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The pianist walks gracefully up the steps to the stage. She sits at the piano bench, adjusts the skirt of her white dress, and places her hands on the keyboard. She then begins to play. The simple, lyrical piece is unfamiliar to the audience, but it is met with rousing applause. The pianist bows, and before she can exit the stage, she is interrupted by an older woman. The woman places her hand on the pianist’s shoulder, turns to the audience, and says, “I just want to let you know that this six-year-old little girl wrote that song.”
The simple, lyrical piece was “I’ve Got a Song in My Heart,” and the pianist, the six-year-old in the white dress, was me. The aforementioned scene was part of my very first piano recital, in which I premiered my first musical composition. I would never forget the feelings of accomplishment and excitement that I experienced that evening – the very same feelings that still draw me to the field of music composition. After that first performance, I knew that I wanted to continue writing songs.
Spurred on by my music teachers, I did continue composing – first for the piano exclusively, and then branching out to other instruments – and I began to realize that composition was something I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. I was further encouraged by one particular piano teacher, Mark Russell, who suggested that I choose music composition as my college major. I embraced his advice, and after several months of searching for a composition teacher, I began studying with Ron Jenison, a graduate student in composition at the University of Michigan.
It was at this time that I realized how much I wanted not only to compose new music but to teach the techniques of composition and theory to others as well. Inspired by my own aggravating hunt for a composition teacher, I decided that I would especially like to teach composition and theory to gifted children in a music preparatory program, such as the one in which I had been enrolled at Michigan. At the same time, I continued to broaden my own musical horizons by writing different types of music – choral music (my first attempt of which was eventually premiered by the women’s choir at my high school), concerti, string quartets, and other assorted pieces for many diverse ensembles. Although I still have much experimenting and learning to do in my composing, I know that I have been growing steadily since I first embarked on my musical journey.
That very first performance of mine, which took place on June 2, 1992, was captured on video. I still watch it occasionally. When I view it, it reminds me why I am choosing to continue in music composition. I never tire of the adrenaline rush, the joy, and the sense of accomplishment that hearing your own works performed can bring. I can also see the excitement in the performers’ eyes as they bring new music to life. I want to share these experiences with any musician who desires to make a contribution to the universal literature of music. I’ve indeed got a song in my heart – a song of creativity and knowledge – and I want to share that song with anyone who will listen.
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