Bachelor of Music in Composition candidate, Annabella Cervero, was admitted as one of sixteen emerging composers to partake in the Saint Mary’s College Summer Composition Intensive in South Bend, Indiana this past summer. The Summer Composition Intensive consisted of twelve days of presentations, workshops, and lessons in different topics including Texture: Depth in Music, Joining Music Cultures, and Balancing Architecture and Emotion.
Q: Why were you interested in attending the Summer Composition Intensive?
Dr. Glancey introduced the idea to me. He thought attending an event such as this would help improve my composition skills and prepare me for graduate school. We found this particular composition intensive at St. Mary’s College through “The Composer’s Site”.
Q: How would you describe your overall experience?
I had a wonderful experience. I learned so much about composition, networking, and the reality of what life is like as a professional composer. I also met many amazing people. As the only composition major at Vanguard, I don’t really have the opportunity to collaborate with other composers very often. It was so refreshing to be surrounded by other composers for two weeks in Southbend, IN.
Q: Out of all of the different presentations and workshops you attended, which one stood out to you the most? Why?
I thought that every workshop and masterclass I attended was beneficial. I was most inspired by the workshop with Dr. Paul Salerni on the topic of art songs. However, the workshops that were most beneficial to my growth as a composer were the workshops with Dr. P.Q. Phan. The topics of his workshops forced me to get out of my comfort zone and compose in ways I had never tried before. For example, I have not spent much time researching or writing opera yet in my compositional studies, and in one workshop, I was given a project that required me to research, analyze, and compose an operatic monologue for a dramatic soprano in less than 24 hours. On another occasion, I had project that required me to abandon all of my musical intuition and compose a piece completely based on numbers. For this assignment, we were also encouraged not to use any instruments while generating our material, or even listen to the piece until it was completed. This was particularly challenging for me, because I am usually very auditory in my composing process, and I like using a piano when I am in the process of notating my ideas onto paper. This project forced me to really hone in on my written and aural theory skills to produce a completely technical piece.
Q: What do you think was the biggest lesson you learned while you were there?
In addition to all of the great lessons I learned about the art of composition, I also learned about the importance of networking and relationships in the music industry. Who you know is just as important as what you know. The composition intensive gave me a reality check on how challenging it is to make a living as an academic composer, and that you have to be willing to be flexible and versatile. Almost everyone who makes a living as a composer also teaches or performs in some capacity. Nevertheless, everyone I spoke to said that it was worth it. The key is loving what you do.
Furthermore, because there was such a wide range of age, experience, and skill level among the participants of the intensive, I had the opportunity to learn about grad school programs as well. It was a nice way to get me thinking about the near future.