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Composition courses at UNC intimate and successful

	Trinity Velez works in Hill Hall on her latest composition, a complex, eight-voice choral piece. Velez hopes to eventually work in Hollywood composing film scores.

Trinity Velez works in Hill Hall on her latest composition, a complex, eight-voice choral piece. Velez hopes to eventually work in Hollywood composing film scores.

Trinity Velez can imagine herself actually going to Hollywood from here.

“I feel like I’m on the right track now that I transferred to UNC,” said Velez, who transferred from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia after her freshman year. Velez said she hopes to write music for film scores.

She is one of few students studying composition at the UNC Music Department. For many of these student composers, writing music comes naturally.

“I wrote a song when I was in elementary school,” junior Ben Boecker said. “It was a piece for piano called ‘Swan’.”

Like Boecker, many student composers have had a passion for writing since childhood. But it wasn’t until studying at UNC that their innovation flourished.

The inspiration can be sudden. Alex Van Gils, a 2010 UNC graduate, remembers a time he procrastinated.

While writing a musical fanfare celebrating the opening of the Kenan Music Building with fellow composers at the University during his junior year, Van Gils had not found the time to fully develop his contribution.

“That night, I had a dream of a chord,” he said.

Such unexpected inspiration only hints at Van Gils’ — and a core group of UNC composers’ — dedication to music composition.

Boecker said he also found new inspiration from his composition classes.

“It is making something beautiful out of tools you would not normally use,” said Boecker.

Throughout their college career, the composers slowly build their own musical portfolio.

Each semester, they are encouraged to step out of their comfort zones, which often forces them to write for instruments they are unfamiliar with.

Not all of the students in the program intend to write music professionally.

“(The classes) really showed me what it means to be a composer in this day and age,” senior Jimmy Kylstra said.

While the futures for the composers vary, all said that they appreciate the skills, experiences and relationships they have gained from the intimate program.

“I wanted to be a professional composer, but that’s not an easy thing to do,” Kylstra said. The senior said that he plans to apply to law school.

And though some former students like Van Gils are still looking for work, the program is more about artistic development than quick job placement.

“I have started trying to think of myself as a professional composer,” said Van Gils. He is in the process of applying to graduate schools for composition.

Allen Anderson, a professor of music composition in the UNC Music Department, is also an integral part of the group of composers.

Classes are small, allowing for students to form close relationships and engage with one another’s music.

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“It forces them to make contact with colleagues,” Anderson said.

The composition classes expose students to both classical and modern, atonal music. There is also a strong focus on electronic music.

“There is a secret location (in the music building) with software and hardware dedicated to sound manipulation,” Anderson said.

The development of the classes and the growing innovation of the students has brought a fresh ingenuity to UNC, Boecker said.

“There is so much music creativity on our campus,” he said.

Contact the Arts Editor at artsdesk@unc.edu