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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Contemporary Music Ensemble concert showcases student compositions

Photo by Austin Carey for The Lafayette
The Contemporary Music Ensemble performed a variety of modern pieces during their concert.

The Contemporary Music Ensemble brought to life a variety of pieces last Friday at its annual concert, including music composed by Lafayette students Owen York ‘26 and Conrad Tilroe ‘25.

The two musicians originally started their composition journeys after working with Professor Kirk O’Riordan, who directed the ensemble last year. O’Riordan heard one of York’s piano compositions last semester.

“He told me I should write for a larger group, not just for the piano,” York said about O’Riordan.

“That larger group just happened to be the Contemporary Music Ensemble, since we have students who are willing to play new music and student composers as well, which is sort of amazing,” he continued.

After Professor Holly Roadfeldt, director of the Contemporary Music Ensemble, took over, she asked York and Tilroe to compose their own pieces of music for the ensemble. 

“I had to take that opportunity because getting a chance to have your pieces played, and especially to be involved in the rehearsal process, is very rare,” Tilroe said.

York and Tilroe both used their compositions as a means of expressing emotion.

York explained that his piece was centered on a theme of loss and “trying to process stuff that’s happening.”

In Tilroe’s piece, the young composer tried to evoke the feeling of falling in love for the first time.

Although both Tilroe and York were new at composing pieces, they said the support of Roadfeldt and the Contemporary Music Ensemble helped them. 

“I’m very new at this,” York said. “There’s sometimes days where I’m not feeling very confident, and it’s just like, ‘Do I even know what I’m doing?’ Having everyone just give me good feedback, tell me if there’s anything they want me to switch and just hearing them play the piano, that’s as real as it gets, honestly,”

“I have much less musical training than a lot of the other people,” Tilroe said. “I’m constantly trying to find different tricks and methods to write stuff that I wouldn’t be able to play but that I can imagine.”

Part of the reason the Contemporary Music Ensemble was formed was to provide support to student composers, especially by providing a unique opportunity for one-on-one feedback, according to Roadfeldt. 

“You can’t just have [the music] on a piece of paper,” Roadfeldt said. “You do actually have to hear it and have that living breathing entities through the performance communicating with an audience.”

York and Tilroe both said their experiences working with the ensemble were rewarding. 

“I think it’s interesting to listen to modern music composers that are working right now and addressing contemporary issues in music,” said Tilroe. “I think we can all benefit from exposing ourselves to new languages like that.”

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About the Contributors
William Gutiérrez
William Gutiérrez, Staff Culture Writer
The Lafayette's diversity hire.
Austin Carey
Austin Carey, Staff Photographer

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