On Sunday, February 26, I participated in a Manhattanville College chamber music concert celebrating the compositions of Dr. Mary Ann Joyce-Walter. The concert was held to honor her retirement from the college this June. The performers consisted of faulty, students and alumni like myself. I felt very privileged to be included. It isn’t everyday that I get asked to perform, but I felt very honored to perform music by my very first teacher of composition.
I met Joyce when I was a sophomore in high school. At that time, my older sister, Elizabeth, was attending Manhattanville and wanted to introduce me to faculty of the music department. One of the first things that things Joyce said to me was: “You are very pretty.” She went on to tell me about the music program and the available concentrations. Little did I know that wouldn’t be the last time I would be seeing her. At that time, I didn’t even know if I wanted to continue my studies of music at the college level.
Anyway, I began taking Joyce’s classes during my first semester of my second year of college. She was my music theory teacher, and I immediately grew to like her right from the very first day of class. “I hear you are a very strong music theory student,” she said. Not only was she my music professor but she was also my academic adviser as well. At the end of my first semester with her, she gave me one of her CD recordings that featured her music:.An Evening with Gerard Manley Hopkins. It was then that I became interested in composing music. Of course, I didn’t think I had it in me to even write music. My only composition was a very short piece I wrote for my freshman music seminar class. It was a rhythmic piece for four tin cans called Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
During the second semester of my sophomore year, Joyce began incorporating composition into her class assignments. Once we began studying 18th century counterpoint, we were to write the first section of a two-part invention. Being one of her faithful disciples, I wrote a two part invention in its entirety and played it in the Student Composer’s Concert. We were both quite happy with how the piece turned out. Even though it was written in an older style, she had told me that I had done well. During the summer we kept contact and theory and composition continued on. I wanted to wright another piano piece but was unsure about to organize the piece. She had gave me some pieces to study and analyze so I could see examples ternary, binary and rondo form. Many of the pieces we studied were from one of the books we used in class called Anthology for Musical Analysis by Charles Burkhart. Using the pieces as a model for form, I composed From a Dream.
Besides introducing me to composing, Joyce introduced me to the wonderful world of birds. She had kept cocketiels for much of her life and always told me again and again about Joe, the marvelous bird who could whistle the theme from the first movement of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. However, besides birds, she introduced me to the music organization, New York Women Composers, for which I now currently serve as Secretary/PR Coordinator. In addition, through her, I met and found Flora Kuan, one of my piano instructors, who did wonders in developing my technique.
Till this day, Joyce and I continue to stay in touch and whenever I have any composition-related question, she is the first person I ask. Also, she is one of Sunny and Nikki’s biggest fans. One of my favorite memories is when I took the girls to see her at the college for the first time. She just fell in love with them and her feelings toward them didn’t change one bit after they both pooped on her desk. “Oh it is just transformed seed, ” she said with a chuckle.
It truly is amazing that we have already known each other for nearly 11 years now. Manhattanville will surely not be the same without her. She was the best music professor I had, and she certainly gave her students much encouragement and praise for their hard work. I felt proud to hear her music performed that day, and if I ever turn out to be a really great composer someday, I will always remember that the composition journey started with her. .