For its final performance of the school year, the Delta High School concert band performed a piece composed by Mary Mixter, an accomplished trombonist in the band before she graduated from Delta High School in 2007.
Her love for music took her to CU Boulder where she received degrees in trombone performance and composition.
The next step is grad school at the University of North Texas. Until next fall she is back in Delta working on her compositions and picking up some money with a couple of part-time jobs.
Mary developed an interest in composition when she was a teenager, and in her senior year at DHS wrote a song that was performed by her classmates entitled "Pluto." After taking orchestration classes at CU Boulder, and learning how to combine instruments to get the sound she was after, she wrote "Wahoo Bay," the piece that was performed last week. By comparison with her earlier work, Mary says "Wahoo Bay" is more "nuanced" and has more subtlety.
It's one thing to jot down some music on a piece of paper; it's another to hear a band breathe air into those notes. "I think they were challenged by it, by the sound and by the time signature," she said. She added she was very pleased with the final result.
The composition started with a sketch, a scribble drawing of how Mary wanted the piece to be structured. Then she came up with different melodies, again drawing on her orchestration class where she learned the different roles each instrument can play. "Once I had all the different melodies, I decided how to layer them off each other and which instruments would play what." There's a variety of resources, including books and notation software, to help with that process, Mixter said.
Mary was inpired to write "Wahoo Bay" after a mission trip to Haiti about a year ago. On the last day of her trip, the group went snorkeling at a beach resort with a beautiful coral reef. "I was thinking specifically of the coral reef when I wrote this piece," she said.
"Wahoo Bay" comes from the French word for calm, which took Mary in the direction of Debussy. His Impressionist compositions are characterized by separate ideas that aren't connected but flow into one another.
As she sat in on band rehearsals, Mary made a few changes and adapted the parts for missing instruments. For example, the DHS band has no oboe so a solo Mary had intended for that instrument instead went to the flute. She also wrote parts for a bassoon and a baritone sax, but the band has neither.
Mary believes there is a future in writing music, particularly for high school bands. That's one reason she chose the University of North Texas, because it's recognized as one of the top composition grad schools in the country. She will be majoring in composition with concentrated studies on trombone. Eventually she would like to earn a doctorate degree and teach in a university. Most professional composers also teach, she said, because it's hard to make a living solely by writing music.
For her senior recital at CU she wrote a piece for trombone and percussion, and she's trying to finish an opera that she started three years ago. "I love opera because I like to think of music as telling a story or portraying some kind of event," she said. "And opera can be so theatrical."
She has vowed to finish the opera before she starts grad school in the fall. Her other interests are reading, birdwatching and scrapbooking.blog comments powered by Disqus