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Video: Music students and faculty inspire each other through education, performance

November 14, 2008

For senior Lisa Neher, the college experience culminated in a transformative lesson: learning to break the rules. A testament to her instruction in Lewis & Clark’s composition program, Neher is heading toward graduation armed with classical training and prepared to share her musical voice with the world.

“Starting out as a composition student, you’re learning the nuts and bolts, like music history and orchestration,” said Neher, a double major in music and theatre. “But then a course I took in 20th century composition changed everything. I gained so many new tools and learned ways to break away from everything that came before. It’s not that I’ve totally cast off Mozart, but I feel now that the doors are open for me to explore my own work.”

Neher’s experience is by no means an accident. Lewis & Clark’s composition program is designed to guide students toward such revelations.

In this video, Assistant Professor of Music Michael Johanson and first-year student Will Preston discuss the nature of composition at Lewis & Clark.

“Ultimately, we hope that by the time students leave, they’ve begun the process of finding their unique personal voice,” said Assistant Professor of Music Michael Johanson. “That’s not an easy thing to do, and, like any creative art, it’s an intensely personal experience. As a composition instructor, I’m here to offer a sounding board through that process.”

Preparing for the future

For Neher, who will graduate in December, the culmination of that journey is near. Her senior recital—the capstone experience in composition—will take place November 16, bringing together more than an hour of original music, with more than 30 performers.

“The recital is easily the most time-consuming thing I’ve ever done,” she said. Her recital includes a 40-minute opera with parts for 18 musicians.

“The process of rehearsing with performers has been incredibly informative,” Neher said. “The feedback you get from your peers tells you if you really expressed yourself technically and artistically.”

After graduation, Neher hopes to head into a master’s program in voice and says she may pursue a career in academia.

“The academic environment is where many classical composers in the United States are working, interacting, and finding an audience for new music,” Neher said. “Having seen the experience of faculty here, who are engaged in the realms of teaching, performing, and self-education, I recognize how fulfilling that could be. The faculty are involved in dynamic performances and working together on their own music, which is inspiring to students.”

Faculty performing on campus

One such dynamic, faculty performance that has been inspiring students is the contemporary music ensemble, Friends of Rain. The ensemble, formed in 2005, brings together around 35 faculty members from the music department to perform contemporary music twice a year.

“A contemporary music ensemble made up of faculty is somewhat rare,” said Johanson, director of Friends of Rain. “It’s a vehicle for the faculty to share their talent and energy with the community at large, and students’ responses have been wonderful.”

Friends of Rain will perform its fall concert on November 21 at 8:00 p.m., with a program of several works written for smaller chamber groups.

“This feels like such an exciting time to be in the music department here,” Neher said. “The number of student composers is on the rise, there are so many opportunities to interact with music, and there’s a great energy in the air.”

*Two senior recitals will take place November 16 in Evans Auditorium: Neher begins at 2:00 p.m. and Courtney Moss begins at 8:00 p.m.
*First-year student Ashley Morgan produced the videos above. 

For more information:

Emily Miller
Public Relations Coordinator
503-768-7960
emilymiller@lclark.ed