Student Chosen as Orchestra Composer-in-Residence

Music grad student Christian Jesse to premiere work with Irving Symphony

Christian Jess

Christian Jesse, a second-year master’s student in the music composition program at SMU Meadows School of the Arts, has been named the Student Composer-in-Residence with the Irving Symphony Orchestra for its 2018-19 season.

Launched in 2011, the Student Composer-in-Residence program is a unique partnership between SMU Meadows and the Irving Symphony Orchestra (ISO). Each year, an undergraduate or graduate Meadows music composition student is selected to serve as a composer-in-residence with the orchestra and to create a commissioned work to be premiered by the ISO. It is the only known program of its kind between a professional orchestra and a university music department.

Jesse’s work, A Soldier’s Memory, will premiere at the ISO’s concert on November 3. It was commissioned to fit with the concert theme, “An Evening at the Movies and a Tribute to Veterans Day.”

“I come from a family of veterans, and with this opportunity I wanted to express my love and support for the military and contribute in my own way to my family’s military legacy,” said Jesse. “The work deals with different emotions and thoughts that returning soldiers have as they come home from deployment – from thoughts of heroism to the special moments of being reunited with their loved ones, and even moments of PTSD flashbacks. While there are aspects of celebration within the piece, overall I want to tell a more realistic story of a soldier’s journey. I couldn’t be more excited to be part of this concert!”

An annual competition to select the student composer-in-residence is held by a committee composed of two members of the SMU composition faculty and ISO Music Director Hector Guzman, who earned a Master of Music in instrumental conducting at SMU in 1983. Faculty select three finalists who show the greatest potential, have demonstrated ability to score for orchestra, and have the maturity and work ethic to successfully complete the residency. Maestro Guzman then makes the final selection of the student he feels would be the best fit with the ISO’s repertoire and audience.

In addition to working closely with Maestro Guzman, Jesse will participate in ISO educational outreach programs and other orchestra activities as part of his residency.

“Being selected for this residency was an incredible honor, especially knowing the amount of talent and creativity in our composition department,” said Jesse. “I have learned so much under the tutelage of Dr. Robert Frank, the professor I’m working closely with on this project and my thesis. We share many of the same interests and his knowledge of many different film scoring techniques was able to help me grow within this piece and overall as a composer. I am very excited to be working with Maestro Guzman to learn more about the internal workings of an orchestra and to see how I can best contribute to a professional performing arts organization.”

“Christian’s music has always shown a direct emotional connection with his audiences, and with his family background including a number of veterans, this project seemed ideally suited to his talents,” said Dr. Frank, associate professor of composition at SMU Meadows. “It is exciting to be able to give our top students real-world professional experience via this opportunity, one that few professional composers are ever able to have. Christian has creativity and skills along with the strong work ethic that point towards a successful career as a composer, and I am thrilled to be mentoring him.”

Jesse will receive his M.M. in composition at Meadows in spring 2019. He earned a B.A. in music composition at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where his awards included the 2016 Edna and Judson Loomis Prize in Music, and first place in the 2016 Wisconsin Alliance for Composers’ Student Composer Competition (undergraduate division) and the 2017 Spring University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Concerto Competition for Composition. With a passion for writing in all mediums, he has composed works for various ensembles, musicians, video games and film. He continues to explore new sounds, techniques and genres as he works toward his dream career: composing for film and video games.

Jesse is the sixth SMU student selected for the ISO Student Composer-in-Residence program. The first was Vince Gover, whose “Let Us Begin Anew…” (a quote from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech) premiered in November 2011 at an ISO concert honoring the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s inauguration. Succeeding winners included Alvin Trotman, who premiered Jubilee in November 2012; Jesus J. Martinez, whose Harmonic Tremor was performed in February 2014; and Michael van der Sloot, whose work Cascade was presented in March 2016. Last year’s winner, Olga Amelkina-Vera, developed her award-winning guitar quartet piece Cattywampus Rompus (Texas Tarantella) into an orchestral work premiered by the ISO in April 2017.

The Irving Symphony Orchestra is a professional orchestra that provides signature performances for North Texas and regularly features renowned guest artists. Under the music direction of Maestro Guzman, it annually presents six concerts in its subscription season, four multi-media free youth concerts for more than 6,000 Irving middle school students, and free family, community and educational events. In addition to Jesse’s work, the November 3 concert will feature a Veteran’s Day celebration and music from such movie classics as Star Wars, The Magnificent Seven, The Patriotand more. For tickets and more information about the ISO’s 2018-19 season, visit here.