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  • Writer's pictureisaacrsmith

A Busy End to the Semester

I have come to believe that the life of a musician is one of drastic ups-and-downs. Periods with relatively few deadlines and pressing commitments are followed by periods where it seems like there are four different deadlines breathing down your neck at the same time. The end of this semester was an instance of the latter, but now that I am through it I am incredibly thankful for all of the opportunities I received this semester.

April started off with the Spotlight Series Competition, an annual event for upcoming seniors held at UNI. The winner is named the Presser Scholar, a national award given out to the top upcoming senior music student. Though typically this competition has only been open to performers in past years at UNI, this year the school of music was kind enough to allow me to compete as a composer. I submitted my piece, "Sonata for Tuba and Piano," and was honored to receive third place. A big congratulations to my peers Andrey Floryanovich (saxophone) and Brenda Sevcik (organ), who placed second and first, respectively.

Next up was the SCI Conference, which I mentioned in more detail in my last post. The conference was great, and travel was not bad, until I ran into bad weather at the O'Hare Airport. After an eight hour delay, I finally made it home safely.

I was also busy finishing up final drafts of two pieces, organizing recording sessions, and meeting with the performers to work on music. I was finally able to get a group together to record my string quartet from last semester, "Wasteful Devastation." I am extremely grateful to Bethany Washington, Hannah Howland, Gabriel Forrero, and Jonathan Haverdink for taking time out of already busy schedules to put together an incredibly difficult piece. I was pleased with the final product and felt gratified to have a real-life recording.

My other big project this semester was an art song for baritone and piano. I set an Emily Dickinson poem that spoke to me, called "Hope is a Thing with Feathers." Though I have limited experience writing for voice, I enjoyed the direction I found I could draw from the text, and loved the way Dakota Andersen (lyric baritone) and Jordan Walker (piano) were able to bring it to life. I hope to make this part of a longer cycle of three Dickinson poems, and Dakota and I have already begun discussing programming this on both of our senior recitals in Spring 2020.

Finally, I spent the last few weeks of school and the first couple weeks of summer scrambling to get a piece together for an upcoming opportunity that I am incredibly excited for. I was accepted to the 2019 Atlantic Music Festival, which will be held at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, from June 30-July 28. For this festival, I get the opportunity to work with a chamber ensemble to rehearse, perform, and record a composition of mine. The specific instrumentation is a Pierrot ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion). Due to some misunderstanding on my part, my timeline to write the piece was crunched down to about a month-and-a-half. With this piece, which I have named "Dichotomy" I explored the colors green and white, based on an experience I had on a run this semester. The abstract nature of the inspiration made for a difficult writing process, but I find that I am perhaps more gratified now than ever before after writing a piece. I will discuss this piece more in future posts, as I am sure it will undergo some tweaking at the festival. For now, it's time to enjoy a few days off before diving back in again. Grad school applications are due in December, and there's not a whole lot of time to mess around between now and then!

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