As a music composition student at Western Michigan University, there are many opportunities to learn, collaborate, and have your work performed. Each year the composition faculty organizes readings of student works by professional ensembles and masterclasses with visiting composers. The composition studio organizes four concerts per year in which student composers collaborate with WMU musicians and artists in other disciplines such as dance. Additionally, we have two important internal annual competitions.
The Franklin G Fisk Composition Award is a yearly award made to a young and promising composer in the WMU community. It is made possible by a generous donation of the Fisk family in commemoration of Franklin G. Fisk, a former professor at WMU and integral member of the community who loved and supported classical music throughout his life. The award is externally adjudicated and the recipient is provided with a cash prize and a performance of the winning work by WMU’s new music chamber ensemble, Birds on a Wire.
The Ron Nelson Award is annually awarded to a composer at WMU for the commission of a new work of “peaceful music” for a large ensemble, rotating between symphonic orchestra, wind ensemble and choir. The commission includes a cash prize, performance of the new work, and guidance by both the composition faculty and the ensemble director throughout the process.
Once a year the School of Music hosts a music festival titled the New Sounds Festival. Two concerts during this festival consist of works by student composers. The student composer group is involved in the organization, promotion and production of the concert. Additionally, we have a variety of performances by visiting artists and composers. Recent years have included concerts by the premiere new music ensembles the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and Dal Niente, Rome Prize recipient James Mobberley, and Dither Electric Guitar Quartet, among others.
There are annual readings of student wind ensemble works every fall semester and readings of orchestral works by student composers each spring semester. The composition studio regularly organizes additional reading sessions with guest ensembles.
The composition area works to foster entrepreneurial skills in our students. We encourage student composers to have their works performed off-campus. We offer support in lessons and a class on professional development to prepare composers for professional careers. The composition faculty assists students in the preparation of their scores and recordings for external opportunities, readings, competitions, and festivals as part of private lesson instruction.