Music composition students are hitting the stage with debuts of their original work this week, played live for an audience for the first time ever. Every piece is student-written and student-performed.
Cannon Shane, a fifth-year music composition student at the University of Montana, will showcase two original works in the upcoming New Music Missoula concert, on Thursday, Nov. 7. The concert is one of two the composition program hosts every year.
The concert has no genre constrictions, so there will be a wide variety of instruments and musical types, from a string quartet to electronic. Every student performing is a volunteer.
Shane will conduct a clarinet choir piece they composed and will play their electronic piece called “A Walk in the Park.” Their score for the piece features a stick figure man and tells the story of his “walk through the park.”
Bryan Kostors is the sole professor of the program. This is his second year teaching at UM. He came from teaching at the University of South California in Los Angeles, and took the job in Missoula because he felt the place would give him new focus in his own work. He gets a lot of inspiration from nature and landscapes.
Kostors “has a good way of going about things, and he encourages whacky ideas,” Shane said.
Composition students are required to take group classes on composition their first two years in the program, then one-on-one lessons with Kostors for the remaining years. Students create two substantial pieces each semester. The personal lessons are there so Kostors can help each student with their unique needs.
“We can talk about the mechanics of putting the notes on the page,” Kostors said. “But, the idea of ‘How do you convey an artistically relevant musical thought?’ That’s a really strange thing to teach in a lot of ways. Because it’s so abstract.”
Last week, Shane brought two wind chimes to their lesson, one bamboo and one gold-colored metallic. Kostors and Shane played with the chimes, attempting to get different pitches from them and deciding how best to deal with the dangling pieces that wouldn’t stay in place. The unorthodox instruments are part of a piece Shane is still developing that will likely be played during the program’s spring concert.
As for the fall concert, Kostors said he hopes to see some non-music students in the audience. He said chamber concerts are often seen as stuffy events, but his shows aren’t like that. He hopes more students will come to support the work of their peers, and see what the music program is all about.
Shane believes music is a great way of communicating with the world. “It’s a universal language that everyone understands, and everyone can listen to and enjoy, whether they know a lot about it or not.”
New Music Missoula is on Thursday Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m., in the recital hall in the Music Building. Student tickets are $5 and regular tickets are $11.