Professors are often too busy teaching and researching to have much time to invest in their own passion projects. However, music teacher Kirk O’Riordan always makes sure to find time in his busy schedule to pursue his love of music composition and to share that music with the campus community.
Last Saturday, April 9, O’Riordan presented a performance that was part of the Faculty Artist Series at the Williams Center for the Arts. All of the pieces in the show were contemporary classical music in the Western or European tradition, composed by O’Riordan himself.
“[Composing] is an important part of who I am as a person. I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be good at it, and that’s something I really can’t not do,” O’Riordan said. “I love the work of refining a piece, making sure the notation is perfect, making sure the elements are balanced in the pieces.”
Most of the pieces were composed for saxophone and piano. O’Riordan performed the “Sonata for Alto Saxophone” with piano accompaniment by Director of Keyboard Studies Holly Roadfelt. Manaka Gomi ’23 and Phuong Nam Vu ’25 performed “Humming Spheres” on the piano together. Roadfelt also performed “Twenty-Six Preludes” and “Lacrimosa” on solo piano.
A string quartet, consisting of Anna Zittle ’22 and Beth Anne Castellano ’22 on violin, Justin Kogasaka ’22 on viola, and Kieran Ameres ’25 on cello, performed another piece titled “Elegy.”
“It was especially great to hear the energy, refinement, nuance, care and commitment the students brought to my pieces. It was a really professional, polished, classy performance, and I was thrilled with it,” O’Riordan said.
O’Riordan took about a year to think about choosing the pieces for the performance.
“I’ve always told people it’s kind of like an engineering project: you don’t just sit down in front of a piano or whatever and write a song. It requires an understanding of structure and architecture and balancing the elements, and all those kinds of challenges that engineers have to deal with that are also part of what composition is,” O’Riordan said. . “I find it incredibly rewarding to do.”
O’Riordan said the event was very well received by both performers and audience members. He described the music as “beautiful and intense”.
“Student performers seemed particularly happy with the way they were performing,” O’Riordan said. “And they should be, because I thought they were absolutely fantastic.”