Twenty-three years ago, composer Gwyneth Walker put it all on the line. She left her faculty position at Oberlin College and moved to Vermont so she would have more time to write. She would live off her publications, she decided.
It was a risky move, one that outside of the high commerce of Hollywood or pop music, few composers would even contemplate.
"I knew from experience that there would never be enough hours in the day to teach and compose adequately. I didn't see anybody else [making a living just composing], but I felt I would never forgive myself if I didn't try," said Walker last week from her Vermont dairy farm.
Walker is in residence Tuesday through Thursday at the University of Toledo. Her music will be featured in a faculty recital on Tuesday, a student recital on Wednesday, and a large ensemble concert on Thursday. She will spend her days coaching ensembles and participating in a panel discussion on composition.
With a catalog of over 120 published pieces, Walker is proof that composers of noncommercial music can make a living at their craft. For her, composition is passion, technique, and business.
Walker writes some five hours daily, relaxes in the late afternoon (preferably on the tennis court), and cleans up the loose ends of music business duties in the evenings.
When pressed to describe her musical style, Walker called it "very American, Aaron Copland with a sense of humor."
In others words, Walker writes music with grass-roots appeal.
"My goal is to write music that people will enjoy, will want to hear again and again, and also purchase. You have to put great care into your piece. You have to make sure it is logical and doesn't ramble. It needs to get to the point, say something, and then stop.
"When we study composition in music school, the focus is on harmony. But when you get out, you need to be thinking about whether your music will be singable by the local chorus, playable at the library," said Walker.
Gwyneth Walker will be in residence at the University of Toledo Tuesday through Thursday. Events related to the residency include a faculty recital at 8 p.m. Tuesday and a student recital at 8 p.m. Wednesday, both in the Center for Performing Arts Recital Hall. Large ensembles perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Doermann Theater, University Hall. Walker participates in a panel discussion on the art of composition at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Center for Performing Arts Recital Hall. Panel members also include UT faculty and Matthew Armstrong.
Contact Steven Cornelius at: firstname.lastname@example.org