Student Composition Concert preview
By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor
Students are getting ready to present their newly-written musical works at the Douglas College Student Composition Concert taking place on Friday, December 2. The free concert, which is put on by the Music Department at the end of every semester, features original works composed and performed by students taking Introduction to Composition I, as well as private students taught by Doug Smith, head of the composition program at Douglas College.
The pieces written over the semester span a wide range of genres: classical, avant-garde, jazz, popular, and more. “It is an extremely eclectic selection of music,” said Smith. There are few restrictions on the types of music composed, and he encourages students to explore stylistic boundaries with their compositions. The pieces are written for—and will be performed by—a variety of instruments, including piano, guitar and other strings; many different percussion instruments; horns, woodwinds, brass; and a couple of larger ensembles with 9 or 10 players.
For the most part, these works have never before been performed outside of classrooms and practices, and the concert will be their premiere to a public audience. It has also been some of the students’ very first experience composing original work.
Smith believes that having students write and perform their own pieces is an excellent learning opportunity. He also has an assignment where students are required to write a piece of music to be played by someone else, which teaches them how to communicate their musical ideas to another person through paper.
He hopes that learning to compose augments the students’ appreciation of the art by discovering how a musical work is created and assembled. “It’s one thing to look at it and watch it and appreciate it, another thing to actually put it together, whether it’s [to] write a piece of music or build a piece of furniture,” he said. Some people benefit more from the technical aspects of composition, others see it more as a poetic way to explore ideas—there are many different insights to be gained.
Smith said that writing a piece of music for a class isn’t hugely different from composing on your own, although it does impose requirements and deadlines, which can be very helpful for the more pedagogical side of development. It also lends a level of structure that students often find beneficial. “Music is an art, but it’s also a craft,” said Smith, and like any craft, it requires practice and discipline.
Of course, this is from a professional perspective, and many of the students who have gone through the composition program have gone on to become professional musicians. But for an amateur musician who wants to write music, Smith said, the only important thing is to enjoy doing it.
The Student Composition Concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. on December 2 in the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre. Admission is free and it is open the public, so everyone is welcome to attend with an open mind, open ears, and an open heart.