Composer, flutist, pianist, and conductor Elliot Roman is a Composition master’s student at MSM who completed his undergraduate studies here last year, and was previously a student in the MSM Precollege program.
His composition Ludwig:sein:Seine is a commission by the American String Quartet, and is featured in their concert this Sunday, February 13 at 3 PM.
“2022 has been an amazing year for me so far,” says Elliot.
Last month, Elliot’s undergraduate orchestral thesis composition, Tzirklshpitz, was performed by the MSM Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Maestro George Manahan; the score won Elliot a 2021 BMI Student Composer Award.
The MSM student is also a Composition Fellow at the National Orchestral Institute + Festival this summer, where he’ll be writing a new piece for sinfonietta and collaborating with Maestra Marin Alsop, musical director laureate of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Elliot is also the artistic director and conductor of a new NY-area chamber orchestra called underStaffed.
Elliot speaks with us here about the ASQ concert, his writing process, and why being a student at MSM has been so important to him for his growth as a musician and composer.
Tell us a little about yourself!
Elliot: I’m a musician who wears many hats. I’m a composer, pianist, flutist, and conductor. I grew up in New Jersey, not far from Manhattan School of Music, and started learning piano at age three, flute at age 12, and composition in high school. I first entered the MSM scene through the Precollege Division, where I was a piano major. This led me to decide to continue as an undergraduate at MSM, where I majored in composition and studied with Mark Stambaugh. I am now a first year master’s composition student studying with Reiko Fueting.
Tell us about the piece you composed that is being performed by the American String Quartet on Feb 13?
Elliot: Ludwig:sein:Seine draws inspiration from Marc Chagall’s 1957 painting, The Concert. In the painting, two lovers are depicted on a boat, traveling from a cool, blue Paris to some otherworldly higher sphere, filled with quasi-mythical creatures and reddish hues. They ultimately make their way back to Paris, though now transformed by this journey. As I stared at the painting, I started to imagine a young Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the two lovers on this boat, perhaps with his immortal beloved, being serenaded and led on a psychedelic trip along the Seine. The force pulling the boat toward this higher realm is represented by the music coming from the mythical creatures’ string instruments. This idea of music as something larger than life with a heavenly allure greatly inspired me to compose this piece. I have embedded into Ludwig:sein:Seine a quote from Beethoven’s String Quartet in C-sharp Minor Op. 131; the quote gets distorted as it travels through various sonic profiles, referencing the distinct sections of the painting.
Do you mind sharing what your writing process looks like?
Elliot: My compositional impulses are often sparked by subtle connections between two or more non-musical sources. These could be poems, paintings, theatrical works, or philosophies. Once I have the connection in mind, assuming it somehow ties into the instrumentation of the piece, I create a projection of how the piece will take shape. When that’s complete, I take a break. I need to step away from the drawing board until I feel I know exactly what I want to write. Then, when I sit back down, it takes me only a few weeks (or even sometimes a matter of days), to write the piece in its entirety.
What are you looking forward to in 2022?
Elliot: 2022 has so far been an amazing year for me. Last month, I had the privilege to hear my undergraduate orchestral thesis composition, Tzirklshpitz, performed by the MSM Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Maestro George Manahan. Now I am extremely excited for the upcoming performance of my new string quartet, Ludwig:sein:Seine, by the American String Quartet.
Any advice for prospective students interested in the composition program at MSM?
Elliot: Write what you feel the need to write, and try your hardest not to worry about fitting into a certain mold or style. We composers compose because we enjoy composing.
What projects are you working on outside of school? What’s next for you?
Elliot: I am very excited to be a Composition Fellow at the National Orchestral Institute and Festival this summer, where I will be writing a new piece for sinfonietta and collaborating with Maestra Marin Alsop. When I don’t have my composition hat on, I am the Artistic Director and Conductor of a new NY-area chamber orchestra called underStaffed. We have a series of chamber orchestra and small chamber ensemble performances in the coming months. Otherwise, I have been and will continue to be freelancing in the NY Metropolitan area on piano and flute.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned at MSM?
Elliot: MSM has taught me to be industrious, resourceful, and self-reliant. I have developed a passion for collaboration, especially with artists outside my discipline.
“MSM has taught me to be industrious, resourceful, and self-reliant. I’ve developed a passion here for collaboration, especially with artists outside my discipline.”
FEB 13 | SUN
MSM Artists In Residence: American String Quartet
Peter Winograd and Laurie Carney, violin
Daniel Avshalomov, viola
Wolfram Koessel, cello
Featuring works by Elliot Roman (BM ’21, MM ’23), Vivian Fung, Franz Schubert, and Ludwig van Beethoven
Tickets: $15 adults; $10 seniors and students
MSM students enter free of charge with MSM i.d.
130 Claremont Ave
New York, NY 10027