Please tell us about yourself.
I come from a small town called Fountain City, Wis. I’ve got a mom and dad that I love and appreciate beyond words, and a sister that I butt heads with a lot. Despite the sibling rivalry, I’m thankful for all my time with her. I have a dog at home named Ollie and two cats, Binx and Simba.
How did you hear about Concordia and why did you choose to attend college here?
I first heard about Concordia from a former band teacher of mine, Rodger Luttio. I was at play practice during my sophomore year of high school and I was thinking about what to do with my life. I asked him where he had gone to college and he said Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. I figured if I could go to a place where they taught people to be as cool as him, maybe I’d turn out all right. My heart was pretty much set on coming here as soon as I saw that they offered a music composition major and, after a campus tour, I knew this was the right place for me.
What do you enjoy about the Fargo-Moorhead area?
I think this place is the perfect size. It’s big enough that it seems like there’s always something to do and small enough that I’m not overwhelmed by the size of the city. It’s a perfect middle ground where I can go to Twenty Below just off campus and people there know my name, and I see people I know when I’m out on the town. Plus, the community is amicable in general. There are always new folks to get to know.
What campus activities are you involved in?
I do a lot of miscellaneous things on campus. The thing I’m most active in is The Concordia Choir. I also did some work for the theatre department this semester and, of particular note, I wrote a Passion of Christ that was premiered by Campus Ministry. My co-collaborator, Joe Koroll, and I assembled and rehearsed a choir to premiere the score, as well as enlisted the help of a chamber choir I used to be a part of called Tactus. In addition, I’m the former director of Concordia’s Shanty Choir, so I’m pretty involved in music and such around campus.
Carmen and Dr. Michael Culloton, conductor of The Concordia Choir
What is your favorite Concordia tradition?
My favorite Cobber tradition is singing “Silent Night” during the Concordia Christmas concerts. The energy that washes over the audience from the first to the last chord is incredible.
How did you decide on your areas of study?
I knew I wanted to be a composer since I was a sophomore in high school. I downloaded music notation software and started writing choir pieces, and I never really looked back. I branched off and started writing all things: piano works, brass quintets, and so on. In my senior year, I took a piano piece I wrote to state solo and ensemble and scored a 1, which is about as good as you can do in Wisconsin. As far as the psychology minor goes, I’ve always been fascinated with the field. My curiosity never really stopped, even in college, hence my minor.
Do you have a favorite course or professor and why?
I don’t think I have any course that was my favorite. Pretty much every single one was a good course. The same goes for professors. Honestly, there’s no one that I like better than anyone else. Pretty much all the professors I’ve had classes with are people that I highly respected and appreciated in some way or another. While I’ve established a more friendly dynamic with some professors, I don’t really have true favorites.
You recently premiered a passion piece that you composed. What did that process look like for you? How long did you work on the project?
Composing the passion was definitely the highlight of my Concordia career. I loved every minute of the process and looked forward to rehearsing it with my friends. I composed this work over the course of about four years. It’s a summary of my time at Concordia and what it taught me. It’s 13 movements and about 50 minutes of music. My process for composing this piece basically looked like me sitting down about once every couple of months and writing the next movement. So not only do you get to hear me change moods between movements, you get to hear me grow as a composer over time.
What did it feel like to premiere a piece you wrote and have your friends sing it with you in the choir?
It felt incredible. Not going to lie, I cried when I first listened to it. I had this wash of emotion and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, we did it, and it sounds great.” It was a really great experience singing with my friends. I loved the setting.
Who have been your biggest inspirations and/or mentors in music and composition?
My biggest inspiration is other composers. As a composer, I spend lots of my time listening to different music and I find inspiration in just living. Being alive is the biggest inspiration someone can have. The human experience is the greatest composition teacher I’ve ever had. That and Drs. Makela, Harbin, and Breedon.
Being alive is the biggest inspiration someone can have.”
Have you had a PEAK (Pivotal Experience in Applied Knowledge) opportunity and, if so, what did you learn?
I’ve actually been doing both of my PEAKs this semester. The first PEAK is my Native American literature course, where I spend time volunteering to help at a drum and dance after-school program and working at the High Plains Powwow. The PEAK taught me a lot about Native American culture and how it survives despite past injustices against them. The other PEAK is the one I’m doing through my Documentary and Historical Film course. My peers and I are working on a documentary about a HOPE Inc. theatre production. Through this, I learned about disability, living with disability, and ways in which people can be adequately accommodated.
What advice would you give to a student who is considering Concordia?
I would say the most important thing is to just keep going. There will be times when you struggle, and there will be times when you stumble and fall, but all those little things make you unique, beautiful, and strong.
What are your postgraduation plans?
My plan is to try and find a publisher for my music. I just want to write music. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. Getting a publishing deal seems like the best avenue to ensure that being a composer will work for me.
Published April 2023