October 26, 2016

By Simon Goodacre | Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Two students and one alumna were awarded commissions from the Barlow Endowment Fund earlier this semester. The Barlow Endowment for Music Composition was established at Brigham Young University in 1983 to engender and support excellence in musical composition. The gift, presented by Milton A. and Gloria Barlow, supports four programs: The Barlow Prize, General Commissions, LDS Composer Commissions, and Education Grants. There are no restrictions regarding musical style, nationality, age, gender, race, religion, or political persuasion of the composer.

Todd Kitchen, PhD candidate in Music Composition and Theory, will compose a piece for the Brevitas Choir. “A lot of my composing deals with the relationship of an ensemble to its constituent parts and how they behave individually, in small groups, or as a whole,” he says. His piece will be written for a large choir with organ. “I'm still working out the permissions for the text I have in mind,” he says, “but I might be setting a quote by the French composer Olivier Messiaen.”

Joseph Sowa, also a PhD candidate in Music Composition and Theory, will compose a piece for English horn player Geraldine Johnson. Sowa writes music “to surprise and delight [his] listeners.” Writing for classically trained musicians, he aims to compose “music with vivid sounds and a sense of adventure, but also with a bunch of details to discover on subsequent hearings.” He does not have specific plans for the Barlow commission, but he knows that it will involve piano and English horn, and last about twenty minutes.

Tina Tallon, MFA ’13 will compose a viola piece for Kurt Rohde. Tallon is currently pursuing a PhD in composition at the University of California, San Diego. “I am very honored and excited to be one of this year’s recipients of a Barlow General Commission,” she says. Her composition, ‘excision no. 2,’ for solo viola and live electronics will premiere next year as part of Rohde’s Farewell Tour Project.

Sowa is very enthusiastic about his Brandeis experience. “I love both the supportive, family feel of the department as well as its educational quality,” he says. “I've had lessons from many composition professors, and the teaching at Brandeis is world-class.” Kitchen agrees that the faculty are “very helpful,” and notes that they provided constructive feedback on the pieces that he submitted for the Barlow commission. “All three of the composition faculty at Brandeis are tremendously supportive and insightful,” says Sowa. “They've helped me explore and answer the technical questions that have been nagging me since my undergrad days.”