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The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News


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Composers’ Forum shows students’ semester-long work

Alli Hausman
Karrin Estes sings while Jacob Ramage plays the guitar to Ramage’s composition titled “Home.”

The Composers’ Forum was hosted at Doudna Fine Arts Center on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. to showcase the work of this semester’s composition students. 

The performance featured the compositions of five music students, each in a different style. Volunteer student musicians performed at the compositions from Eastern’s music department.  

Professor of music composition and technology Brad Decker was beyond pleased with the work his students put out this semester, he said. Decker coordinates the composition division of the music department and teaches composition lessons at Eastern.  

He described the composers’ forum as the culmination of his students’ work this semester.  

“The composers’ forum is always my favorite event of the semester,” Decker said. “Of course, I’m extremely proud of what they’ve done all semester. I always look forward to it.”   

According to Decker, the students had many responsibilities going into the performance. Not only did they need to have completed compositions, but the students were also responsible for finding their own performers, scheduling rehearsals and rehearsing the score.  

“As a composer, you have to learn how to find and reach out to performers,” Decker said. “From student-to-student, peer relationships are really important in building that rapport.”

Typically, Decker said, the performers rehearse one to three times before the performance, often late at night or on weekends.  

Composer Jake Reeley performs his piece “Pygmy Tyrant” on piano. (Alli Hausman)

Caden VanSwol, a sophomore audio recording and technology major who attended the performance, was very impressed with the show. He said composing was very difficult to do and that it was a huge accomplishment for the composers involved to get to show off their music.  

“I loved it,” he said. “I liked the different types of music. I really liked seeing all the different aspects they [the composers] portrayed” 

VanSwol’s favorite piece of the night was “Behind the Glare of Neon” by Sam Sennett.

The three-movement piece is composed entirely electronically and features no live performance. Instead, the work used synthesizers in a music making software called Ableton and is played with a video—also made by Sennett—featuring pictures nighttime cityscapes. The approximately 12-minute-long piece intends to invoke the feeling of a dystopian, futuristic city, Sennett said.  

“As an audio tech major seeing the composition feature so much technology gave me a lot of ideas,” VanSwol said. 

For Sennett, the synthwave inspired piece was a way to get back to his roots as a composer, he said. As a senior music composition major, Sennett has written music in many styles. However, he started out composing in the electronic style heard in “Behind the Glare of Neon.” 

This semester, Sennett said he wanted to take a step back and have fun. He wanted to bring together the music he started out creating in Ableton and all that he has learned in the past year at EIU.  

“It’s a lot looser than the other pieces I’ve done, which were very very like symbolic,” Sennett said. “It’s a mix of wanting to convey a story but also wanting to make something that sounds really good and just have a good time.” 

Sennett figured out he wanted to compose when he was very young, he said. He specifically recalled the inspiration he felt after listening to the Super Mario Galaxy soundtrack on the Nintendo Wii for the first time. 

“That was the first game that showed me that music can be more than just sounding good, like, it can convey and tell stories all by itself,” Sennett said. 

Sennett is considering going to graduate school following graduation. Ideally, he said, he wants to end up composing video game soundtracks with an independent game company based in the Chicago area.  

While Sennett was nervous for how the audience would react to his piece before the performance, after the performance Sennett said he was feeling very proud. 

One of the other composers featured in this semester’s composers’ forum was senior music composition major Jacob Ramage.  

Ramage had two works featured in the composers’ forum: “Flame” and “Home.” The connected pieces featured vocalist Karrin Estes, pianist and fellow composer Jake Reeley and Ramage himself playing guitar.  

The compositions, Ramage said, were made in collaboration with Stacia Farris, a poet and friend of Ramage’s from when he attended Mattoon High School. Farris’ poems were used as the lyrics, titles and inspirations for “Flame” and “Home.” 

Performer Makayla McPhedran belts out a note while performing Mason Kurtz’s composition titled “Home.” (Alli Hausman)

“Her work is free-verse and kind of heavy in subject matter, so I wanted to make sure I did it justice; I tried to match the music to the tone of each poem,” he said.    

Farris’ poems reference childhood and youth but take on darker themes the further one reads into them, Ramage said. Ramage wanted to show the gradual change in tone in his composition through shifting harmonies and other changes in techniques. He said he drew upon elements of jazz music for both works as well.   

Ramage said he ran into a few obstacles with his piece prior to the performance.  

“I don’t write lyrics often, so finding ways to fit a line of a poem into a musical phrase that I have mostly arranged already was tough,” he said. 

After the performance, Ramage said he was feeling pretty good. He said he was very happy with the roughly 50-person turnout for the event, saying that was a larger crowd than previous years 

“It’s really fulfilling knowing people want to play and hear my music,” Ramage said.  “It’s great to know people care.”  


 Alli Hausman can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].








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Alli Hausman
Alli Hausman, Copy Chief
Alli Hausman is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].

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