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Friday, Oct 15, 2021

Mercer Composition Studio to present second annual Student Composers Recital

Denzel Washington (left) and Bethany Moss (right) will both feature their individual compositions at the upcoming Student Composers Recital.
Denzel Washington (left) and Bethany Moss (right) will both feature their individual compositions at the upcoming Student Composers Recital.

The second annual Student Composers Recital is coming up on Feb. 23, which will feature student composers from the Townsend School of Music at Mercer University.

The student recital will take place at the Neva Langley Fickling Hall on Mercer's campus, beginning promptly at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“What do you want to start? What are you interested in?” said Dr. Christopher Schmitz, Associate Professor of Music Theory at Mercer.

These are the questions he asks his composition students before they begin writing a new piece of music.

Each new piece begins with a “research phase [by students], listening to the masters,” said Schmitz.

The upcoming recital will feature a variety of music from instrumental composition to choral pieces, but Schmitz said that all student works can be considered art music. In the same regard, the evening will feature many different instrumentations, including a piece with violin and piano and three pieces with chamber choir.

Many of the students who will be featured at the recital have already taken music theory or beginning composition courses at Mercer.

Schmitz said his role as music theory professor is to “put the tools in [the students’] hands.”

He said his presence is “just to facilitate the exploration for the students.”

Nathan Holmes, a sophomore voice major and composition student, has written a choral piece entitled “Kyrie.” The piece involves twelve vocalists, including himself, which will be performed at the upcoming recital.

“Composition is using the stuff we learned in theory such as harmony, melody, [and] form . . . we also learn about different composers' techniques and then try and write other certain pieces based off of the composers we learn about,” Holmes said.

“I created [“Kyrie”] because I have an immense passion for choir,” Holmes said. “I fell in love with the beauty of a choir at a young age and I wanted to write a beautiful piece that expresses that love in every possible way.”

Additionally, Holmes said the upcoming recital gives the student composers the opportunity to work with performers, which in his opinion, will be a valuable experience for the future.

“It gave me a fundamental understanding of the building blocks of music,” said Mercer junior Bethany Moss about her experience studying music theory with Schmitz.

Moss has written a composition for violin and piano, titled “Waltz for Violin and Piano.” She will be playing the violin in her piece and senior Hannah Loeffler will be performing the piano part.

“Early last semester, the [Robert McDuffie] Center for Strings recorded ‘Concerto for Violin, Rock Band, and String Orchestra’ with Robert McDuffie and Mike Mills from R.E.M. The [fourth] movement is a beautiful waltz, and really inspired me to write my own waltz,” Moss said.

Additionally, she said the student composers recital gives students from the Townsend Composition Studio the opportunity to publicize their works, perform them in front of a larger audience and have the pieces recorded.

“It is a great opportunity for the community [to] experience concert music of the 21st century,” said Denzel Washington, a Mercer senior.

Washington is a saxophone player, and he has composed a piece of choral music to be included in the concert.

The title of his composition is "The God Who Made the World" for a four-part choir and piano.

It features quoted text from the Book of Acts in the Bible, chapter 17, verses 24 and 25 (New International Version).

“The song will be conducted by [Mercer graduate] student Cannon McClain and the piano performed by Zach Smith of the Bearitones,” Washington said.

Washington added, “this recital is a one of a kind opportunity for Mercer and Macon to experience a glimpse of the future of music in the present.”

“It is a chance that shouldn't be missed,” he said.

Schmitz said that he enjoys watching the student composers’ ability grow from year to year.

“I'm really not excited over one piece to another… I'm excited for all of them!” Schmitz said.

Many of the pieces that will be featured at the upcoming recital were completed over the course of last year. However, some have been completed over the past couple weeks.

Since their pieces were finished, the students have been working on their compositions and rehearsing them in preparation for the performance. “A couple of [the compositions] are brand new. Most of these are world premieres,” Schmitz said.

He said he hopes to encourage people, including community members, to continue supporting new music and consider coming to future concerts.

“Anyone who is interested in or enjoys music should attend this recital . . . We have all worked hard on these pieces and are excited to share them with the community,” said Moss.  

For more information on the student composers recital visit the Townsend School of Music calendar page at


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