News Column

Roland-Story teacher makes music of poems

August 31, 2014

By Anthony Capps, Ames Tribune, Iowa

Aug. 31--Connor Koppin enjoys putting a poet's words to music.

Earlier this year, the Mason City native and former All-State Choir member had one of his compositions performed at the All-State Music Festival, making him the youngest living composer to have his work showcased at the event.

A few weeks ago, Koppin, 23, who now teaches vocal music at Roland-Story High School, won first place in the Capital Hearings inaugural Young Composers Competition.

The Washington, D.C.-based Capitol Hearings, which was founded in 2010, is a small a capella group devoted to jazz and classical music from any time period. A concert by the group can range from the mid-13th century to the current year.

The contest Koppin won was open to any composer in the United States or Canada and age 40 and under. Submissions came from 22 states, Washington, D.C., and two Canadian provinces.

Koppin's winning piece, "There will come Soft Rains," was inspired by a Sara Teasdale poem that was written a few years after World War I ended. The 12-line poem is about nature reclaiming an old battlefield.

"In this particular poem, it mentions a lot of elements of nature," he said. "I have to create the musical ideas that depict the actions and that serves as a method to weave it all together. It's more or less about finding the bread crumbs the poet left behind. Then piecing it all together."

Koppin, a Wartburg College alumnus, said the poem had resonated with him, but he waited a while to start writing to try to understand the poet's interpretation of what is taking place.

"I believe it paints a beautiful spring scene," said John Hazangeles, executive director of The Capitol Hearings. "Our singers are loving how he has shaped the text."

Koppin keeps up doing both composing and teaching, and this is his first year at Roland-Story.

Koppin grew up playing the piano and being in the choir, but during his senior year, he became more enthused about singing. After being in a couple of college choirs and seeing a student from a school write music, the bug hit him. He began composing during his sophomore year.

"Writing music didn't seem that distant and unachieveable," he said.

By his senior year, the choir was singing his music. His music started out as mostly sacred music because it felt the most natural for him to write. Later, he began to branch out and based works on poetry rather than just Bible passages.

He was in a couple of bands during high school, so while there isn't much correlation between writing for a garage band and choral music, the feeling of creating music was familiar. Being in choir, he knew how the different voices work and classes taught him the background work.

Koppin said he's composed between 25 and 30 songs, of which 15 he has shared.

The piece performed at the All-State Music Festival was "i carry your heart," which is based on an E. E. Cummings poem.

"There will come Soft Rains" will be performed by The Capitol Hearings on Sept. 27.


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Source: Ames Tribune (IA)

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