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Grad student in music receives commission and award

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School of Music Graduate student, Ellene Owens received a commission from the Louisiana Music Teachers Association. The work was premiered last Friday at their state conference. “Lost in Queens” was written for piano four-hands and was performed by the composer, Ellene, and Professor Susanna Garcia. Ellene recently received another award from the Central Louisiana Arts Council.

From Ellene’s Program:

“When Dr. Benner called to ask if I would be interested in a commission to write a piece of music, I thought he must have dialed the wrong number. I am a piano teacher and although I write music all the time, as well as teach my students to compose, I’ve never had the image of myself as a “composer”. I guess that stems from my childhood way back in the 50’s when being creative was not always considered an asset. I had a tendency when practicing piano to wander off what the composer actually penned and play my own version. My mom would always listen to me practice from the next room and it became sort of a game to see how long it would take her to realize that I had strayed from the page. When she would become aware that I was no longer playing Invention No. 8, but had ambled off into my own thing she would shout out something like, “That’s not Bach! Quit messing around!” Years later, in college, I continued this tradition. One evening, while I was thus engaged, there came a knock on the practice room door. It was my theory teacher and he wanted to know what I was playing. My answer of course was, “Oh…. I was just messing around…”. “Well,” he said, “write it down and bring it to class tomorrow.” I had never considered that option and didn’t know where to start, but I liked his class and thought maybe it would help my grade so I complied – and that was the beginning.

Fast-forward about a hundred years to my life as a piano teacher – I encourage my students to “mess around” and have found that not only is it a wonderful way to nurture the creative spirit, but that it also results in an understanding of how music works – what the pieces are and how they fit together. This is an invaluable skill that spills over into reading, memorization, and theory. It helps the student make that connection between what’s on the page and the actual sound.  I encourage you as teachers to start “messing around”, and to teach your students to do the same.

My inspiration to write a piano duet came after seeing a video of Anderson & Roe performing “Billy Jean” by Michael Jackson. If you haven’t seen it – check it out. It’s riveting and also a very slick production.”