Conservatory Program Thriving

Emma Selmon, Contributing Writer

The musical styles and interests of the composition majors at the BW Conservatory range widely, but whether they aspire to write music for opera or to create soundtracks for films or video games, one thing they all have in common is that they are kept busy. Throughout the semester, these student composers present a number of concerts to showcase their works.

During their four years at BW, student composers study a variety of composition techniques and musical textures: they explore everything from chamber and orchestral music to songwriting and electronic music. The stylistic diversity among BW’s composers is highly valued in the composition program: “[The student composers] are encouraged to explore their artistic voices in a number of ways,” said Dr. Clint Needham, composer-in-residence and associate professor of music.

BW’s composition program is exceptional in the number and quality of performance opportunities it provides to its students: “I know other schools who will offer one concert a year for undergraduate composers…and we’re offering 5 or 6 in that time,” said composition professor Dr. Sokol.

One upcoming student composition event is the annual Symphony Orchestra Composer Forum on February 26th. This collaboration between the orchestra and the composition program will feature the world premieres of pieces by junior composition majors Cassandra Velcko, Maya Johnson, and Justin Frankeny and seniors Brandon Rosier and Risha Shine.

A largely student-run production, the Composer Forum is an engaging opportunity for student composers, conductors, and instrumentalists alike. As an undergraduate institution, BW is unique to offer a concert like this: “Usually, these opportunities are only afforded to graduate-level students,” said Dr. Needham.

In addition to the Composer Forum, the composition program will also present New Music Series concerts, the first of which will be on March 1st. Like the Composer Forum, the The New Music Series is student-driven, but it consists of premieres of smaller works by student composers in every class.

One of these works, “Aquarius,” is a piece for string quintet and harp by sophomore composition and music history major Greg Watson. For this piece, Watson drew inspiration from the personalty traits associated with the zodiac cycle: “I picture a character when I’m writing [these pieces],” he said.

Both the Composer Forum and the New Music Series concerts are sure to demonstrate the wide-ranging creativity of the student composers. “These concerts are really enjoyable, and you never know what to expect,” said Dr. Sokol. “[They’re] not challenging, not off-putting, but new.”

The Symphony Orchestra Composer Forum is February 26th at 7:00 pm; the first New Music Series concert is March 1st at 7:00 pm. Both performances are in Gamble Auditorium in Kulas Musical Arts Building and are free of charge and open to the public.