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Composer Shares Experience with Creativity

Last week, Libby Larsen, music composer and Grammy Award winner, visited Concordia to share her experience in creativity.

Larsen spent her residency here, rehearsing her music with players and attending the performance of her pieces.

The concert on Sept. 27 included Larsen’s 2005 piece “Sifting Through the Ruins.” This featured poems from family and friends of Sept. 11 victims.

“It’s a powerful, five piece song cycle,” said Holly Janz, voice professor.

Junior Cody Johnson, tuba performance major, said it was his favorite piece from the concert.

“Her writing captured the turmoil and experiences [from Sept. 11],” Johnson said.

At her lecture on Sept. 26, Larsen gave her view on creativity.

“Creativity is discontinuous thought that gels into something new,” Larsen said. “The one thing you can’t do with creativity is put it in a kit.”

Larson has been composing since elementary school. Her father, whom she called a “creative chemist,” inspired her in many ways, including an attempt to build a dashboard out of soybeans. He figured if people ever got stranded in their car they could eat the dashboard.

Larsen continued her lecture with a number of ways she finds creativity. The first is to be constantly curious.

“This one’s at the top of my list,” she said. “I want to know everything.”

Other tips included imagining something that is unimaginable, deciding that your thinking is true, mastering the techniques you need to accomplish your goal and critiquing your own thinking.

“Every person in this room is creative,” she said. “Stop worrying about whether it’s good or bad.”

Later in a question and answer session she added, “We’re critiquing our work and not ourselves. It’s hard to separate our self from our work. But you’re not music—you are you. We’re not what we do.”

Janz appreciated this sentiment.

“It’s an invaluable lesson,” she said. “I spend a lot of one on one time with students. There’s vulnerability because it’s hard to separate from our instruments.”

Janz, along with band director Scott Jones, coordinated the event.

“We wanted her to interact with students,” Janz said. “Students could have access to a living composer. They may not get that in another educational environment.”

Johnson took advantage of the experience by attending both the lecture and concert.

“A lot of times we separate composers from us,” he said. “Having a live composer gave us insight into what they were thinking. I’ve realized what most great composers have is a great insight into the human condition. I revere the way she comprehends things. She’s genuine, especially through her body language and jubilance. You could say she’s a catalyst of energy.”

Larsen said she enjoys speaking to students around the country.

“I love to be in the energy of bright young people,” Larsen said. “To exchange and share ideas with others is a privilege.”

Concordia faculty praised Larsen for her visit, lecture and music.

“Dr. Jones keeps saying ‘What a rich experience,’” Janz said. “By that I think he’s talking about the many layers: she’s talented, she talked about her pieces, and she talked about creativity working in her life now.”

Janz also enjoyed taking part in this event.

“I feel lucky to have been a part of this, to have met her, performed her work and to have students and faculty embrace it,” Janz said.

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