Concert to feature student compositions

Chaela Krueger, Contributing Writer


Benjamin Damann, a junior music composition major, finds inspiration from a number of different sources.

He has composed pieces inspired by poems from authors such as E. E. Cummings, but recent works of his have also tackled harsher topics, such as the chemical attacks on Syria.

“My compositions can range from very intense to something like a carnival ride,” he said.

At the Student Composition Forum 7 p.m. Thursday in the Doudna Fine Arts Recital Hall, Damann and other students will present works they have composed.

One of these pieces, called “Jehjnu,” Damann originally wrote for his father, who had recently returned from fighting in Afghanistan.

“Jehjnu” was written with a smoother melody to help soothe his father’s physical and mental well-being.

Damann likes the variety and uniqueness that is involved in composition.

“It is nonconventional and lets you think outside the box; that’s what I enjoy the most,” he said.  

Under the direction of music professor Bradley Decker, Damann has been pushed and encouraged in and out of the classroom.

“(Decker) diagnoses my weaknesses, not in a negative way, but so I can learn from them,” Damann said.

Jessica French, a junior music composition and Asian studies major, agreed that Decker is encouraging.

Because he is relatable, French said she is comfortable with the professor.

“He takes that intimidating divide away that some professors have with their students,” she said.

French said the most challenging part of composing is simply starting a piece.

Sometimes, French said, she gets stuck, similar to a writer getting writer’s block.

As the president of the Asian American Association, French was able to study abroad in South Korea for two semesters.

French said Korea was a beautiful and unique place, inspiring her to write the piece “Ode to Korea,” which will be played at the composition forum.

“It kind of sparked something inside of me and I realized I had to do something about it,” French said.

The song starts off with soft, gradual chimes followed by many high and low notes to emulate how she perceived Korea.

“As the listeners hear it, I hope they will imagine the mountainous landscape and the beautiful cherry blossom trees,” she said.

At the forum, French will be performing her own work and conducting an ensemble as well.

French said she gets nervous conducting in front of a large audience, as she does when performing.

“There is still so much to learn.  You have to be specific about what you want, but be encouraging at the same time,” French said.

Decker said he understands it is hard conducting and writing for some people.

When starting a composition, his best advice to his students is not to worry about making mistakes.

Decker admires his students’ work, and said his students feel satisfied when their semester-long composition is ready for the stage.


Chaela Krueger can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].