May 2, 2011
Seniors Paul Winchester (left) and Quinn Dizon each created compositions for their Senior Independent Study projects.
At 6-foot-1, Paul Winchester towers over his 5-foot-3 friend and fellow music major Quinn Dizon. But when it comes to writing music, the two stand equally tall.
Winchester, a baritone from Duluth, Minn., and Dizon, a clarinetist and tenor from Santa Rosa, Calif., share a passion for composing that has helped to distinguish them at The College of Wooster. In fact, both had original works performed by the Wooster Symphony Orchestra at its most recent subscription concert.
Winchester’s “Skyscapes,” a two-movement concerto for electric guitar and orchestra, was enthusiastically received by the audience, as was Dizon’s “Grace,” a piece he wrote in honor of his mother.
Winchester describes “Skyscapes” as having a “contemporary classical” sound. “In other words, it’s not Mozart,” he says. Dizon’s piece is a more traditional neoclassical style, which he refers to as “Coplandesque.” A set of variations on “Amazing Grace” with “metrical alternations from 3/4 to 6/8”, the work, says Dizon, aspires to “dramatic contrasts of melody and harmony.”
The two not only composed music for the concert, they also performed. Winchester and Dizon sang “Grace” as members of the Wooster Chorus, which accompanied the orchestra, and both played instruments — Winchester the electric guitar, and Dizon the clarinet — when the Symphony presented “Skyscapes.”
“Paul and Quinn are gems," says Jack Gallagher, professor of music at Wooster and I.S. advisor to both students. “Paul is a strikingly imaginative composer possessed of uncommon initiative. His two-movement concerto for electric guitar and orchestra, composed for his Senior I.S. (Independent Study - Wooster's nationally acclaimed undergraduate research program), is an exceptionally ambitious, expansive work reflecting an intimate understanding of the instrument and Paul's passion for integrating it with the standard symphony orchestra.
“Quinn is a remarkably gifted composer whose creations, wrought with lapidarian precision, inhabit an elegantly sculpted, exquisitely nuanced sound world" adds Gallagher. "'Grace,’ one of several works composed for his junior I.S., is a stunningly realized, deeply expressive set of variations for chorus, strings, and harp. For his senior I.S., Quinn composed ‘Apotheosis’ — two major sections of a highly ambitious cantata to a text of his own devising for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.”
Making Their Way to Wooster
Winchester, who initially resisted efforts by his mother, a 1974 Wooster graduate, to have him visit campus, eventually acquiesced and was instantly impressed. “We happened to run into Peter Mowrey (professor of music), and he took time to meet with us,” says Winchester, who was later invited to serve as production assistant in Cleveland for Mowrey’s opera, “Sangreal.” “I was very intrigued by him as a professor, a musician, and a composer.” Later that year, he met Gallagher during an audition on campus. “He really impressed me,” says Winchester. “I felt that Wooster was a place where I would receive a lot of personal attention.”
Dizon had a similar experience. He, too, was looking for a good music school when a counselor suggested Wooster. “We flew to Ohio, and my half-hour appointment with Dr. Gallagher turned into a two-hour meeting,” he says. “He asked me to come back with my parents, and that turned into a 90-minute session. We were very impressed by the welcoming atmosphere and the individual attention. It became clear that Wooster was interested in me as an individual, not just another student.”
Winchester and Dizon met one another in Theodor Duda’s theory class during their first week on campus, although both had started writing music before that. Since that time, they have become good friends who enjoy tossing good-natured barbs at each other whenever they are together.
Jeffrey Lindberg, director of the Wooster Symphony, first learned about Dizon’s composition last spring. “Quinn’s piece made an immediate impression on me,” says Lindberg, who heard it at Dizon’s junior recital last year. “I asked him and (Wooster Chorus conductor) Lisa (Yozviak) if we could include it in one of our programs this season, and both graciously agreed.”
Winchester had to be a little more proactive to get his piece noticed. “Paul’s guitar concerto was a bit more of a risk,” says Lindberg. “He submitted the score of the second movement of that work last summer (before he had completed the first movement), and on the basis of the quality of that movement, I programmed the entire concerto for our February concert. It was perhaps the most difficult piece the WSO has played in my tenure here, but the orchestra rose to the occasion.”
After graduation, Winchester and Dizon will go their separate ways. Winchester will study with noted American composer Libby Larsen this summer and then attend Syracuse University as a Heaton Fellow in music composition in the fall. Dizon will spend the summer at La Schola Cantorum in Paris, studying composition and counterpoint. In the fall, he will attend the University of Louisville as a Bomhard Fellow in music theory. Each expects to pursue a doctorate in composition and eventually teach, probably at a college or university.
Wherever their travels take them, the two young composers are certain to remember the impact of their experiences at Wooster. “When we look back at earlier works and see how much we have improved, we’re thankful for the guidance and support we received at Wooster,” says Dizon. In reflecting on his time at the college, Winchester says, “I learned a lot about how to write and prepare pieces at a professional level as well as how to go about getting those pieces performed. It was a huge learning experience and a great launching platform. I think we both feel very capable and confident in our abilities because of our time at Wooster.”
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