TWU music students enter the musical hothouse

What if someone said to you: “Ok, here's four days. Sit down; write a marketing plan for our company and our sales representatives will execute it in one week.” Or, perhaps that person gave you a theatrical script and said, “You have four days to memorize your part, we'll be performing it for the public in a week.” Would you panic or rise to the challenge? Five Trinity Western University music students were offered a similarly frightening opportunity—but they're counting on success.

In mid June, in the span of four days, these senior students subjected themselves to an intensive study of chamber music composition in a rigorous retreat-like environment, during which they each created a four to six minute composition piece. The students chose their own ensemble, selecting from the piano, cello, flute, violin (or viola) and mezzo soprano. In addition to a pressured timeline, the students were highly motivated to perform well. Their compositions will be performed for the public by an ensemble of Vancouver professionals at a contemplative arts liturgy on Saturday, June 21.

“It's like a hothouse,” says David Squires, PhD, Associate Professor of Music at TWU. “The intensive retreat idea is significant because students in a normal semester context don't get this type of opportunity. I don't usually say to a student: ‘You've got four days to complete a piece’. Part of that is because students often need time to sift ideas, and other classes interrupt their thinking. One of the potential hazards with this four-day course, however, is that students can't afford to spend two days with writer's block, so we'll be helping them work through those issues.”

According to Squires, having paid professionals available to play and an audience eager to listen, is any composer's dream—let alone a student composer's dream.

“In terms of complexity and technique you can generally write what you want for professionals,” says Squires who will also be composing a piece for the liturgy. “Composition students don't usually have that luxury because they're most often writing for fellow students or for amateurs. So this time, these students will have no limits,” he says.

TWU students in the program will not only have the practical experience of writing for a professional ensemble in a specific performance context, they will also be taking home a CD to document their experience. These music composers include recent alumna Stephanie Mason ('03) of Aldergrove and fourth year students Luna Hung of Richmond; Jin-Young Kang of Surrey; Darren Kroeker of Calgary; and David Richert of Powell River.

Co-teaching with Squires is jazz flute specialist Rob Des Cotes, Director of Imago's Vancouver Arts Network and pastor in Vancouver. Both Squires and Des Cotes consider this class a “trial run” in terms of their dreams for Vancouver's music and arts in years to come.

“We'd like to develop something larger next year where we’ll have composers, visual artists, actors, media artists all performing together. We envision a little festival where this can all take place and where the artists can work interactively for a short period of time. So we see this as something to build on.”

Event: A contemplative arts liturgy featuring performances of composition by TWU music students; entitled: “He breathed on them...‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”

Date: Saturday, June 21, 2003

Time: 7:00pm

Location: Fairview Baptist Church; 1708 W. 16th (between Burrard and Grandville)

Cost: None

Contact: David Squires, (ph) 604-888-7522 ext.3469, (email); or
Rob Des Cotes (ph) 604-313-9780, (email)

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a not-for-profit Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,200 students this year. With a broad based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 38 major areas of study ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 other graduate degrees including counseling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2015-07-13
Author: Keela Keeping