June 2, 2023

UMW Student Composers Perform Works at UMW and UVA

UMW student and alumni composers had performances of their music at the Hurley Convergence Center on Friday, Feb. 19, and at Open Grounds on the campus of the University of Virginia on Feb. 20 as part of a composer exchange with UVA coordinated by Assistant Professor of Music Mark Snyder.

The program Friday night consisted of Powers for banjo, harp, electric guitar, electric bass, euphonium and timpani, Psychotropic for fixed media and Con todo mi corazón  for soprano, banjo, keyboard and electronics by Mary Paige Rodgers ’16, Invocation for banjo, harp, electric guitar, electric bass, euphonium and timpani by Michael Prime ’17, Hazel Colored Nebula  for piano, harp, electronics, electric bass and  bass drum, Gridlife for fixed media and Cloud for soprano, piano and electronics by Austin O’Rourke ’17, Fortune for banjo, harp, electric guitar, electric bass, euphonium and bass drum by Justin Carrico ’15, Sorrows Weep Not for oboe, guitar and electronics by Stephen Hennessey ’15 and Tarragon for fixed media by Becky Brown ’15. Performing in the concert were Becky Brown: harp, Justin Carrico: electric bass, Stephen Hennessey: electric guitar & classical guitar, Mary Paige Rodgers: banjo: electric guitar, Austin O’Rourke: timpani, bass drum, electronics, synth and piano, Margeaux Ducoing: soprano, Gracie Hardy: clarinet, Danny Arslan: piano, Michael Prime: euphonium, Michael Morley: oboe.

The program at UVA included the same personnel, but added Becky Brown’s Hold Still for live art and electronics and Stephen Hennessey’s Ausgang for processed guitar & electronics. It was held at Open Grounds, a modern manifestation of Jefferson’s founding principles, as it encourages collaborative, cross-disciplinary work across the University. OpenGrounds connects scholars, researchers, artists and external partners in ways that will generate innovative results.

Mary Paige Rodgers is a graduating senior at UMW. She will earn a BA in Music with a minor in Business Spanish. She is primarily a steel string guitarist, but enjoys playing banjo and writing electronic music on the side. Powers is a tribute to Mary Paige’s great-grandmother, who passed away. The piece evokes an emotion of life and magic, because Mary Paige always imagined her Grandmother Powers that way. Con todo mi corazón is Mary Paige’s most recent piece that processes vocals and banjo through Ableton Live. This piece has phrases repeated in both English and Spanish, and tells a story about life and love. Psychotropic is a piece Mary Paige wrote using lines from the 1985 documentary Children of Darkness, which focused on the controversial treatment of young patients with mental illnesses.

Michael Prime has been studying music for 8 years, his instruments including euphonium and harp. He is currently a junior at the University of Mary Washington, double majoring in Music and Computer Science, and studies composition with Dr. Mark Snyder. Invocation was largely influenced by the 5th movement of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath.” Invocation tells a story of witches during a ritual, beginning with the initial gathering and moves on toward the beginning of the rite itself. The piece then moves to a calmer section as the witches see their spell starting to take, and culminates with the completion of the ritual and the ancient spirits freed.

Austin O’Rourke (b. 1995) is a composer, producer, songwriter and performer studying music composition with Mark Snyder at the University of Mary Washington. Austin’s compositions have been described as “organic,” “touching” and “incredibly emotional.” His works have been presented at the EABD, Root Signals, N_SEME, the West Fork New Music Festival and his piece “Hazel Colored Nebula” has been awarded 2015’s ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award. After his studies, he aspires to focus his work on video game music composition and sound design. Hazel Colored Nebula is a piece dedicated to the aesthetic similarities between irises (avg. 12mm in diameter) and the star-forming gas clouds called nebulae (avg. 8,000 light years in diameter). Gridlife is a piece composed exclusively of iPhone recorded sounds and processing. It is dedicated to transforming a tangible place into a stress dream. Cloud is the three-dimensional object formed from the water-colored brush strokes of a cloud being painted in our sky.

Justin Carrico recently received his Post Baccalaureate degree in music from the University of Mary Washington. He plans to begin graduate studies for composition in the fall of 2016. The late romantic composers as well as modern electronic musicians influence Justin’s compositions. Fortune is a word with a somewhat ambiguous meaning. Semantically it can mean good, bad, wealth or merely the future. The title, much like the piece, can be interpreted differently depending on context. This work was originally composed for concert band, and its realization as a nontraditional ensemble is a testament to Fortune’s malleability.

Becky Brown is a 2015 Music and Computer Science graduate of the University of Mary Washington, studying electro-acoustic composition with Mark Snyder, and harp performance with Grace Bauson. She has been a performer of Dr. Snyder’s music at festivals including SCI National and Regional Conferences, Ball State New Music Festival, Third Practice and Electronic Music Midwest, as well as in his guest artist appearances at numerous universities. Her own works have been performed at Root Signals, the Electroacoustic Barn Dance, and West Fork New Music Festival. In addition, Brown has engineered or assisted on recordings in a wide range of genres, and composed music for theatre and dance. She is the tech director of the Electroacoustic Barn Dance at UMW. Artemisia dracunculus is my favorite spice; it adds an un-sugared sweetness to savory foods that I have come to depend on. Specifically, a combination of mushrooms/balsamic vinegar/garlic/tarragon is more ubiquitous in my diet than almost anything else I can cook in a pan. I have come to accept this as a natural extension of my tendency to over-listen to songs I like, making Tarragon a piece about mashing the repeat button of food. Hold StillA multimedia self-portrait, 2015. Pencil, copper, and Arduino on paper, poetry and video in Max/MSP/Jitter. Drawings anchor my memories far better than photographs; poetry tells my stories better than prose. This piece is more true to me than I am to myself.

Stephen Hennessey earned his B.A. in Music from the University of Mary Washington in 2014 where he studied composition with Mark Snyder. He resides in Central Virginia, pursuing an oneiric aesthetic that confuses the boundary of human and computer/raw audio and synthesis, while serving The Electroacoustic Barn Dance as Programming Director since 2014. Sorrows Weep Not is an abstract song: a sentimental statement for severe want of words. Its binary form is modeled after the track “Vowels” off the 2003 EP “A Quick Fix of Melancholy” by Norwegian avant-garde group Ulver. All electronic sounds are produced through the live performance, and are realized within Ableton Live/Max4Live using both native and community-produced patches. Ausgang is a sentimental  work  structured  around  the  development  of  a  simple  melody through  episodic  processing.  Source  material  for  the  electronic component  is  generated  entirely through the live performance, and is realized within Ableton Live, using both standard devices and community-produced Max4Live patches.

Gracie Hardy is a freshman studying Music and Historic Preservation at the University of Mary Washington. She grew up in a small town in Eastern Oregon, where she began her music studies. For six years Gracie was member of the Eastern Oregon University/Community Band, where she enjoyed studying under Teun Fetz. In high school Gracie placed first in the District Solo Competition on clarinet in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and competed at the Annual Oregon State Solo Competition twice. She also competed with her high school band at the Annual State Band Festival twice. Gracie has been fortunate to study under Sharon Sanders, Jeff Sizer, Teun Fetz and Katie Fetz. She is involved in the University of Mary Washington’s Small Instrumental Ensemble, the Concert Band, and takes private lessons from Doug Gately. Gracie plans to pursue her passion in music performance on clarinet.

Danny Arslan is a third-year music student at the University of Mary Washington. At 20 years of age, Danny enjoys performing many different genres of music, but is primarily focused on his classical studies.


Singer, illustrator and competitive dancer Margeaux Ducoing currently lives in Fredericksburg, Va. Born in California and raised in Louisiana, Margeaux is a fifth-year senior at the University of Mary Washington where she double majors in Music and Studio Art and minors in Museum Studies. Her main instrument is voice, as a soprano, while also trying her hand at piano and ukulele. She has performed in different UMW ensembles such as the UMW Choir, UMW Chamber Choir, Philharmonic, and the all-girl a cappella group BellACappella; and has worked with composers Austin O’Rourke and Mary Paige Rodgers on collaborative pieces. Outside of school, Margeaux also performs in the rock cover band Satie Quintuplets.