Composer in Residence

Alex Birko, Music Theory and Composition

Senior Session

BM in Composition, concentration in piano performance, certificate in entrepreneurship

MM Rice University

Joined LMC faculty in 2020

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Share with us some of your professional accomplishments.

I am a composer and pianist from Cleveland, Ohio. Much of my music is driven by collaboration and storytelling. More specifically, I’m interested in posing musical questions about how we perceive and interact with our world. My art has manifested itself into the orchestral, chamber and choral mediums, and has been performed widely throughout the country and abroad.

Most recently, I have received recognition from The American Prize (2019 winner in choral music), the Society of Composer, Inc. (Student Commission Award), ASCAP (Morton Gould Awards Finalist), American Choral Directors Association (Raymond Brock Memorial Award) and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Additionally, in collaboration with the Lebron James Family Foundation, my music for the opening ceremony of Lebron’s “I Promise” school received a regional Emmy Award.

Some of my recent and upcoming projects have included collaborations with the Monterey Symphony, Cape Symphony and Plymouth Philharmonic, Grammy-winning choirs The Crossing and Conspirare, Chicago-based choirs Stare at the Sun and Constellation Men’s Ensemble, and the Cathedral Choral Society and Washington National Cathedral.

To learn more about me and listen to my music, you can visit www.alexberko.com

What excites you about Luzerne Music Center?

I am most eager to have the chance to interact and collaborate with students from various cultures and faculty with diverse skill sets. It’s really exciting to have the chance to be in a creative environment with such a rich variety of individual experiences and skills where we can all benefit from one another. I am equally excited to offer composition lessons to all levels of students and share my love of creating music. Being a performer myself and knowing that all students come to Luzerne to study an instrument, I am eager to talk about how the strengths of a performer and interpreter can be used to your advantage as a composer and creator.

What can campers expect to learn while working with you this summer?

I hope to offer different ways of approaching listening, performing and understanding music. I have always thought of theory and aural skills as a wonderful way to grow your vocabulary for speaking about musical concepts and communicating those with others. We will certainly spend lots of time on the mechanics of music, but with the wider scope of how this can all be functional.

 

With composition, I believe that it’s about finding a way to express yourself and your vocabulary, which is completely unique to each person. It will be my focus in a short span of time to give you the tools to access the music you hear and want to create in your head and turn it into something tangible. No matter your background or way you choose to organize notes and rhythm, my hope is to give you the clearest path forward to realize the music you hope to create. We will have weekly composition lessons as well as a group composition seminar in which we will be able to share ideas and music we are writing and listening to. I have always felt that I learned the most from my peers, so it is my hope to cultivate a safe environment where you can share and develop ideas together, leaving Luzerne with lasting collaborative relationships.

Jacob Walsh, Music Theory and Composition

Junior Session

BM in Oboe Performance and Music Composition, Ithaca College

MM in Oboe Performance and Music Composition, Indiana University

Joined LMC faculty in 2019

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Share with us some of your professional accomplishments.

I am a composer, oboist and educator originally from deep in the woods of Rhode Island. As a composer, I am passionate about communicating with many different kinds of audiences and exploring the ideas of narrative through sound. I think that for many people, story telling is a very meaningful access point into our world as musicians, and it is this idea of story telling that I wish to share through all of the music I make. I am passionate about new music as well as music education, and I believe that through the way that we teach and talk about music we can pass down a rich tradition of music making as well as inspire young people to share their own story through music.

I have written music for solo instruments, voices, chamber ensembles, as well as full orchestral works, with performances across the United States and internationally. My latest collaboration was an orchestra piece titled "Anke Dje, Anke Be," commissioned and premiered by The Boston Landmarks Orchestra in August of 2018. The piece included participation of 20 young people from Camp Harbor View Boston playing percussion, dancing, and reciting spoken word alongside the orchestra at the Hatch Memorial Shell in Boston. My music has won the Ithaca College Downey Prize for vocal composition, The Smadbeck Memorial Prize, 1st Place winner of the 2018 NOTUS Choral Composition Competition at Indiana University, and I was a finalist for the Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra Composition Competition in 2018.  I am passionate about performing, especially commissioning and premiering new works. I have performed with the Indiana University New Music Ensemble for the past three years, and traveled with them to Mexico City for a performance in May 2018. In addition to performing in orchestras during my M.M. at Indiana University, I have performed Oboe and English Horn in a number of orchestras including the Binghamton Philharmonic, the Grassroots Festival Chamber Orchestra, the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and more. I have also played oboe and English Horn with Ensemble X Contemporary Music Ensemble in Ithaca, NY. I am currently writing an oboe concerto which I plan to premiere myself in the Fall of 2019. 

What excites you about Luzerne Music Center?

Luzerne Music Center is unique in that it has a Music Composition program for young students who otherwise may not have the opportunity to ever write music on their own. I look forward to being able to guide this process of thinking about music from a different perspective, and giving students the tools to explore what it means to be a composer. I believe Luzerne offers a wonderful chance for young musicians to explore music composition in addition to a very high level of study their performance areas. I am also looking forward to being surrounded by so many wonderful colleagues who are as equally passionate about the art of music as they are passionate about the art of teaching.  

What can campers expect to learn while working with you this summer?

One of the most important things about learning about music composition goes far beyond just "writing notes on a piece of paper. I aim for all of my students who are interested in Music Composition to leave camp not only feeling confident about new ways to write music, but most importantly new ways to think about music. I want to explore what happens when we think about music as sound and noise, how we can talk about the way music makes us feel, what makes a melody work, and how we can find "that perfect harmony" that sends shivers down your spine. It is true that studying Music Composition includes writing notes on paper and getting those notes performed, yes. However, I want each student to leave having a different perspective of how to think like a composer and look at a blank sheet of paper in front of them and turn it into a beautiful, authentic piece of music waiting to have life breathed into it. Campers can also look forward to learning music theory with me with a strong emphasis on active participation through ear training and aural skills as well as how to apply things learned in a music theory classroom to their every day life as performers and composers!

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CONTACT

P.O. Box 39

203 Lake Tour Road

Lake Luzerne, NY 12846

info@luzernemusic.org

518-696-2771

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© 2019 by Luzerne Music Center

Luzerne Music Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the EIN 22-2765869