We feel lucky to have worked with so many talented composers. Check out our 5 most recent “Composers of the Month,” and below, you can read more about all of our past “Composers of the Month.” Make sure to come back each month and support these wonderful composers!
We are thrilled to bring back Elizabeth Egan for our March Composer of the Month. You will remember her as the talented composer of “Demain” from our THEY’RE ALIVE 5.0 concert. This year, she was one of our three student composition contest winners and we will be premiering another piece of her’s at our THEY’RE ALIVE! recital this May.
Elizabeth’s Senior Recital
Sun, 4/22 @ 3pm
Morse Hall at The Juilliard School
Works TBD but she will be performing at least one piece written by herself!
WSW: What do you love about composing?
EE: What I love about writing music is that I get to create and discover interesting combinations with instruments, texture, harmony, etc. I feel like with every piece I write I discover a new aspect about music that I love, whether it is how a certain chord functions, or a new instrument color. I also love that I feel myself grow and become more self-aware as I write.
WSW: What do you do besides compose?
EE: I’m currently a senior in high school, so when I am not composing I am busy with school! I’m also a bassoonist and contrabassoonist and I spend a lot of time making reeds, playing in a chamber group, and in orchestra at Juilliard Pre-College. I also enjoy cooking, kayaking, playing with dogs, and watching HGTV.
WSW: What is your favorite part about NYC?
EE: I love how many things there are to discover in NYC! Every neighborhood has a different feel and is very interesting to explore. I also love the freedom I’ve been able to gain from growing up in NYC – NYC’s grid system and public transportation has allowed me to explore the city on my own for a large part of my life.
WSW: What do you want the audience to know about your commissioned piece?
EE: Cityscape is influenced by my unique upbringing in New York City. I believe I had an interesting childhood, given that I was given the opportunity to grow up and explore Manhattan and all of New York for pretty much my entire life.
The piece is broken up into 4 miniatures, or short movements. Movement 1 is called Surroundings and was inspired by the surrounding architecture and city life I observe as I take frequent walks around the city. Being a New Yorker, I walk everywhere and it always interesting to see what you notice about your surroundings, especially when you look up to admire the buildings around you. Movement 2 is called Commute and is inspired by my friend/foe public transportation and the rush of the crowds in the street and subway during rush hour. This movement has more movement and is very rhythmic – the staccato notes seem to duel with one another while the sixteenth notes rush along, similar to how trains and commuters rush along. Movement 3 is called Summer Sunset and it is a short-chorale that is inspired by a circle line cruise around Manhattan I took with the National Youth Orchestra last summer. This evening cruise gave me a different perspective on the unique geography of NYC and the area.Movement 4 is called Reflections and this movement is a reflective movement about my childhood in NYC. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting about my life as I near adulthood and I’ll be 18 during the premiere of this piece, so I found it fitting to write a movement to, albeit brief, reflect on my upbringing in NYC and childhood in general, especially since I most likely will be moving out of the city next year because I only applied to one college in NYC.
This year, our THEY’RE ALIVE! recital will be featuring the 3 student composition contest winners. We are thrilled to present our first winner, Hilary Purrington!
WSW: What do you love about composing?
HP: I love collaborating with performers! I want musicians to enjoy playing my music, and I’m always happy to learn and receive feedback.
WSW: What do you do besides compose?
HP: I’m also a singer. Currently, I sing with Schola Cantorum, Yale’s professional choir. We sing a wide variety of repertoire – exciting highlights from this year include Bach’s Magnificat, Brahms’ Requiem, and a new piece by Reena Esmail.
WSW: What is your favorite part about NYC?
HP: My wonderful friends and family! Favorite places/things include: The Met Opera, MoMA, the Cloisters, the MELA Foundation Dream House, Two Little Red Hens, the Ramble in Central Park, Guastavino ceilings, Macaron Day, and too many other wonderful things…
WSW: What do you want to audience to know about your commissioned piece?
HP: Stress and Sunshine addresses some of the negative aspects of living in New York as a student and musician. It took me a long time to adjust and find a pace that worked for me, and I eventually loved my life in the city. I don’t view this piece as negative, though – the very fact that I’ve used difficult experiences to create music is a beautiful, positive thing!
Want to know more about Hilary? Check out her website here.
Check out our FIRST “Composer of the Month” of 2017!
Website: www.nicholasvhall.com / www.cisumpercussion.com
February 20th and 21st – Pulsing & Shaking festival at NYU Steinhardt, Frederick Loewe Theater – My piece “Just Like That” will be performed by Cisum Percussion.
WSW: Tell us a little about the piece you wrote for us:
NH: The piece, “Hurry Up; Wait,” was written during the main bulk of my graduate studies from 2014 – 2016. During this time I spent much of it commuting to and from NYC, as well as all over NYC. The title of the piece is a comedic play on words representing the commute for me. All the time NYC is associated with a fast paced lifestyle, often referred to as a “New York Minute,” but ironically much of our time as New Yorkers is spent endlessly waiting for things in various forms. Although the music does not tell a direct story, each movement is meant to reflect different moods and emotions that I’ve related to this feeling of my own personal “New York Minute.”
WSW: How did you begin composing?
NH: Composition has only within the past few years become a leading factor of my musical career. If you would have asked me just 5 years ago if I thought I would be writing music for various ensembles, I would have thought it was a joke. In my senior year of high school I had written a short 16 measure melody for my music theory final project but for much time after that I had never written again. I studied percussion performance in my undergraduate studies and my first real compositions were written just as fun pieces to perform by myself and with my percussion duet. I thought nothing of it for a while until I had begun to expand, out of my own curiosity, into other instrumentations. I was very lucky to have a few pieces premiered by my undergraduate ensembles, including a piece for string ensemble and a piece for symphonic band that would truly push me into further pursuing my passion of composition.
WSW: What are your career goals?
NH: I have several main goals as a composer/performer that I am continuously working on every day within my studies, practicing, performing and writing. As a performer I’m obsessed with current trends in chamber music. I’ve recently had some changes in personnel within my percussion group and we have some great long term goals that we are in the process of finalizing. As a composer I can’t ask for much more than the continuous collaboration with musicians on the creation of new music. With that being said I am also in the process of pursuing faculty positions within music programs in the future.
WSW: What do you do in your free time?
NH: Free time seems like a funny statement at the moment since I’m continuously trying to find new opportunities. Outside of writing and performing I very much enjoy supporting the arts in any way that I can. My Fiancée and I are season subscribers for the New York Philharmonic and we continuously find concerts and events in various locations to further expand the ensembles and composers we are listening to. Outside of music I enjoy traveling, taking trips to wineries, going to the movies and spending time relaxing with friends.
This month, we will be featuring the 5th composer of our THEY’RE ALIVE! 5.0 recital, Enrico Arcaro. We will be premiering his new piece that we commissioned ourselves and are thrilled to be performing it WITH Enrico! Click below to watch his interview and then be sure to attend our show on Sun, May 15th @ 3pm!
I am honored once again to be Washington Square Winds’ Composer of the Month, especially as we approach this extraordinary quintet’s annual THEY’RE ALIVE! Concert in May. April is a special month for me, with an April Fool birthday and all. I’ve always liked that bit of nascent notoriety. WSW regularly performs several of my lighter arrangements of pop and jazz tunes, which have become a staple of their repertoire. I love writing these, they enjoy playing them, and listeners don’t mind hearing them. The upcoming WSW concert is more ambitious: it features the galactic premiere of my own Serenade for Winds in four movements. Each part is a contemporary facelift of an earlier composition, enhanced, updated and hopefully improved.
The first movement originated in a brass quintet I composed back in the 1990s as a doctoral student of Thea Musgrave at the City University of New York. It had a single dreadful reading by a student group at Juilliard and sounded absolutely nothing like it does now. The second was initially a piano piece I wrote sometime in the 1980s while I was practicing law in lower Manhattan, composing under the desk in my spare time. There’s a great tradition of this from Charles Ives in insurance, to Morton Feldman scribbling on his wall in the garment district. I stitched in the basic theme but gave the whole thing a do-over for winds. The third movement started out as a string quartet I composed in the 90s after I gave up studying with any teachers. It sat on my shelf for a quarter century until I blew off the dust and injected new blood. The finale is a radical rebirth of a piano piece I composed as a Yale Law student fifty years ago in the 1970s called “Honey Pie.” I played it routinely, and a number of other early compositions, in the law school dining hall while the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton dined and debated weightier things. They had to have heard it, but probably wouldn’t remember it, or me, even in our original garb.
All of these pieces, in short, are musical memories, archeological remains, skeletons from the past, restored, recycled and revived, emended, edited and elaborated, patched, polished and placed back in service. This is music created over half a century, a lifetime of composition, a contemporaneous retrospective, seeds brought to fruition, old wine in new vessels, or is it new wine in old vessels?
To their boundless credit, WSW performs music by living composers. I have heard and admired much of it. I often wonder how others compose; their music seems so imaginative and different, and sometimes better than my own. I could never write most of it myself. Composing for me is the art of self-acceptance, coming to terms with my own capabilities, limitations, instincts and identity as definitional, defining who I am, being true to myself. To paraphrase Montaigne, “I am myself the matter of my music.” I never wish to be self-satisfied or indulgent, and need to continue expanding my boundaries. But in the end, it’s about cultivating the courage to look myself squarely in the eyes, apart from anyone and anything else, and say, “OK, buddy, who are you?” and then trusting what I find, like it or not. If I can just do that — be me musically — and manifest myself authentically in whatever I do, I will be happy.
Previous Composers of the Month
Stephanie Ann Boyd
Derek M. Jenkins
Sonia Megías Lopez
Gregory Joseph Menillo