Gwyneth Walker

Premiering New Music

by Michael Howell, The University of Idaho Argonaut
Published 11/7/06

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Read notes for Four American Folk Songs (2006) for guitar

For most people, the chance of meeting their idol is slim.

For University of Idaho music professor James Reid, it’s about to happen. When it does, UI will benefit from being the first place ever to showcase Gwyneth Walker’s newest music.

Gwyneth Walker is a renowned composer and graduate of Brown University and the Hartt School of Music. She is a former faculty member of the Oberlin College Conservatory, but in 1982 she resigned from academic employment to pursue a career as a full-time composer.

“I heard arrangements she had done for the guitar when I was a student at the Hartt School,” Reid said. “I found myself performing those arrangements numerous times over the years. I started to wonder if she would compose pieces for me.”

Reid then came across Walker’s personal Web site.

“She had a link where it was possible to send her an e-mail,” Reid said. “We started corresponding and eventually I sent her demos of some of her pieces that I had performed.”

Reid managed to convince Walker to compose some pieces specifically for him. As part of the deal, Walker would come to Idaho from Vermont and watch Reid debut her new pieces.

With the deal in place, the preparation began.

“I got the music from her early this year,” Reid said. “She sent me the new pieces and I was given the freedom to make editorial changes if there was a part that wouldn’t work as well with a guitar. It was a back-and-forth collaborative process.”

Getting this music to UI wasn’t a completely problem-free process. There was even a point when it seemed the guest composition would have to be postponed.

“I’m a soccer coach as well,” Reid said. “And I managed to injure the hand that I grip the fret of the guitar with. It’s good to go now, but for a while it seemed like we might have to wait.”

While Walker is in Moscow, she will also get to see what the Lionel Hampton School of Music is all about. She has been visiting some of the classes in the days before the performance.

Tonight, Walker will get to hear a huge performance dedicated to her music.

“Along with the new pieces that I will be debuting for her, I will also perform some of her older pieces that I have done before,” Reid said.

Reid’s will not be the only Walker-composed performance of the night. The Vandaleer choir will perform a piece by Walker. One of her songs will be performed by a brass concerto and many others.

Reid said he will get a chance to meet one of his idols, and UI will get a chance to hear some great music from a great composer.

“How often do you get the chance to be the first to hear the world premiere of great music?” Reid said.