CUA Composers Bring New Pieces to Life

Composers benefit from hearing their own works performed as much as possible this is one of our most important beliefs. At CUA, we work to provide numerous opportunities for your work to be read, rehearsed, and performed.

Each semester, the composition area presents a recital, for which all composers (majors and minors, as well as faculty members) are encouraged to submit pieces (formerly known as Composition Division Recitals). Composition Area recital programs will typically include new chamber works for instruments or voices such as string quartets, piano trios, mixed instrumental pieces, song cycles for voice and piano, and electronic music. All of our division recitals are recorded and made available to student composers so that they can hear their work after performance and employ those recordings in other contexts (such as applying for competitions or grants). 

These recitals are usually administered through our composition seminar, a course that all composers take together during their time at CUA (undergrad and graduate). Within the composition seminar, there might also be special group composition projects, as well as readings by outside visiting ensembles. 

Both the Chamber Choir and the CUA Symphony Orchestra typically dedicates an entire rehearsal each year to reading and recording student orchestral works. In 2016, we started a composer-in-residence program with the Wind Ensemble: this project allows a student (typically one of our MM or DMA students) to forge a relationship with the ensemble from the start of the academic year, resulting in a work, usually premiered on the ensemble's spring concert, that is tailor-made for the group. 

Another opportunity of which we are quite proud is the annual Christmas concert commission. Each year, a CUA composition student (typically a graduate student) is commissioned to compose a piece for the Chamber Choir and Orchestra to be programming on the University's annual Christmas Concert, held in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (every fourth year, a faculty member receives the commission). This concert, televised internationally by the EWTN network, represents an important milestone for the commissioned composers, providing them with a global audience and often representing their first orchestral performance.

Sometimes, students are also asked to create new arrangements or orchestrations for the Christmas concert. Other ensembles, such as the CUA Women's Chorus, have commissioned and performed works by student composers, as well. Cooperating courses and groups such as the Musical Theater Workshop and Opera Workshop have also rehearsed and performed student works. Our students have also been active as composers and music directors for the Centerstage student-run theater company. 

Each Labor Day weekend, students in the MM Composition, Stage Music Emphasis program have new theatrical pieces or pieces-in-progress presented at the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage Festival.