NH Concerto Competition 1: The Lads from UNH

Sign Up For Our FREE Daily eNews!

artsribbon

The lads from UNH. Ink Link Arts and Culture – New Voices. New Creators.

A 21st Century Approach to 19th Century Music.

Second in a multi-part series.


The New Hampshire Concerto Competition

Just before 7:30 p.m. on November 8, 2023,  11 college students from across the state of New Hampshire filed into Keefe Auditorium in Nashua.  All music majors, they were the finalists chosen to represent their schools at an  “orchestra read session.”  The NH Concerto will be the culmination of the College Composition Project created by Symphony New Hampshire.  A unique opportunity for serious undergraduate college musicians and composers to create a sample piece for professional consideration.

cP UNH at SNHconcerto DSC7562 ©KeithSpiroPhoto

These finalists were there to hear their works played by a full orchestra.  Not a MIDI (musical Instrument digital Interface), the modern tech equivalent of an old fashioned player piano roll, but the real thing. Professional musicians, conductor, judges and minor edits with feedback.  Four of those compositions were more recently selected to create The New Hampshire Concerto that will premiere on April 20, 2024 at the New World concert.

Who Does That?

Symphony New Hampshire came up with this way to engage young people seeking professional careers in music. The University of New Hampshire, Dartmouth College, Plymouth State and Keene State all participated. The real reward was each of the 11 students that came that night had their composition read and recorded by the orchestra with a copy to be made available for their portfolio.

Each received feedback and suggestions from Maestro Roger Kalia and members of the symphony. Each had the thrill of giving and getting input and hearing the changes in real time with real musicians. This is the music world’s equivalent of a fast track entrepreneurial opportunity. Dramatically taking place years faster than most aspiring musician/composers  ever get a chance to hear their work performed.

The Whole Community Benefits When You Share What You Learn.

The professors that accompanied the students all mentioned how much they appreciated this project because it gave them an opportunity to talk to each other. Students became the community of composers in apprenticeship roles and their teachers had a working group from which to share and prepare their students.

Continuing to explore where doors are open and opportunities exist across the arts, I present the undergraduate college students voices.  Hear directly from them what this New Hampshire experience and opportunity meant to them. Wesley Coffin represents at the NH Concerto.

The Lads from UNH

cP UNH at SNHconcerto DSC7543 ©KeithSpiroPhoto
First to arrive, from left, Michael Crowley, Wesley Coffin and Kyle Cook. Photo credit | Keith Spiro

Wesley Coffin, Kyle Cook and Michael Crowley were the cheerleading squad for their fellow students.  They arrived earlier and stayed later than anyone else. Perhaps, in part, because Durham was the closest location but these guys were supportive of everyone and were the catalysts for conversation among the students.

cP UNH at SNHconcerto DSC7836 ©KeithSpiroPhoto
The very last to leave. Maestro Kalia, seen from the stage, gave freely of his time and his knowledge. Photo Credit | Keith Spiro

Wesley and Kyle shared their thoughts through my Q & A:

Wesley Coffin

Q. How did you first get interested in music as a career?

My name is Wes Coffin. I’ve always loved music. Since I was an elementary school, I would always look forward to music time, and try to play each instrument as best as I could. However, I stepped away from music during my middle school years in order to focus more on sports, which was a lame decision looking back. I didn’t join my school band until my sophomore year of high school, but it completely changed my life. It had awoken this latent passion within me, and ever since, I knew that I wanted to compose music for a living.

Q. What was your first impression when you learned about your opportunity to participate at the reading in Nashua?

I was excited to write for a professional group! It’s neat to have a competition that’s actually tailored to the state I go to school in. I was eager to see what I could do with the concept of writing a piece about NH, considering that I was born and raised in Maine.

Q. What was it like to go through the reading with a live Orchestra?

It was interesting, in that the reading time is so short for each piece. It was also cool to hear some really fantastic players play the sample I composed. It gave me confidence that the final product could turn out to what I envisioned it could be.

Q. How did it feel to get real time feedback from musicians and Maestro Roger Kalia?

This felt so awesome! I loved being able to approach Maestro Kalia with feedback after the musicians played. He was very receptive to the feedback and efficient with the short amount of time he had. It was cool how he gave his genuine emotional reaction to each person’s sample; the level of investment from him felt so good.

Q. Several people commented and compared the experience to the current practices of using MIDI. Thoughts you might want to share here?

Well, MIDI certainly can’t match a live performance. There are just so many little details of a live performance that a computer can’t capture. As a composer who utilizes lots of aleatoric elements in my music, I don’t get to hear what it really sounds like until real musicians get their hands on it.

Feel free to share anything you’d like about your experience

I’m really pleased by how approachable and kind everyone at the festival was. It is so reassuring to feel support in competitive atmospheres, such as this.

Share Some Support For Wesley Coffin


Kyle Cook 

Q. How did you first get interested in music as a career?

My name is Kyle Cook, and I first got interested in music after attending a new music concert by one of the Berklee College of Music jazz bands. This concert featured exclusively student-written compositions, and it was awe-inspiring to hear a bit about what the pieces entailed and what it meant to the composers.

Q. What was your first impression when you learned about your opportunity to participate at the reading in Nashua?

I thought that it was a great opportunity! Any chance to get music off the page is one that any composer should take as an opportunity to improve their writing.

Q. What was it like to go through the reading with a live Orchestra?

It was definitely an eye-opening experience. Working with an orchestra is something I had never done before,  as my typical medium is band. Even with the short time there, I learned a vast amount, from orchestral writing, to how different musicians and conductors interpret different expression symbols.

Q. How did it feel to get real time feedback from musicians and Maestro Roger Kalia?

It felt incredible to know that someone of that stature respects my composition and was interested in hearing something I had written. It was also my first time meeting Maestro Kalia and the musicians of Symphony NH,  it gave me a lot if insight on how to work with groups I haven’t worked with before.

Q. Several people commented and compared the experience to the current practices of using MIDI. Thoughts you might want to share here?

MIDI is a great way to hear what a piece sounds like in terms of pitches and rhythmic accuracy, but it feels so robotic and lacks a ton of the expression and tone color you get from real musicians.

Q. What are two highlights from the process that might change your approach going forward? 

One of the biggest things I have to look at is expression markings, especially with how they relate to string bowings. In rehearsal, adding a single slur changed how the strings bowed that passage, thus changing the sound. Another change would also be to better familiarize myself with how different instruments function in an orchestra.

Q. Feel free to share anything you’d like about your experience

It was an incredible experience; it was a pleasure to meet everyone involved and hear some great compositions from friends and colleagues who participated.

Show Your Support for Kyle Cook:

Give Kyle a shout-out about his senior recital Sunday April 7 at 8 p.m. at UNH, Durham NH.

Kyle Cook senior recital
Congratulate Kyle Cook for this next milestone. Image source | Instagram post

The New Hampshire Concerto premieres at Symphony New Hampshire’s New World Concert, April 20, 2024. The concert ends with Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, “From the New World.” Inspired by the spirit of African-American spirituals and Native American music that he heard during his travels in America, the work is a fitting tribute to New Hampshire, the spirit of the people who have come before, and those that will come after us.

 

new world2
New World — Dvořák and Sparr with Rosanna Moore, harp Saturday, April 20, 2024. 7:30 PM 9:15 PM
Keefe Center for the Arts (Nashua)

Details and Tickets available here.


Subscribe to our daily eNews and never miss another thing!

* indicates required

Subscribe Now and Never Miss Another Thing!

About this Author

Keith Spiro

Advisor & ContributorInk Link News, Arts & Culture

Business Strategist, Community Builder with a keen interest in working with high-impact startups and other organizations that can make a difference in community and health.