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Student compositions come to life onstage

Compositions - Sarah Ruiz
Student musicians perform onstage in Sebring-Lewis last Tuesday, Dec. 2. Photo by Sarah Ruiz

Last Tuesday, Dec. 2, student musicians performed pieces written by students enrolled in the Introduction to Composition course in front of a large crowd in the Sebring-Lewis Hall. The recital featured “world premiere performances of new chamber music,” as noted by the program.

The five students in the class, Daniel Delay ’17, Lea Marolt Sonnenschein ’15, Sam Han ’17, Imad Bakhira ’15 and Aaron Levin ’17 each worked to compose an original piece over the course of the past semester.

“We usually have around eight students, so having five students this semester has been a more intimate setting,” said Professor Eric McIntyre, Music. “We have been able to spend quite a bit of time on each composer’s work in workshop.”

McIntyre said he considers the performance a success.

“The performances were good and they were well put together,” McIntyre said. “[In] most cases when you write a paper for a class only one person reads it. In this case, there was a good size audience, a lot of people heard it.”

The students’ pieces varied extensively in both mood and instruments played. Violin, cello, piano, saxophone, flute and guitar were all played throughout the five performances. Some pieces possessed a more somber and serious mood and others took on a light and playful tone. Most pieces switched between these two tones or mixed them together.

McIntyre noted that the variety of pieces reflected the autonomy and creative freedom students enjoyed throughout the course.

“The only limitations on student composers are that their piece must be less than six minutes and no more than five players,” McIntyre said. “In any Intro to Composition course, the thing that always surprises me is how we come together on the performance with so many different kinds of pieces. For me as a teacher that has got to be satisfying because it says my stamp isn’t on it, everyone is not just doing it my way.”

Students in the course also got a chance to work one-on-one with the student musicians performing their compositions.

“The one worry I had was getting them to articulate my piece right,” Bakhira said. “I think they did a great job though … I got to talk to them about what my piece was about, the backstory behind it. They are all people I know personally. That helped as well.”

When asked about the creative process behind these pieces, McIntyre joked with a laugh that creative inspiration “is a whole course!”

While in reality the whole course was not dedicated entirely to the creative process, a good deal of it did focus on the activity of creation.

“Forty to 50 percent of what we talk about [in the course] is creative process. Creative process is going to be the same no matter what creative process you are involved in. The students begin with writing very short simple exercises, like just a rhythm,” McIntyre said. “After a while they are set free to do their final project.”

Students attested to the confidence they gained over the course of the semester.

“I am becoming a lot less scared of writing music and of the whole process in general,” Bakhira said.

McIntyre said that students of all musical abilities and backgrounds in composing have taken the class.

“I’ve actually been composing since before I got to college,” Levin said. “This class is a good step to have some formal training.”

Sonnenschein noted that although she has a background in music, composing was a new experience for her.

“I’m a classically trained pianist, but I never really did any of my own composing,” she said. “To be on the side of the composer, and instructing the people who are playing your piece is a different experience, it is interesting.”

Students who took the course were quick to recommend it. “People should definitely take this class,” Levin said. “It is great for students from all disciplines. It was a great experience.”

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