streaming platforms!

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

The first time I heard this song (off the Frank Sinatra album of the same title), I was transported to a lonely and rainy city street with my watch showing 3:30am. This song is a reminder to me of what a simple, yet clear piece of music can do to the emotions. By the way, the album “In the Wee Small Hours” (that opens with this song) by Frank Sinatra is a great album for bedtime.

What is this Thing Called Love

I recorded this video as part of an audition for colleges. I’m very pleased with how it came out, and it earned me an audition at the Eastman School of Music (which I flopped, but that’s a different story). This song taught me a lot about jazz (especially some technical tricks), and I had practiced it for about a year prior to this recording. I was accompanied by Dean Taba on bass and Noel Okimoto on drums. I now realize that these two musicians were way over-qualified to be playing with me, but I remain thankful for their support.