For senior David Voss, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Music Composition, Lawrence is one of the best places to explore and experiment with artistic and musical talents.
Although he does not come from a very musical family, Voss explained his introduction to piano and composition. “I would start doodling around and eventually I think between ages nine and ten I just started learning how to write it [music] down. And so I just kind of went from there.”
On campus, Voss has been involved in Viking Chorale and the Improvisation Group of Lawrence University (IGLU). While he had friends who encouraged him to join IGLU in the past, it was not until the micro-opera show at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center that Voss realized he wanted to be part of this project that involved working with both Director of Opera Studies and Associate Professor of Music Copeland Woodruff and IGLU. Reflecting back on his first improvisatory opera project with IGLU, Voss commented, “That was a really cool opportunity at the PAC talking about inclusion and feelings of not belonging, and it involved members of the community. I played piano in the bathroom. It was kind of a weird little thing, but it was fun!” In addition to this, Voss appreciates the interdisciplinary nature of the student organization and the unpredictability of the performances.
Assistant Professor of Music Stephen Sieck has been a favorite director that Voss has worked with because “he really helps you not only stay focused and keep on track during rehearsals but also just gives you all of the materials that you need to do your best with the pieces.” Voss said that Sieck had a large influence on his decision to join Viking Chorale.
For composition, Voss has worked with both Associate Professor of Music Joanne Metcalf and Associate Professor of Music Asha Srinivasan. “Something that’s kind of nice and unique about composition is that they actually encourage you to study with one [professor] and then another—kind of go back and forth.” He started working with Metcalf his first year, Srinivasan his next two years and now is back with Metcalf his senior year, and it has been interesting and inspiring for Voss. “I’ve worked with both of them and they have different teaching styles that really compliment one another.”
At present, Voss is working on both his piece for the Composer’s Forum as well as finishing up rehearsals and putting on the final touches to his senior recital on Feb. 20. The Composer’s Forum, Voss explained, is a project where two or three composition students have the opportunity to edit a piece for the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra. Voss is currently working on a full orchestral piece that is a “re-working” of a piece that he composed his freshmen year. The Composer Forum is not only meant to give students the opportunity to write for a full orchestra and work on orchestration, but it also provides these experiences and projects to contribute to their portfolios for graduate school. “It’s interesting because I’m working so hard on getting my recital together for the 20th [February] that it’s been a weird balance trying to write this piece on the side while also, like, organizing seven different rehearsals every week.”
Like many students, Voss sees the challenges and great opportunities that Lawrence has to offer. “Lawrence is very intensive, and the prospect of applying to graduate schools […] while Lawrence is happening is just a bit too much for me.” He hopes to take a gap year and live with some friends in the Chicago area where he will be able to see different opportunities for arts organizations or arts management jobs. Graduate school is a definite possibility in the future, and Voss is looking forward to the many opportunities that composition and music will give him.
For aspiring composers, Voss states that most people are afraid of composing or do not want to compose because they have not composed before or are scared that it will be bad. However, he encourages people to compose and practice over and over “because that’s the only way you really improve.” Even if it means being pushed outside your comfort zone a little bit, Voss has embraced the fact that it is okay to not always like what you have written or produced. As for his senior recital coming up, Voss states, “I think people will hear just a large variety of sounds and different techniques. Whether I leave Lawrence continuing in this style, or this style, or trying this technique, just the fact that I’ve been able to try it and have written pieces in that style is really important.”
Voss will be holding his senior composition recital on Saturday, Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. In addition, IGLU and the Ensemble Thinking Dance class will collaborate on a performance in and around the Wriston Art Galleries on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m.