SMTD's 'Student Composer Showcase' to debt new compositions

Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 7:20pm

At the end of a performance, an audience’s applause is usually directed toward the performers on stage. Often times audiences aren’t thinking, however, of the individuals behind the scenes: the composers. The Student Composers’ Concert at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance aims to do the opposite, by showing off new works from different student composers at the University.

This will be the second of five different composer showcases put on by the Composition Department this school year. Each concert features new works from various students in the Composition Department, each one different from the last. Douglas Hertz, a second-year Master's student in SMTD said “every single concert is a whole new experience.”

With an abundance of concerts at the music school, there’s usually some sort of central theme or consistent type of instrumentation. These recitals, however, differ from these as they contain pieces of varying themes and with a wide variety of different instrumentations.

“Everyone is exploring new styles all the time,” Hertz said. “It’s kind of hard to stylistically pigeonhole any of the concerts, or any of the composers for that matter.” Often, composers use these concerts to show off new works they’ve been writing.

SMTD is known throughout the world for its distinguished composition program. Graduates of the program have had works played by countless major symphony orchestras and have won awards from major organizations, including several Grammys. However, even with all of this legacy, the department is constantly exploring different ways to create new music.

The relationship between composer and performer is especially strong at the School of Music. With many strong departments of performers at their disposal, composers often take advantage of the notoriously talented players at the School of Music — and the relationship is mutual.

“People seem to really respect and appreciate composers and new music in a way that feels really genuine and inspiring,” Hertz said. “And I think that’s part of the lifeblood of being a composer here, is that you have such collaborative enterprises with instrumentalists, in a way that might not exist at other schools.”

Seeing this collaboration is a really unique experience, and it’s something that often leads to some truly magical moments. The school is proud to be a promoter of fresh music, and these collaborations between composer and performer are no better example of that. The School of Music, among other things, is known for its promotion of new music, and the Composition Department is at the forefront of this movement. Hertz said that performers are “hungry for new music,” and the Composition Department is happy to deliver.

The program consists of a diverse group of pieces, written over an expansive period of time.

“We don’t limit when the piece has to have been composed,” Hertz said. “However, they have to be shared with their [the composer’s] studio teacher… so sometimes people will put on a piece from a few years back; pieces that they might have revised and are premiering a new interaction — it’s very open.”

For composers, hearing their work realized can be an even more incredible experience. Hearing a digital recording of their piece performed by electronic, or MIDI, instruments can only do so much.

“MIDI only goes so far,” Hertz said.  “It takes live performers to really take a piece to that next level.”

The Student Composers’ Concert is an opportunity to see new music be realized. It’s a transformative experience for composers and audiences alike. Hearing performers put expression into different composers’ work is an amazing experience.