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A double major in music and economics & business, Marquis Scholar Dave Mitchell ’05 (Bear Creek, Pa.) has been collaborating on a musical composition since last summer with Tom DiGiovanni ’96, part-time instructor of music. They plan to finish their work this summer and present it for performance and for judging in an annual competition.

Impressed with Mitchell’s talent and hunger for musical experience, DiGiovanni suggested the pair team up on an innovative non-credit project. He got the idea from the collaborative artistry at Lafayette’s Williams Visual Arts Building, where artists sometimes share canvases, painting over parts of each other’s work to create a finished product that is a combined vision.

“It’s a process of creation and editing at the same time,” explains DiGiovanni. “It inspired me to say, ‘Why don’t musicians compose together?’”

Mitchell and DiGiovanni chose to write a piece for chorus (one of Mitchell’s specialties) and piano, and they turned to Ross Gay ’96, Dean of Studies Humanities Fellow during the past two school years, for the text. They selected a poem titled “Ruptured Aneurism,” which DiGiovanni says is “on one level about the passing of history and time.”

The musicians collaborate through email and phone conversations. One of them composes a section and sends it to the other, who will edit what had been written and add onto that, and so on. DiGiovanni and Mitchell often call each other to explain in depth why they chose to make certain changes. “The greatest thing it’s led to is long conversations about compositional changes and the theory behind them,” says DiGiovanni.

“How to communicate what you want musically over email and telephone is definitely a challenge,” Mitchell says. “And how to know when you really want something as is, that’s another tough lesson. I think we have had a really good balance and kept each other’s artistic integrity.”

DiGiovanni says working with Mitchell is “like working with another professional. When we began [the project], we had no particular musical direction in mind. He’s also still at the point where he’s absorbing so much, so he’s very open.”

“It’s been a great experience working with Tom,” says Mitchell. “We’ve been able to take an extension of what I’ve learned in music theory and the musical groups I belong to here and actually create something. This project has definitely been beneficial because it entailed starting something from scratch.”

Mitchell says DiGiovanni has also taught him that he doesn’t have to go to a business office every day to make a living. “I don’t have to say that music is just my avocation; Tom has shown me that it can be my vocation as well.”

The two have done the bulk of their work over the past winter and summer breaks and expect to finish the composition this summer. DiGiovanni hopes to have the piece heard in performance as well as entered into the annual choral composition contest held in August at Ithaca College in upstate New York.

Skip Wilkins, assistant professor of music, is another important influence on Mitchell in the music department. “He’s a great jazz musician, and he’s the teacher I’ve taken the most from here. He’s inspiring; when he plays jazz in class, everybody’s listening,” he says.

Mitchell is following in the footsteps of his family as a sixth generation legacy at Lafayette. He plays eight instruments and has been a member of concert band, jazz ensemble, and percussion ensemble. He is assistant musical director of The Chorduroys, a male student a cappella group, for which he arranges music. He is also a member of a new mixed student a cappella group and the newly formed spoken word ensemble, and plans to start a jazz-only a cappella group. A music theory tutor, Mitchell teaches violin to a local youth and has directed St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Choir in Easton. He also is vice president of Investment Club, an usher at the Williams Center for the Arts, a member of Arts Society, and a resident of one of several Lafayette Arts Houses, the members of which coordinate activities centered around the performing arts.

Categorized in: Academic News