What's been your favorite experience as a Music student at UB?
I would have to say two things. Firstly, our weekly seminars promote open and frank discussions that generate insights which have been extremely useful in shaping how I perceive my role and craft as a composer. I often feel impressed and humbled by the acumen and lucidity with which my colleagues and Professor Felder share their thoughts. Secondly, students are given the opportunity to work closely and regularly with world-class ensembles and performers. I will never forget sitting in with the Arditti Quartet, terrified and insecure, then my fear gradually melting away as they worked through my piece. At the end of the session, I felt a bliss that is hard to describe but that I can only imagine is the sort of creative ecstasy all composers seek.
Have you had any opportunities for one-to-one mentorship?
Ours is a small department, and I have felt a personal connection with each member of the faculty or staff with whom I've worked. Whenever I've looked for guidance and encouragement, I have found it. What I like about our department – something that had been mostly absent in the previous schools I attended – is the supportive relationship between performance faculty and composition faculty.
There is no mentorship without a good deal of quality time spent learning from someone you respect. Professor David Felder has fulfilled that role for me. I always leave our weekly sessions feeling equal parts inspired and inadequate: inspired by his insightful suggestions and advice, inadequate for thinking, "Why did I not think of that before?" This is a powerful combination of emotions, one that in my experience has driven me to do better and be better. Professor Felder's complete honesty makes his criticism come from the right place, in which he really wishes to see the student's growth, and it also makes his commendations sweeter.
How has your time in the UB Department of Music prepared you for the future?
I have loved teaching here. It hasn't been easy, but it has been rewarding for me, and hopefully for my students too. I feel that, just as I have been maturing as a composer, so have I been getting better as an instructor as well, and I value this development just as much. However, as I continue past the halfway point of my time here, the time in which I can fully focus on composing is getting nearer in the horizon. I am very excited for that last year when I can devote my full attention to my dissertation piece.
I think and hope that my experiences here as a composer and as instructor are preparing and enabling me to be an enticing candidate to future job openings. I also trust that the relationships I have formed here, both with the people at UB and those who have visited us for various reasons, have transformed me into a composer with a clearer vision, excellent techniques and overall just a more decent human being.