EarShot Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Composer Spotlight: Marian L.H. Stephens
Marian L. H. Stephens is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. She has studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, Sweden, and in 2007 became the first African American to receive the Doctorate of Music degree in Music Composition from Indiana University (Bloomington) Jacobs School of Music. Marian is the Founding Artistic Director of MLH Music Studio, which she established in 2010, where she is the lead instructor to students ages 4 to adult. Marian’s piece Out of Kilter was selected for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra EarShot Readings, where it will be rehearsed and performed under the direction of conductor André Raphel. Public performances will take place on March 6 and March 9 at the Fisher Music Center. Click here for more information. We spoke with Marian about her piece and the readings.
Composer and educator Dr. Marian L.H. Stephens
American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra EarShot New Music Readings?
Marian L.H. Stephens: I was very humbled, and excited, to learn that my piece, “Out of Kilter: sounding scenes from Black America,” was selected for the DSO EarShot New Music Readings. As a professional composer, striving to be “heard,” I welcome opportunities, such as this, that are designed to create new relationships between audiences, living composers, and their new music! On a personal note, my selection into the program allows me to teach my daughters, Nia, age 4.5, and Ava, age 2, the importance of seeing one’s dreams come to fruition. I want my girls to be proud of me. I want them to know about my continued efforts to make a very “musical” mark on this world. I thank EarShot for helping me do so!
ACO: You write in your program note that Out of Kilter is inspired by images from Chase Campbell’s children’s book Riding the Sphinx and Other Adventures at the Museum. Can you talk about a couple of the specific images, their meaning to you, and how they are represented through music?
MS: Atlanta area artist, Chase Campbell, and I have been friends for over 20 years. When I compose, I often look for inspiration from the visual arts realm. Mr. Campbell’s works resonate with me because I can see myself, my family, and friends in them. “Out of Kilter” is a through composed work, made up of five, distinct sections. “The Connoisseur” is my most favorite image out of the five. To me, everything about the image looks forward with a great positive energy. The viewer looks forward at the central figure, as he looks forward at a painting, which features a man and woman embracing, as they look forward, into a bright future. The positive energy, I receive from this image, is similar to how I feel when I dance, and it is why I composed a light-hearted, loop-sided dance to accompany this image.
Images from Riding the Sphinx and Other Adventures at the Museum by Chase Campbell
ACO: What are you doing to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you have made to your piece?
MS: I haven’t made any changes to my piece. I want to see if what I wrote really works. I am preparing for the readings by making sure that I can present simple, clear explanations about my music. I have been a music educator for over 20 years. I have taught pre-school students, as young as 2, and graduate students as old as 50. The one thing I have learned from these experiences is to “keep it plain!” This is my measure of success. I believe, if too much explanation is required, then a trip back to the drawing board is warranted!
ACO: What are you looking forward to about the workshops and readings? What do you hope to learn from the experience?
MS: I look forward to cultivating new relationships that will yield new collaborations. I welcome mistakes because they bring growth. So, my ultimate learning goal is to see how I can improve my writing, overall. Humans are creatures of habit, and it is very easy to compose the same “mistake” repeatedly. I want this opportunity to reveal the things that plague my writing the most. I want to walk away a better composer!
Marian’s piece Out of Kilter was selected for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra EarShot Readings, where it will be rehearsed and performed under the direction of conductor André Raphel. Public performances will take place on March 6 and March 9 at the Fisher Music Center. Click here for more information.
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, pre-college and college education programs, and emerging composer professional development to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders.
Receive the latest news
Join Our Mailing List!
Get notified about new events, opportunities and the latest ACO happenings