Musical Master Class
Professional Performers Perform, Critique Compositions by OWU Students
A polished rehearsal is an excellent payoff to a challenging music composition class. But a master class featuring real-time sight reading and critique from professional musicians? That’s more the Ohio Wesleyan way.
Students in professor Jennifer Jolley’s Applied Composition classes participated a recent master class with Transient Canvas, a bass clarinet and marimba duo from Boston.
Comprised of Amy Advocat (bass clarinet) and Matt Sharrock (marimba), Transient Canvas has been called “nothing short of fabulous” by The Boston Musical Intelligencer, with innovative performances that “invite new sounds, fearless and unapologetic.”
Five Ohio Wesleyan composition students began writing pieces for the duo in September. All pieces were then sight read during the Nov. 16 master class, which was open to the public.
“We like doing reading sessions like this to show students how it affects rehearsal time in an ensemble,” Sharrock told the audience during the class.
“This is a great example of OWU’s theory into practice,” said Jolley, D.M.A., an assistant professor of music who joined OWU in 2012. “This is more effective than a rehearsal because professional musicians are not only reading through my students’ sketches, but they are also critiquing their music and giving them practical information that I could not otherwise give to them.”
Jolley said this is the second time a professional group has led a master class for her composition students. In 2014, her students wrote pieces for the chamber group Conundrum. In 2016, Jolley’s faculty colleagues helped students by holding a master class with brass quintet pieces the students wrote.
Two students critiqued by Transient Canvas were Noah Green ’21 and Axel Fuentes ’21.
Green’s piece, “Rain on the Window Sill,” was inspired by a summer trip to Costa Rica. “I wasn’t expecting to do much with composition in college,” Green said. “I picked the class up in the middle of the semester. And I’m glad I did.”
Fuentes, a self-proclaimed “sort-of composer” who specializes in electronic music and string orchestra composition, titled his piece “Oh-Woo, Oh-Whoops” after a saying he and his friends made up, inspired by the Freshman Orientation chant of “Oh-What? Oh-Woo!”
“When things don’t go so well, like one of us misses a class or forgets homework, we say, ‘Oh-Woo, oh well,’” he laughed. “I made this piece reflect how messy my life is by putting it in an odd time signature, 5/4.”
Stuart Cox ’21 opted to write a solo piece for the bass clarinet. He was inspired by the sonatas and concerti of pre-romantic artists like Mozart and Beethoven and wrote the piece specifically for the bass clarinet to hear how a Mozart-inspired sonata would sound on an instrument that didn’t exist when Mozart was composing.
Jesselyn Martich ’20 was inspired by Han Zimmer’s piece “Time” when she began writing her piece “To & Fro.”
“The whole piece revolves around this idea of time and motion, such as the pendulum in a clock, or Newton’s Cradle,” she said. She named the piece after the back-and-forth motions used to play the marimba.
Mi So Yoo ’20 titled her piece “An Everlasting Voyage.” It was inspired by a love tragedy she read while traveling in Japan this summer. “I wanted to portray two major emotions, anticipation and anxiety,” she explained.
Jolley says one of her favorite parts of master classes is learning from the visiting musicians along with her students.
Sharrock said he was especially impressed with how neat and well-written each piece was, noting that students appeared to have a good grasp of their forms. He pointed out particular details in each student’s piece he enjoyed and noted where in each piece he enjoyed playing the most.
Learn more about Transient Canvas at www.transientcanvas.com and more about Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of Music, including its music composition major, at www.owu.edu/music.