Flyover New Music Series features new compositions from UNL students

Josh Spaulding poses for a portrait outside of the Westbrook Music Building in Lincoln, Nebraska, on April 1, 2019.

When people spend months, maybe years, on something they’ve put their passion and time into, it can be daunting when the time finally comes to show off that work to the public.

Some students at the Glenn Korff School of Music said they are familiar with this feeling and will experience it during the Flyover New Music Series, a set of concerts put on by composition students who wrote their own musical pieces for other students in the school to perform. Students are not only required to dedicate their time to the composition itself, but to the concert production as well.

According to Josh Spaulding, a Glenn Korff graduate teaching assistant, having his music performed in front of an audience will always be intimidating, regardless of how many times it happens.

“Every time that I have a piece performed, there’s a little bit of nervousness,” he said, “When you’re creating something, you’re putting a piece of yourself out there for people to listen to and ultimately create an opinion on or create some sort of impression about.”

While that unease might be uncomfortable for some, it’s a feeling assistant professor Greg Simon said he believes every composer should have in order to strengthen their music skills and styles.

“I tell students that the composition process isn’t complete until their work has been performed by live musicians for an audience,” he said. “The whole point of making music is to communicate, and it’s essential that every composer have the experience of sharing their work with others, and also hearing your work performed puts you face-to-face with the compositional choices you’ve made.”

While each composer takes different amounts of time to create their pieces, Spaulding said the most challenging part of the process was the organization of it and getting everything in order, such as recruiting volunteers and selecting the instruments.

“There's a lot of things to be said that don't often get said enough about trying to get a bunch of people together and trying to get them on the same page and managing themselves,” he said. “Sometimes, you’ll have run-ins with people and kind of gently have to push them and be like, ‘Hey, we need to get this ready to go.’ You kind of have to work around that, and just like with anything, anybody can learn to improve those abilities and skills.”

However, Simon said most of the students he talks to have trouble during the beginning of the process, specifically with trying to find the tones for their pieces.

“When presented with a blank page, it feels a bit like going hiking without a map; you don’t know which way leads to a beautiful, mountain-top view and which way leads to a hive of angry bees,” he said. “Lots of composers that I talk to get stuck here, and it’s one of the most important things for composers to learn, which is how to break themselves out of the fear and paralysis that comes with beginning to write.”

Simon said he wants student composers to try to be competent as possible without continual assistance from faculty while writing their pieces.

“I don’t imagine my job to be giving students a set process to follow as much as I see it as helping them answer the questions that come up during the process,” Simon said. “Often my experience comes in handy — I’ve been there, and I can help them navigate the challenges before them — but it’s not everything.”

According to Spaulding, people may be hesitant about attending performances at universities because the music is presumed to be more classical. However, he states the Flyover New Music Series breaks that stereotypical image.

“People are usually surprised when they come,” he said. “We’d like to think because of the wealth and diversity that we have in our composition students here, we get a lot of different people that have different influences, and I really think that speaks to a wide audience in general.”

The Flyover New Music Series will take place on April 5, at 7:30 p.m. in Kimball Recital Hall. Admission is $5 for the general public and $3 for students and seniors. The concert will have a live webcast of the performance on NET Nebraska’s website.

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