Graduating composer’s original pieces performed

Friends, family and students of the music department gathered with community members in Ruth Lilly Performance Hall to listen to the work of student composers at the Student Composers Forum on April 2.

The music department offers students opportunities to experiment with writing music through the beginner’s composition course and private composition lessons for more advanced students.

Throughout the classes, students prepare lesson plans, listen to guest speakers and create pieces for the Student Composers Forum. These pieces are then performed at a show to allow them to share their music with the community.

Professor of Music Composition John Berners said he puts extra effort into not intimidating students during their creative processes.

“Sometimes students will come in and they’ll think ‘I’m writing this as an assignment for a professor so I have to do something different from what I normally do,’ and I try to not give off any of that vibe,” Berners said.

Gavin Craig, Cassidy Sparks, Pearce Edwards and Austin Money performed “A Noble Hope,” a three movement piece composed by Emily Larmore on Apr. 2 in Ruth Lilly Performance Hall. Photo by Kiara Conley

Students do not normally perform their own compositions; rather, they compose pieces that are performed on campus by other musicians.

According to senior music major Luke Garrigus, despite having done this for many years now, he still gets nervous when he hears his music played. While the audience’s experiences are important, the reactions from musicians that play his work are the ones that impact him the most.

“The audience hears the piece once and it usually goes well, the reactions are good, but the reactions that really gets to me are the ones of the musicians who are studying it,” Garrigus said.

Writing pieces can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, Garrigus said. “Spendens Requiem,” a piece written in remembrance of his wife’s beta fish, took only a few days to create, whereas “GOOSEZILLA,” a piece incorporating geese sounds recorded at the pond by Greyhound Village, took about a semester to edit.

For Garrigus, the show had special meaning: it was the last time he would hear his peers at the University of Indianapolis performing his original compositions.

Garrigus said that after moving on from the university following his graduation in May, he would miss working with Berners.

“I never feel pressured, but I feel inspired by him, and I’ll miss having conversations with him about the philosophy of music and about living composers now and listening to hilarious pieces of music together,” Garrigus said.

Although Garrigus will no longer perform with his fellow students, he realizes that he is still going to be doing what he loves and is excited to apply what he has learned at UIndy to his career in the near future.

“It’s really exciting in a lot of ways,” Garrigus said. “Because now I get to come back as a guest and listen to these concerts. So many people who have gone through the composition department are still composing….We are kind of doing the same thing the university is doing just on our own now.”