Season 51 Concert II
The CNM Ensemble
performing works of guest composer and UI alumnus John C. Ross
with works by Hervig, Jenni and Gompper
Sunday, September 25, 2016, 7:30pm at the Recital Hall
My Time at Iowa, by John Ross
When I think back over my time at the University of Iowa, I feel lucky that I had the chance to attend such a school. While there, I had the opportunity to do things that proved to be invaluable for my future. Iowa was the perfect stepping stone for launching my career as a university music professor, giving me a breadth of experiences that, I believe, allowed my résumé to stand out from others who would be applying for the same jobs. For example, in my very first semester, I received a commission from the Center for New Music. The work that resulted--first performed and recorded in Clapp Hall--won other awards and led to other significant performances. For three years, I was a graduate theory assistant where I got plenty of classroom teaching experience, the very thing that would help me to secure my first tenure-track job. Every year I was at Iowa, the performances of my music at the Midwest Composers' Forum gave me irreplaceable professional experience and several outstanding recordings. Also while at Iowa, I felt privileged to be a part of an experimental class, Words and Music--the brain child of David Gompper and Marvin Bell--where 10 composers worked with 10 poets from Iowa's famed Writers' Workshop, a class that could not have existed anywhere else. Finally, the Fulbright I received, enabling me to study in France, could not have happened at all were it not for the support I received--financial and otherwise--from the School of Music and the U of Iowa administration. While in France, I worked on a piece for soprano and orchestra, "After a Line By Theodore Roethke," which, subsequently, has received some attention: a professional orchestra reading in NYC, a major award, multiple performances, and it has been recorded on CD. Its success, however, is entirely rooted in Iowa. The work is a setting of a poem by Marvin Bell, a professor of Iowa's Writers' Workshop; it was completed in Iowa, and was my dissertation for my Ph.D in 1997.
In addition to the professional experience I received, the fellow students I worked with--musicologists, performers, and yes, even composers--were unforgettable, often at the top of their field. We would get into after-class discussions that were engrossing; topics brought up in musicology classes inspired future research; composition seminar, although often contentious, was also eye-opening; in short, graduate school at Iowa made music seem endlessly fascinating. It was a heady time. My graduate years at Iowa proved to be a high point in my life that, although provident for my career path, would be hard to duplicate later. It is with a mixture of nostalgia and pride that I think back on those days. I am grateful to the University of Iowa School of Music and all the professors, staff, and fellow students that were part of it.