Student composers showcase work in the Conservatory’s New Music Series

The New Music Series gives student composers the opportunity to polish their pieces with faculty, collaborate with performers, and present the music for a live audience.


Austin Patterson

BW students playing in the New Music Series.

The BW Conservatory of Music’s New Music Series continues with their upcoming concert on March 19 at 7 p.m. in Fynes Hall of the Kulas Musical Arts Building giving student composers the opportunity to have their music performed for a live audience.  

The New Music Series is a concert series that gives composition and non-composition students the opportunity to showcase pieces they have been working on. Students work with faculty to polish their pieces, and they work alongside their performers in preparation for the concert. 

Clint Needham, the professor of music and composer in residence, is one of the coordinators of this concert series and works alongside the students participating in each concert.  

Needham said that the New Music Series is a way to give all composers, not just composition majors or seniors, a chance to share polished work. Students, as well as faculty, are able to perform these composed pieces at the concerts as well.  

“The ‘New’ Music Series was the branding … [in] an effort to raise the profile of the student composer recitals,” Needham said. “I wanted it to be taken rather seriously because these composers put in a lot of effort when they hand their music over to performers to rehearse.” 

Each concert showcases a variety of music stylings, and students are encouraged to explore their pieces when working with the faculty to polish their compositions.  

“I love that the students come in, already engaged and yet open minded enough to grow and change directions,” Needham said. “We want them to choose their creative path, and we want to supply them with the techniques and tools to let them travel those paths independently and freely.” 

Sophomore composition student Brock Rudolph will be showcasing one of his pieces in this upcoming concert. The ensemble piece is entitled “Oh, Dear.” 

“It’s a music interpretation of a story that I wrote, based off the works of Reverend W. Audrey’s ‘Thomas the Tank Engine,’” Rudolph said. “As a kid, I watched it religiously, and I thought, ‘I need to write a piece that incorporates it.’” 

Rudolph’s piece expresses an important part of his childhood, and he said that a key part of “Thomas the Tank Engine” was that the narration in the show was underscored by music to bring attention to the story, but for this piece, the music is what is telling the story. 

“Writing music in a story-sense was a bit hard for me, but it actually worked out in the long run because my feelings as to what was going on actually work in a story setting,” Rudolph said. 

Rudolph said he is looking forward to the ensemble performing his piece because a big accomplishment for any composer is “showing a piece that you are confident that you want to show to the world or just a small audience.” 

Sophomore composition and viola performance student Julia Grady is another composer in this upcoming concert, and she will also be performing her piece alongside a vocalist and pianist. 

Grady’s piece is entitled “Of Lovers Lost,” and it is based on a poem written by her mother’s friend Emily Lane, who approached Grady with the intention of setting the piece to music. 

“She wrote me a poem specifically to set to music, and then I worked with her to figure out … what she wanted to convey with [the music], so that I could accurately do that,” said Grady. 

Grady said that being able to work with a living poet is a valuable opportunity because there is no literary analysis involved to understand a poem. Grady can communicate with the poet directly to understand what themes must be portrayed. 

As both a performer and composer, Grady said she is enjoying the experience of working with her other performers in figuring out how to improve the piece. Similar to working with a living poet, Grady is also thankful to work with a living composer. 

“As a performer, we have such limited opportunities to actually work with composers and work with living composers,” Grady said. “Having the composer working with you, telling me what their intentions are of the piece, is such a great opportunity.” 

Needham encourages any student who has an interest in composing or performing to talk to him. He has helped many students not only participate in the New Music Series, but also put on concerts in the Student Activity Center. 

Needham said that it’s important for people to experience all kinds of music so that they can learn from what they are exposed to, whether you are a musician or simply a lover of music. The New Music Series is a good way for audiences to experience different styles of music and see what young musicians are composing. 

“The listening part of music is the most important part of the whole thing,” Needham said. “You’re just going to hear a wide variety of different aesthetics and points of view artistically.” 

The New Music Series is free for all audiences, and a live-stream for the March 19 concert at 7 p.m. can be found here.