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Brian Hanson reviews his prize-winning composition, Creatures of Habit, with composition and theory professors Stephen Suber and Jeremy Sagala.
Unlike Mozart or Beethoven, today’s composers do not put notes on paper, they put them into a computer, where special software provides an instant play back of their musical vision. But while technology may have simplified the creative process, there is no substitute for hearing a work performed live.
Thanks to the support of his professors in the Department of Music and Dramatic Arts, young composer Brian Hanson has the opportunity to do just that. His compositions have been performed, or sight-read, by a number of university ensembles, including the Wind Symphony, Guitar Ensemble and the Concert Choir.
“Play back can be very deceiving,” he explained. “You don’t know exactly how the instruments sound, the difference when something is played loud or soft.
“Whenever real people play a piece, it’s totally different. Once you hear it live, hear it actually performed, it changes everything. It changes how you write, your whole process of composition. When the Wind Symphony did my piece, it was like Wow! That’s how these instruments actually sound!”
Hanson, who is from Covington, originally enrolled at Southeastern on scholarship as a guitar performance student. But he found his true musical calling working with Southeastern composition and theory professors Stephen Suber and Jeremy Sagala, both award-winning composers.
In spring 2008, Hanson won a national competition for young composers sponsored by the Omaha Symphony Guild. His composition, Creatures of Habit, will be performed during the Omaha Symphony New Music Symposium, April 8-10. The approximately nine-minute piece for chamber orchestra was one of four selected for the symposium.
Suber was not surprised by Hanson’s success, and neither was David Evenson, head of the Department of Music and Dramatic Arts. Suber described Hanson as one of several “star students” studying composition and theory at Southeastern, while Evenson said, “I’ve been waiting for the world to notice his big talent. Brian is a remarkable talent and that was evident early on.”
“Winning something like this really represents being in the top one percentile of composition students in the country,” Suber said. “It is a very, very good thing. Brian will get to work with the orchestra as they rehearse his piece, have the opportunity to make changes as he hears what works, what doesn’t. That experience is so valuable. You can’t teach that; it is something you have to experience.”
“We have a bunch of opportunities at Southeastern,” Hanson said. “We just have to have the drive to do it ourselves.”