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Student Highlights - The Composers

The Composers

UMaine student musicians put their own spin on sounds

Some of them hear our world differently. Others just communicate most effectively through notes. The best know instinctively that they can build a better mousetrap.

They all think outside the box.

The result: inventions with the potential to add to the repertoire.

Composer Beth Wiemann knows these enterprising students well. If serious student composers are at the University of Maine, they eventually end up at her office door in the School of Performing Arts, armed with a portfolio of compositions and arrangements that they started in high school or completed in the beginning of their college careers.

These are the students “predispositioned” to putting their own spin on sounds.

“Some are naturally drawn to playing with noise,” says Wiemann, a UMaine associate professor of music who offers advanced courses in composition for students with portfolios. “Composing is having fun with sound.”

For other music students, Wiemann also teaches a general music composition course in which each has to write a woodwind solo, a song and a chamber work for more than two instruments. Students also have to develop an electronic piece from sounds that they record and modify themselves.

The bottom line is how to effectively communicate through music.

Composing and performing are not always symbiotic. Typically, performers interpret the music on the page. Seeing and hearing music often triggers a different response in composers.

Wiemann remembers being a junior high school student contemplating becoming a singer/songwriter until she found herself in the choir and thinking, “Some of this music doesn’t work and I can do better.”

Many a composer starts just that way.

In any given year, Wiemann has three or four student composers who come to UMaine with portfolios and a desire to perfect their passion with her mentoring and the advice of other School of Performing Arts faculty. Each comes with different skills, educational needs and repertoire. Wiemann mentors one-on-one, composer to composer.

“I respond to what they do, suggesting ways to make (the music) clearer and better for the performers,” Wiemann says. “They have to write with the goal of satisfying the performers, the audience and themselves. For instance, if they’re writing music to portray a certain mood, they need to be sure the performers are getting that off the page and can then get that across to the audience.”

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