New student music premieres at Composer’s Concert

Taneeka Hansen

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On Friday, Feb. 25, Chism Recital Hall will premiere musical pieces by six by student composers.

While most of the composers are currently enrolled at Whitman, two of the students attend Walla Walla University and one is a recent Whitman graduate. All of the composers share the experience of individual composition lessons with Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music John David Ernest as well as Friday group meetings where they share their work with other students.

“Whatever I have ready I’ll get players or singers to come in and kind of do … an impromptu presenting [of] my music in its unfinished state to the class,” said senior music major Emily Allen. “I’ll give copies of my music to each person in the class so they can read along, and at the end we’ll discuss.”

The composers then have the option of taking the ideas they heard from their peers or not. Although they did not make all suggested changes, junior composition major Mark Arand said the workshop was still useful.

“[It’s] super helpful in terms of getting over people’s point of view,” said Arand. “Every now and again they give you something to try that is something you just didn’t think of; it’s fantastic.”

Having people rehearse and perform their pieces for the class and for the concert offers another lesson to these composers–the importance of exact writing.

“It takes a while to get exactly what you have in your mind to be played. You get what you have on paper, then you hear them play it then you realize, ‘Oh wait, I wrote it down on paper wrong’, so you go back and fix it,” said Arand.

“In the end, there’s always this gap between the composer and the musician–good writing simply narrows this gap,” said senior Ross Eustis, another composer.

Eustis’s piece, a suite for sax inspired by his summer spent in Hawaii, exposed him to new styles of music.

“The whole experience was difficult, but gratifying. I’m a jazz player, so it was initially frustrating and difficult to change my style and adapt to the classical way of composition and music,” said Eustis.

Mark Arand is presenting a suite for solo piano, which will be played by senior Marla Nelson. The suite of character pieces is called “Songs of My Father” and includes a piece called “Memory” and a second called “The Fireplace Rag”.   Both were inspired by songs his father used to play when Arand was a child.

“The first one, [‘Memory’], was originally supposed to be based off of a melody that he used to play, that he actually wrote,” said Arand.

Emily Allen, who is currently enrolled in her fourth semester of the composition course, has two pieces in Friday’s concert. One is a theme and variations written for two flutes, violin, viola and cello. The second is a requiem, a choral setting of a portion of the traditional Latin mass.

“In general, both works are of an extremely high quality, especially the choral work because Emily is a singer and very solidly understands the voice,” said senior music major Jackson Maberry.

Maberry is conducting both of Allen’s pieces, as well a choral piece by alumni Kevin McCoy ’10. Maberry began his conducting career his sophomore year with the Whitman Composers Concert. Like the other composers, he has observed the artistic gaps between what the composer has in mind and what is produced.

“[The composers] are able to grant you immediate input regarding interpretive choices … Which is different because, you know, most conductors are used to having sole interpretive authority,” said Maberry.

Maberry and the composers are in agreement, however, that it has been a fantastic experience.

“Since collaboration is what music making is all about, I sincerely enjoy working directly with a composer,” he said.

The Whitman Composers Concert will be this Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Chism Recital Hall. The concert is free and open to the public.

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