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Commonwealth student Charlie with his family at an awards ceremony. He wears a grey suit and holds a program.
Student Composer Hones His Craft as Scholarship Awardee

For a composer like Charlie ’25, there's no place to spend the summer quite like the Walden School in New Hampshire. It's the composition program where this Commonwealth student goes to experiment with his music and connect not only with professional musicians but like-minded young people. "You're not judged that much based off of what type of music you write," he notes. "Everybody has a really open mind to music."

This past summer, Charlie received an award that enabled him to keep developing his work in this open-minded environment. He was nominated by program faculty for, and ultimately received, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) Foundation's Irving Berlin Summer Music Camp Scholarship. The scholarship, which funds one student's time at a summer program, is a significant honor for an emerging composer, as ASCAP is one of the most well-established music copyright organizations in the United States.

On the heels of being nationally recognized for his piece "Like A Single Star in the Night Sky," Charlie wrote two experimental compositions at Walden that were performed by the program's faculty musicians. And he continued to probe at the theoretical questions he first encountered in Commonwealth's music courses

"Everybody's first classes at Walden are asking the questions 'what is music?' and 'what is sound?' The most universal definition we've come up with is that music is defined as sound organized in space and time," Charlie explains. "The musicianship program is more about how fundamentally music works than how music works in theory. It's a fun approach to music." 

Related: Listen to Charlie's compositions

With the new academic year in full swing, what is Charlie currently working on? (Well, "when I'm not doing homework," he says.) Recently, Commonwealth's Director of Music David Hodgkins approached Charlie about producing a piece for the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, which stages a series of free public concerts at the Charles River Esplanade's Hatch Shell every summer. Mr. Hodgkins led the Boston One City Choir last summer in a Landmarks performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and is a friend of Landmarks conductor Christopher Wilkins.

"I'm trying to get in touch with several of Landmarks's musicians themselves to ask about specific things that their instruments are good at—not just, for example, what the clarinet is good at, but what their specific clarinet is good at, because every player is different," Charlie says. He's keeping the details of his piece under tight wraps, but if it's approved for a Landmarks debut, it'll be uniquely fitted to the orchestra's musicians and their instruments' capabilities. 

The next composition you hear from Charlie, though, might not be a summer orchestral performance, but writing he has yet to fully explore: lyrics. "I've been trying to get some songwriting done," he says. "That's something I've started doing for the past few weeks—English classes with Mr. Kerner are really inspiring for that kind of creative process." 

 

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