It was a joy composing ‘Tis You, a setting of Amy Lowell’s poem, Listening, for the Voorhees Choir of Douglass College conducted by Brandon Williams. They premiered it on 12/3/17, at 4:45 p.m. during the traditional Yule Log Ceremony at the Voorhees Chapel on the Douglass College campus, as part of the College Centennial celebrations. Finding a text that inspires a musical response is always a challenge for me, and even more so for this specific occasion. I considered myriad options. Eventually, I decided to look at An Anthology of Great U.S. Women Poets 1850-1990, and by chance opened it to the Lowell poem. The first line is ‘Tis you that are the music, not your song.’ I love the way the poem speaks of the internal music of our beings, the meaning of our individual contributions, and also our role in the larger ocean of life. I finally found the text! Brandon Williams, the conductor of the Voorhees Choir, requested a version for treble chorus, string quartet and piano; I have also made one for treble chorus and piano.
My education at Douglass College, and in particular my studies in music theory with Professors Robert Lincoln and James Scott, and in composition with Professor Robert Moevs at Rutgers College, started me on my path as a composer. As a senior, after much discussion, I was given permission to present a senior composition recital, the first in the history of the institution. I was required, in addition to composing multiple pieces, to perform one of my own piano compositions, to find all of the performers, organize rehearsals, and attend to all details surrounding the recital. It was an inspiring, if complicated, endeavor, and confirmed my strong, if, at that time naïve, desire to pursue composition as my life’s work. I was pleased to return to Douglass College in 1990, when I was inducted into the Douglass Society of Distinguished alumnae, and to recall the importance of this institution for myself and the many thousands of fellow alumnae who were inspired by the education that helped them on their own life paths. –JS