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Music students’ compositions take center stage

Moments after hearing his final com­po­si­tion per­formed on Friday, fourth-​​year music tech­nology major Ben­nett Jenisch’s face beamed with a look of exhil­a­ra­tion. Jenisch had spent a couple hours each day over winter break at his family’s home in Ger­many per­fecting this piece, which he said clearly paid off.

Jenisch was one of six stu­dents in a com­po­si­tion sem­inar course taught last semester by Anthony De Ritis, chair of the Depart­ment of Music in the Col­lege of Arts, Media and Design. Stu­dents were charged with writing a piece of music from con­cept to com­ple­tion that would ulti­mately be per­formed by a live orchestra.

Last week, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project—the renowned pro­fes­sional orchestra ded­i­cated exclu­sively to per­forming and recording music of the 20th and 21st centuries—took the stage at the Fenway Center to per­form the stu­dents’ work.

After spending the majority of the fall semester writing their com­po­si­tions, stu­dents met on Dec. 11 with BMOP mem­bers and Gil Rose, its founder and artistic director and a vis­iting artist at North­eastern. Stu­dents par­tic­i­pated in work­shops with orchestra mem­bers and received pro­fes­sional feed­back on their work.

“I worked really hard last semester to get my com­po­si­tion to a draft form before that first run-​​through, and since then I’ve been imple­menting their feed­back and making improve­ments,” Jenisch said. “All the things I fixed they just played per­fectly now, and it’s a great feeling.”

Friday’s orchestra per­for­mances were also recorded by stu­dents from Green­line Records, a North­eastern student-​​run record label affil­i­ated with the Depart­ment of Music.

De Ritis said the sem­inar served as an incred­ible expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity for stu­dents, as well as a chance to strengthen the university’s part­ner­ship with BMOP, a five-​​time Grammy nom­i­nated ensemble.

“This will not only lead to great record­ings for the stu­dents’ port­fo­lios, but it’s also a life-​​changing expe­ri­ence for them,” De Ritis said. “It’s very eye-​​opening, and it grounds them in terms of where they are in their lives and in this field.”

Callum Plews, a fourth-​​year music tech­nology major, noted that the December rehearsal was a crit­ical oppor­tu­nity to learn from pro­fes­sional musi­cians and to deter­mine the changes he needed to make, such as for­mat­ting cor­rec­tions and adjust­ments to make his com­po­si­tion fully playable for an orchestra.

Adam Straus, a third-​​year music tech­nology major from Nyack, N.Y., said he chal­lenged him­self by writing a com­po­si­tion com­bining elec­tronics with the harp, an instru­ment for which he had never written.

“The harp is a really cool and unique instru­ment, and it was great to learn what it can and can’t do, in terms of what is actu­ally playable,” Straus said. “This was just an incred­ible opportunity.”

De Ritis concurred.

“For the stu­dents, this is all about taking theory to prac­tice,” he said. “We’re always looking for expe­ri­en­tial oppor­tu­ni­ties in the music department.”