Jazzing it up: Music professor Skip Wilkins premieres alumna’s piece overseas

Music+professor+Skip+Wilkins+recently+premiered+the+music+of+Vanessa+Haraya+Dela+Paz+Maca+22+at+jazz+clubs+in+Berlin+and+Prague.+%28Photo++by+Johnathan+Brody%29

Music professor Skip Wilkins recently premiered the music of Vanessa Haraya Dela Paz Maca ’22 at jazz clubs in Berlin and Prague. (Photo by Johnathan Brody)

In her senior year at Lafayette, Vanessa Haraya Dela Paz Maca ’22 began taking composition lessons with associate professor of music Skip Wilkins. Less than two years later, her music is being played in jazz clubs across Europe.

“I started taking composition lessons because that’s something I always wanted to do … The summer before that, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m kind of bored.’ So, I think ‘… I’ll try it out. See what happens,’” Maca said. 

Maca, who graduated as a physics major with a minor in philosophy, remembers that Wilkins had been intrigued by her work during her first-year music theory class.

“He just seemed always interested in what I had in my mind, or what I wanted to do,” Maca said.

She had written music before her lessons, but at first, did not consider showing any of her work to Wilkins, feeling a bit embarrassed. 

“I didn’t think it was that good or something worth showing to Skip. So I held onto that up until literally the last two weeks of the year,” she said.

When Maca finally showed Wilkins her jazz piece, “This Starry Night With You,” he was blown away.

“Skip was like, ‘Wow, this is actually really great.’” Maca said. “I don’t know what he saw in it. First off for me, I thought it was just fine. But he told me to work on the next few bars after that, and he told me to work on it more a little bit, expand on it.”

When Maca presented her final piece to her professor, Wilkins was so impressed that he decided he wanted to play it in a performance.

“I wasn’t looking for a piece to play necessarily, but it was so good that I wanted to play it. That’s the reason I did it,” Wilkins said. 

Wilkins played “This Starry Night With You” as part of his performances in Berlin and Prague.

 “I said, ‘You know, this piece is really good. I’m going to premiere this in Berlin if it’s okay with you. So, write your copyright notice on it,’” Wilkins said.

Maca’s piece was well-received in Berlin and Prague, much to her amazement.

“Hearing the final thing was like, ‘Oh my god, this is what the idealized version of how it should sound instead of the bits and pieces I had just working it out,’” Maca said. “When I write these things, it’s kind of just like a theory and paper kind of thing, and then hearing it come out done like that was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you can do it that way.’”

Since graduating from Lafayette earlier this year, Maca still works on her music as a hobby. As an alumna, Maca looks back on her experiences with Wilkins fondly.

“It was really fun. I had a really stressful year, and I have to say, my lessons with Skip always kind of made my week,” Maca said.

Wilkins has not performed Maca’s piece in the United States yet, but he has rehearsed it.

“I’m sure that it will end up in [American] performances soon,” Wilkins said. “What’s really important is that it’s a really good piece of music.”

Wilkins recorded “This Starry Night With You” for Lafayette, which can be found at tinyurl.com/thisstarrynightwithyou. Additionally, Wilkins has two new albums coming out soon: “In Morava” by Skip Wilkins Trio and “In The Stars” by Skip and Dan Wilkins Quartet.