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Student Composer Showcase: From Idea To Fully-Formed Compositon

Courtesy of Erin Magill
This month's Student Composer Showcase examines how a mentor and a student work together to make a finished piece of music.

For May's Student Composer Showcase we hear two perspectives on the process of writing music: one from a student composer and the other from the professional mentor helping her shape her works.Harwood Union High School student Erin Magill says she usually starts her compositions with a small idea, like an interesting rhythm.

Mentor Travis Ramsey says when he starts working on a piece with a student, he'll try to find out what the student's vision for the piece is, and then makes sure that the piece is written in a way that supports that vision.

Ramsey and Magill have been working together on a new composition called "A Skip and a Twirl". It uses two different melodic ideas: "The Skip" is fast and cheerful and bouncy, while "The Twirl" is stately and slower and like someone twirling in a dance.

"I got to watch it develop from a really cool rhythmic motive, into a very effective piece," Ramsey says, reflecting on the piece's evolution. "I guess it's probably like watching an artist turn a pencil sketch on a napkin into a whole painting."

"Writing music is very satisfying," Magill says. "When you write something and then it works, and you get to hear it ... it's a very good feeling."

Ramsey takes the long view, acknowledging that while some of these students will go on to have careers in music, some don't and that's OK. "They're [like] any kid, and every kid, and composing is just something that they do."

You can hear Magill’s piece, "A Skip and a Twirl", along with the works from 25 other young composers, at the Opus 32 Concert, May 15, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. at the Elly-Long Music Center at St. Michael’s College in Colchester. Click here for details.

The recording of "Couching Lion" by Erin Magill was from a performance on April 29, 2015 at the Chandler Center for the Arts, Randolph. Musicians were Steve Klimowski, clarinet; Letitia Quante, violin; Elizabeth Reid, viola; Michael Close, cello.

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