Performing new work for the first time: UIndy student composers put their work on display in front of an audience at composers forum

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Performing at the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall, student composers will share their recent work at a composers’ forum on April 7 at 7:30 p.m., according to Professor of Music John Berners. Music therapy major Chloe Crockett said the forum will also be available to view via Twitch. Berners said the forum will have students at the University of Indianapolis sharing their best work, including multiple types of unique genres of music. 

“Music in all styles, genres and media are welcome; classical music, rock, pop, hip hop, electronica, everything because universities are about creative diversity, certainly,” Berners said. “We just try to get better at whatever kind of music we’re writing, crossing all style boundaries.”

According to Berners, participation in the event was open to students who submitted their work to him in order to have a chance to perform their pieces in front of an audience. Berners said he would then go through the pieces to see how he would want to incorporate the work into the show. 

“I’ll put up what we call a call for scores, and then there’s like an invitation for people to submit their music to be on the composers forum …. I’m trying to get composers from all over the music department, or even people who are not music majors, to just send me their music,” Berners said. 

Crockett said the process of submitting her work is like adding to a blank piece of paper. From here, she said she would add to the page with her work. 

“At the beginning, [it] is just a blank page with the lines, so I have to insert the clefs, the key signatures, the time signatures and then the notes, the rhythms, everything,” Crockett said. “I have to insert it and that’s called notating, and this is a score.… It’s like a playbook; it has all of our plays in it.”

Music therapy major Heather Dawson said she will be performing rag and pop piano songs at the forum. She said the piano rag piece took some time to develop; however, the pop song came naturally to her. 

“The piano rag was a lot more work involved, writing and then editing and finding things that worked, and putting them in the right order so that took a lot of work,” Dawson said. “The pop song was more of an intuitive process; it just kind of came to me.”

Likewise, Crockett said she is looking to perform and compose many different pieces for the show. Berners said the show offers an opportunity for students to showcase their work, which could be beneficial for them in the future. 

“It’s [the performance] also where your portfolio comes from, that you’re going to use for graduate school application or future work as a composer or creative person,” Berners said. 

Similarly, Dawson said she will look to provide her work in the future to those interested. Therefore, she said she is excited for the show to see the possible feedback she will receive. 

“[A positive is] being able to perform something you’ve worked hard on and receiving good feedback—or even bad feedback—and learning and growing from that, knowing how to improve your work in the future,” Dawson said. 

Berners said seeing the work of his students is an exciting moment for him as a professor. Therefore, he said he enjoys the opportunity to see his students’ work displayed in front of an audience, and how the students interact with others is important. 

“Part of this for the students is learning to communicate with performers, and be able to tell them in a very nice way, but a very constructive way …,” Berners said. “The composers who are responsible for all of that—and that’s exciting to watch them play that role and take on—it’s kind of like a leadership role or teaching role or collaborative role with the performers.”

According to Crockett, the show provides an opportunity for students to showcase new music rather than old music many associate with composing. Additionally, she said she is excited to share her work in a welcoming environment on campus. 

“What’s exciting about the composer’s forum to me is that you get to hear new music, there’s no pressure to have to sell tickets, like we’re just playing our music for each other, and who knows who could be in the audience, too,” Crockett said. “I think for me, it’s exciting to just be able to perform new music in a space that is accepting of it and supportive.”

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