GALLOWAY, N.J. -- "I've always been really passionate and interested in music," said Dr. Matthew Bonnan. "But by the time high school was over... I decided that maybe it wasn't for me to make."
Bonnan perhaps had an even greater passion for dinosaurs and decided to pursue paleontology professionally. He is credited on a team that discovered and described three new dinosaur species in South Africa.
By 2012, Bonnan moved from Illinois to become a professor of biology at Stockton University.
"I started to go with my son to his guitar lessons, and it kind of reawakened this passion I had for making music," he said. "So, in 2019, I got a digital piano and started to learn it."
But what started as an unearthed hidden talent developed into something much greater. He was inspired by the isolation of the following year's pandemic to create songs that brought people together.
One song quickly turned into 12. And after being granted a sabbatical, Bonnan came back with the album, "Once Upon Deep Time."
"It sort of touches on that inner child in all of us that is curious about the world," he said.
With songs about dinosaurs, evolution, and the diversity of storytelling, Bonnan's discography depicts education as entertainment.
"I could take what I know, which is science, which is paleontology, and try to turn it into something that is hopefully entertaining," he said. "Or maybe get people to view things in the world around them and each other, just a little bit different."
But the cornerstone of Bonnan's project turned out to be exactly what was missing in his 2020-era life: connection and collaboration. He turned to Stockton University faculty and students for their artistic abilities to enhance the project.
Art students created illustrations and animations to compliment the science-heavy lyrics contained within certain tracks. And students from Stockton's a capella organizations joined forces to accompany Bonnan's once-lonely voice.
Emma Desiderio, a senior and soprano with 'Stockapella,' was featured on the track, "Storytellers."
"I think I'll remember things like this, being part of interesting projects and working really hard with my friends," she said. "I think we all really like the song and it shows that we're all connected," she said. "And we're all part of something bigger."
That sentiment is something that Bonnan hopes the Stockton Community - and every listener - will walk away with.
"We live in a world where we are related to all the living things, and we share a lot more in common with each other than we don't," he said.
The entire album is now available for listening on most streaming platforms. To learn more about Once Upon Deep Time or Stockton University, visit their websites.