Music composing students partner with local church event

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BYU music composition student Asher Bay works on his interactive audiovisual art installation Wave Lapse. (Asher Bay)

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Provo hosted Avant Vespers X March 1, a composition concert that showcased BYU and UVU composition students’ works.

The monthly event started when BYU composition and theory professor Christian Asplund approached St. Mary’s to start an avant-garde music series blended with a vespers for an evening service in the church.

“This Avant Vespers X will feature the compositions of both UVU and BYU student composers,” said Serena Kanig Benish, the community music outreach coordinator for St. Mary’s. “It is an excellent opportunity for both the students and the audience to hear the wave of the future in composition.”

Benish said Asplund acts like a curator for a museum as he gathers new and innovative composers with compositional techniques, ultimately presenting varied programs.

Music composition senior Asher Bay participated in Avant Vespers X and said he had been working on interactive audiovisual art since last semester.

Last semester I created an interactive audiovisual art installation called Wave Lapse, which included projected visuals and ambient music created in real time from the user’s vocal input into a microphone,” Bay said. “It’s going up for one more night on Thursday, March 7, at the BYU MOA.”

Bay said he had an untraditional route to music composition. He started via popular music, unlike his classically trained associates.

I studied commercial music for two years, but my tastes pivoted toward certain contemporary electronic music genres I’d become aware of, so I changed majors,” Bay said. “I have had great opportunities to explore my aesthetic voice in the program.”

Camille Mikat and Tom Fairholm rehearse for a performance. (Fairholm)

Thomas Fairholm, a junior in the BYU music composition program, said his first instrument was the piano. Though Fairholm had a difficult time sitting still to play, he said his love for piano sparked interest in exploring more about the instrument and eventually led him to write music.

“I started putting pen to paper in high school,” Fairholm said. “My first pieces were for piano, but then I branched out and tried writing for my friends in choir and wind ensemble.”

Fairholm said he has done pieces with dancEnsemble, a student-led contemporary dance group. He teamed up with student choreographers and composed the music for their dance pieces.

“Earlier this month, I had a suite for cello performed at a concert conceived by another student in the School of Music, Christian Hales,” Fairholm said. “The idea was to reimagine the contemporary music concert experience. We tried to introduce new music to an unfamiliar audience in a more informal communal setting.”

BYU music composition senior Erica Peterson also participated in the Avant Vespers X event and talked about her experiences with music composition. Peterson said during her senior year of high school she put music composition at the top of her list when it came to schools she considered.

“My mom had a high school friend who is a composition professor at BYU, Dr. Steve Ricks, so in the fall of my senior year we took a trip up to Utah to meet him and discuss how to get into the program and if it would be a good fit for me,” Peterson said. “In January, I auditioned and got accepted.”

Peterson said BYU has helped her improve her abilities and she can now compose for virtually any instrument or ensemble. Peterson noted that her favorite instrument is the human voice, and she writes at least one piece with a singer each semester.

“For the Avant Vespers concert I’m putting together the program,” Peterson said. “The students all picked various jobs to contribute to the success of the concert. The piece I composed for this concert is called ‘Shall We Meet Beyond the River?’ and is for string quartet and a baritone singer.”

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