Composing is next step for aspiring musicians


Courtesy of: Sam Stroup

Charlie Lincoln performs at the Ice House as a guest musician. Lincoln plays gigs at least once a month.

Maggie Fisher, Features Editor

“Just like in any language that we learn, it is an important thing for us to be able to write in the language of music…It helps [students] appreciate what it means to put something together for an orchestra, band, or choir,” the band teacher Eric Sayre described the importance of student composing.

Composing offers students a chance to not only gain a deeper understanding of music but also express themselves creatively. However, because South doesn’t offer a music composition class, students often have to either teach themselves or go to an outside resource to learn to compose.

The orchestra and piano teacher, Lorie Hippen explained,”There are many skills involved [in composing]… You have to have a basic knowledge of music theory, notes, chords, phrases, all the elements of music come into play.”

At first, student composer and bass player senior Charlie Lincoln, struggled to develop his own music when he began composing. “I would write it and then not really go anywhere with it. I didn’t know how to make them into full fledged pieces.”

Sayre elaborated, “A lot of people want to begin to write music and don’t have the tools to be able to. So, to not only want to write but have the tools to put them on paper and share them with other people is a pretty uncommon thing for [Lincoln’s] age.”

Lincoln, who has a background in both Jazz and Rock and Roll, began composing his own music sophomore year. Sayre attributes Lincoln’s ability to compose to his background in Jazz.

Sayre explained “As a Jazz musician you’re getting the tools to compose but you’re not composing; you’re playing, creating solos or bass lines. So it only makes sense that from his studies in Jazz and in theories he was able to compose.”

Lincoln learned to compose due to listening to other musicians play their original pieces. However, another way South students can learn to compose is through Lorie Hippen’s keyboard class. In this class, they learn to read and create music.

Junior Leo Naughton-Herbach has taken the stepping stone the class provided and now composes music in various ways. Naughton-Herbach composes music with instruments and creates it on computers.

“There are a lot of cool creative things that you can do on computers that you can’t really do normally by people playing instruments. It’s cool to make music that can’t be played,” Naughon-Herbach explained. “When you make music, it’s not for other people. It gives you the satisfaction of making something,” he added.

Similarly, Lincoln expressed that he began composing because of his desire to create original sounds and music that are unlike anything else. “I could play what I wanted, rather than playing what other people played.”

Not only does Lincoln see composing as a way to express himself, he also believes that it’s the next step towards his goals of, “being an original artist that is true to oneself and expressing oneself honestly… [and] making money.”

Hippen added, “A well-rounded musician can not only read and perform music from a technical standpoint, but can also interpret it and have artistic freedom in how a note should sound as well as creating your own music. It’s a very important and significant part of a well-rounded musician to have the knowledge and the tools that it takes to be successful in composition.”

Additionally, composing offers a chance for students to receive recognition. “It’s difficult for people of high school age to get recognition for music stuff, especially if they are only doing covers,” explained Lincoln. “You can be a great band but if you’re still doing covers you don’t get recognized as much. Playing original music for either Rock or Jazz is a way for students to get recognized.”

Lincoln has seen the rewards of composing first hand. Since beginning to compose, Lincoln has been able to perform his music. He has played his songs at places like the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and Jazz Central. On October 31st, he even released an album with his band Yardang.

Yardang includes another South student composer and long-time friend of Lincoln, junior Sam Stroup. Stroup describes his recent music as, “a musique concrete type of music with electronic and acoustic instruments and non standard noises and instrumentation.”

The experience of performing and sharing original music is very important to composers. Naughton-Herbach wants to remind people that when you create music it should be for yourself because creating something that you’re satisfied with is essential.

Lincoln describes playing original songs for an audience as, “Musically, its the most rewarding thing I can imagine. It’s fun to play other peoples songs and play them really well, but it’s a totally different experience performing something you’ve created. You get a sense of pride and ownership of your art that I really crave.”