Photos: Professional musicians bring final projects by Brown student composers to life

Musicians from the New York Classical Players provided expert insights and performed Brown students’ original works as part of a Seminar in Composition course.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — “Are you happy with the tempo?” conductor Dongmin Kim asked first-year Brown University student Daniel Kyte-Zable from the stage of the Department of Music’s Grant Recital Hall.

Kim had just led a New York Classical Players string quartet in the first performance of Kyte-Zable’s work, “A Purple-Electric,” which he wrote as his final project for a Seminar in Composition course taught by Associate Professor of Music Eric Nathan.

“You really captured the frenetic energy I was going for,” Kyte-Zable said to the visiting musicians.

As part of the course’s last two sessions in May, Kyte-Zable and the nine other Brown undergraduates in the class engaged in the exciting process of hearing their projects performed by professional musicians and exchanging feedback.

“It was really helpful to see what worked, what didn’t, how the musicians felt about it and reacted,” said Kyte-Zabel, who until then had only heard his composition played by computer software. “I feel lucky to have had this opportunity because it’s rare, especially in the first year of college, to get to do something like this.”

Kim, who is the music director of the New York Classical Players, was joined on stage by cellist Iona Batchelder, violist Hannah Burnett and violinists Valerie Kim and Yoonbe Kim.

“I was amazed not only by the quality of the students’ writing but also by the variety of voices,” Kim said. “I am grateful to have witnessed such a wide range of talented young composers, and the musicians from the New York Classical Players greatly enjoyed our time at Brown.”

Nathan said it was important to create the experience as a way for his students to move beyond the feedback and coaching that he and his teaching assistant provided during the semester.

“When professionals play a work, it comes to life in such a brilliant and clear way that really shows what you’ve written,” Nathan said.

For his assignment, junior Ayushman Choudhury — who is concentrating in music and also pursuing a joint concentration in applied mathematics and computer science — wrote “A Rhapsody for Lalon,” inspired by the iconic Bengali poet, philosopher and songwriter Lalon. Choudhury had written music prior to enrolling in Nathan’s course but had never done so specifically for a string quartet.

“I learned so much from the musicians, especially because I don’t play any string instruments,” Choudhury said. “I definitely plan on incorporating their suggestions and maybe presenting a larger version of this piece somewhere else.”

Kaiya Pandit, who wrote a piece inspired by a trip to Morocco during Spring Recess, said the musicians’ tips about the nuances of playing string instruments helped advance her growth as a composer.

“Witnessing the talent and skill of the quartet was truly inspiring,” Pandit said. “They were so quick to incorporate feedback, helping to really bring out my voice as a composer. Plus, hearing my music performed live was absolutely thrilling.”

The session was just one part of the New York Classical Players’ residency at Brown this spring.

In April, the group rehearsed two of Nathan’s compositions, including his new work, “Double Concerto No. 2,” and did a talk-back session with students before performing a sold-out public concert at Grant Recital Hall. The concerto was co-commissioned by the New York Classical Players and the Providence-based Rhode Island Chamber Music Concerts in memory of the late violist Roger Tapping.

“We found great joy in having our full chamber orchestra, accompanied by two guest artists, perform Professor Nathan’s newly composed ‘Double Concerto No. 2’ on campus,” Kim said.