Plymouth State Music Student to Publish Composition for Band

November 8th, 2006 by Adam

Melanie Donahue of Littleton a senior music education major at Plymouth State University, has had an original composition for band accepted for publication by Alfred Publishing Company, one of the world’s largest publishers of written music.

Eire was premiered by the Plymouth State Symphonic Band at their spring concert and is reported to be the only piece by a female composer in the Alfred band catalog. Publication is expected in June 2007.

Donahue, who plans to teach general music in grades K–6, said she began composing during her junior year of high school. At Plymouth State she first took general education courses while she determined what major would suit her best, and realized quickly that she missed music. She was accepted into the music education program and found herself drawn to composition classes, which offered significant opportunity to work one-to-one with Jonathan Santore, professor of music theory and composition and chair of the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

“As I was working with Melanie throughout the compositional process of Eire, I could tell that the finished product would be something special,” said Santore, who was named New Hampshire composer of the year in 2006 and 1999, and has won numerous awards for his compositions.

“Not only is the piece well crafted and well constructed, but it is also in a very appealing, engaging style. And it ‘works’ for band—that verb covers a wide range of issues that confront any director selecting a composition for performance by an ensemble. I think this is the beginning of a notable compositional career.”

Eire began as a class assignment and was written specifically for band, but the melody which became the theme for the work was in Donahue’s head for two years. A second theme is composed in Irish jig style. Donahue says it is “celebratory—perhaps like St. Patrick’s day—and reflective of another aspect of Irish culture.”

Composition requires more than technical skill—the process involves research, in this case about Irish music, the immigrant experience, and family history. She was influenced by Angela’s Ashes and ’TIS, both by Frank McCourt, two memoirs describing his life in Ireland and his arrival in New York at the age of 19.
Donahue said, “I thought of the scenery of Ireland, the ocean, and him coming to New York on the boat, and I connected with his experience.” The novice composer likes to walk along the ocean, and kept hearing the central theme of the work in her head as she did so.

Like Santore, Donahue’s family knew Eire was a special piece. “They were blown away that it was accepted by a major publisher of band music,” she said. “Composition is a difficult task, but it makes me very happy. Speaking with noted composer and publisher Robert Sheldon at Alfred was a wonderful experience. I am so fortunate that Dr. Santore gave me the opportunity to write this piece and to have it performed.”

Sheldon said, “ [Donahue] is a very talented writer and I am certain that she will have great success. An acceptance into our catalogue means that her work was selected over hundreds of other pieces that were not accepted, including many by previously published and successful composers. Eire is a delightful composition that will be very playable by bands across the country.”

Bitten by the composition bug, Donahue has submitted a second piece, Celtic Voyage, to Alfred for consideration. “I’d like to work for Alfred someday,” she concluded.