Professors are often too busy teaching and doing research to have much time to invest in their own passion projects. Music Professor Kirk O’Riordan, however, always makes sure to carve out time from his busy schedule to pursue his love of composing music and share that music with the campus community.
Last Saturday, April 9, O’Riordan held a performance that was part of the Faculty Artist Series at the Williams Center for the Arts. All of the pieces in the performance were contemporary classical music in the Western or European tradition, composed by O’Riordan himself.
“[Composing] is an important part of who I am as a person. I’ve spent a lot of my life working on trying to be good at it, and it’s something I just really can’t not do,” O’Riordan said. “I love the work of refining a piece, making sure the notation is perfect, making sure that the elements are balanced within the pieces.”
Most of the pieces were composed for saxophone and piano. O’Riordan played “Sonata for Alto Saxophone” with piano accompaniment by Director of Keyboard Studies Holly Roadfelt. Manaka Gomi ’23 and Phuong Nam Vu ’25 played “Humming Spheres” on the piano together. Roadfelt also performed “Twenty-Six Preludes” and “Lacrimosa” on solo piano.
A string quartet, composed of Anna Zittle ’22 and Beth Anne Castellano ’22 on violin, Justin Kogasaka ’22 on viola and Kieran Ameres ’25 on cello, performed another piece entitled “Elegy.”
“It was especially great to hear how much energy, refinement, nuance, care and commitment the students brought to my pieces. They were really professional, refined, elegant performances, and I was just thrilled by them,” O’Riordan said.
O’Riordan put about a year of thought into picking out the pieces for the performance.
“I’ve always told people that it’s kind of like an engineering project: one doesn’t just sit down at a piano or whatever and crack out a piece. It requires an understanding of structure and architecture and balancing the elements, and all these kinds of challenges that engineers have to deal with that are also part of what the composition is,” O’Riordan said. “I find that to be incredibly rewarding to do.”
O’Riordan said that the event was received very well by both the performers and audience members. He described the music as “beautiful and intense.”
“The student performers especially seemed very happy with how they played,” O’Riordan said. “And they should be, because I thought they were absolutely fantastic.”