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Hilá Plitmann, UCLA music students debut original compositions at Schoenberg Hall

Dressed in red and green, vocalist Hilá Plitmann smiles for a portrait. Friday evening, the soprano will premiere 11 student compositions at Schoenberg Hall after having spent a week in residency. (Courtesy of Bobby Zu)

“Hilá Plitmann, Soprano, in Concert”

Schoenberg Hall

Dec. 1

8 p.m.

By Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon

Dec. 1, 2023 12:45 p.m.

This December, a flurry of musical knowledge falls over Schoenberg.

Following a weeklong residency at the Herb Alpert School of Music, Grammy Award-winning vocalist Hilá Plitmann will premiere new student works in concert at Schoenberg Hall. Friday’s performance will primarily consist of original compositions created by graduate students in the music composition program, but it also includes pieces in collaboration with faculty members such as lecturer of composition Peter Golub’s “Nursery Rhymes.” Split into two years, the program includes a total of 11 student compositions, with each corresponding to a certain month. Plitmann said this collaboration was made possible largely in part by distinguished professor of composition Richard Danielpour and added that she enjoys connecting with the School of Music.

“I’ve had a love affair with UCLA for years,” Plitmann said. “It’s always been one of my favorite places to come and work and connect and collaborate and have a sense of music and art community. There’s always been a strength here at UCLA for that quality.”

[Related: UCLA Philharmonia to bring music and mystery with concert ‘One Foot in the Grave’]

Traditionally, Plitmann said most of her residencies have been in conjunction with orchestral bodies. However, it was Danielpour who brought the idea of a compositional residency to the table, she added. As someone whose career has dealt heavily with premiering new works, including those of Danielpour, Plitmann said the skill is a strength she brought to the collaboration.

“There’s so much exploration that I’ve had a chance to experience in my life and so much collaboration,” Plitmann said. “For the most part, I get to work with really kind human beings and exceptional musicians who really just want the art to shine. … It’s different than just singing some standard repertoire, which also has its beauties, but it’s a different kind of experience because it’s almost like you’re making it together and it’s coming alive as you’re doing it.”

As part of the residency, each compositional student produced a new work, with inspirations ranging from preexisting poems to reflections on the human experience. Graduate student in music composition Madeline Barrett said the text for her piece, “Autumn Rain,” comes from Clare Harner’s 1934 poem “Immortality,” which details the search for ways to connect with a deceased loved one. To translate the text’s musings, Barrett said she sought to emphasize a bittersweet quality and felt the poem was best encapsulated by a flowing chorale.

For graduate student in music composition Joaquin Lichtle, inspiration came from the skies. Aptly named “Stars,” Lichtle said his composition is a metaphorical exploration of love as orbiting stars, which have a gravitational pull on each other but are never in possession of one another. Accented with sparkling harmonies, he said the piece’s text is self-authored. Though challenging because it requires precise vowel placement, the healthy vocal writing produced by the students in the program demonstrates the caliber of their craft, Plitmann said. Furthermore, she said the musicians’ use of thematic material as a throughline showed a profound understanding of the artform.

“They’re very proficient, and the use of their choice of text, so many times, is so moving to me (and) is very personal to them,” Plitmann said. “You can tell by the way that it’s set, and that shows maturity. … The choices they’ve made with text, they’re unique, they’re intimate and they’re melodic writing, not just for the voice.”

[Related: David and Mark Kaplan to honor families in music with The Da Camera Society]

Through residencies such as this one, Lichtle said student composers are able to gain credibility. Beyond graduate school, experience working with vocalists and undergoing the collaborative rehearsal process equips the musicians for a professional setting, he added. The frequency of residencies also proves a valuable resource as it gives the artists more practice with bringing their compositions to the stage, Barrett said.

When it comes to premiering new works created in an educational setting, Plitmann said it is no different than any other professional context. Furthermore, artists with the mindset that they are lifelong students are often making the most breakthroughs in reflecting on their art, she added, and a composer’s talent is evident no matter what stage of their career they are in. When it comes to work created through the blending of these two settings, Plitmann said it can be beneficial for artists to see the humanity behind a professional. Most importantly, she said the best art comes from unity between the professional and educational.

“I think if we separate them too much, then both suffer,” Plitmann said. “There is something wonderful in allowing the idea that anybody in an educational context is experiencing the planting of the seed of what will become a professional context. It is the service of people who work and create, a quote-unquote professional, to bring the water to help those seeds grow in the educational. It’s all the same field, it’s all the same forest.”

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Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon
Cobo Cordon is the 2023-2024 music | fine arts editor. She was previously an Arts reporter. She is also a second-year student from northern Virginia.
Cobo Cordon is the 2023-2024 music | fine arts editor. She was previously an Arts reporter. She is also a second-year student from northern Virginia.
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