Student takes the stage as writer, composer, performer


Sophomore music education student Scott Little edits the music piece he wrote for his recital in the oboe studio Oct. 24, 2016. Little will be playing an original piece of music for his sophomore recital Nov. 1.

Kellie Nock

In the practice rooms at Kent State’s Center for Performing Arts, Scott Little practices his oboe for hours, perfecting each note and sound. He spends time making oboe reeds and tweaking with a piece he’s been working on for five months in order to prepare for his upcoming junior recital.

“Over the summer I wrote … 30 percent of it in little splotches,” said Little, a junior musical education major. “My writing process — I’ve been thinking a lot about it — and I don’t really have a concrete process, but I tend to do things where I’ll start something then put it away forever and then come back to it in … phases.”

Little began writing the piece for the english horn sonata at the end of his freshman year when he first started to tinker with the instrument. When he realized that he would be performing it for his fall 2016 semester, he finished the piece when he came back to school.

“It’s a lot of whims,” Little said. “Me just being like, ‘I think I’m gonna try this’ and then I do try it and then I make it work … it’s a lot of trial and error.”

Little uses a music program on his computer that allows you to put in the notes and hear them played back. The process involves tweaking the notes as you listen to them.

“I’ll … keep tweaking a section for a while until I get to a point where I don’t know what I’m going to do, so I’ll put it away for a while,” Little said. “Then I come back to it and I get another whim, another idea, so I’ll go from there … I have to kind of figure out how I’m going to make all of these little things that just came out of me work as a unit all together.”

Little’s english horn sonata piece involved moving many of the sections around to make it work and ensuring that each section didn’t lose any energy or gusto while still maintaining the narrative of the piece. Little cites his instructors and colleagues as a big help, including Danna Sundet, an associate music professor, and music professor Frank Wiley.

“I talked to … professor Danna Sundet, love her to death — and she said basically … sophomores do this sort of thing for fun,” Little said. “I remember there was this one flute who was here … she did a sophomore recital and she did really good in it. I know she’s really good even though I’ve never played with her so I was like ‘I’m gonna do what she did.’ So I am.”

Little often spends time in Sundet’s office practicing his oboe, writing his piece and making oboe reeds. Sundet was one of Little’s main sources of improvement as he began to learn the oboe, and he cites her as the reason he improved on the instrument.

“When I first started playing the oboe, I seriously sucked at it,” Little said. “Then we moved from my old town to a new town, and because I was in the new town I could take lessons from … Danna Sundet, and I started getting really good. She is a great teacher.”

Little also credits music organizations such as the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Organization (COYO), an organization based in the Cleveland Orchestra, as a great help in his growth as a musician.

“Scott is unusual in that he has such extraordinary talent in both composition and performance,” said Wiley, who assisted Little on the piece. “This is a rare combination. He is an exceptional oboist and English hornist, and he is also a highly gifted composer. But it is not only the talent that makes Scott stand out. He also understands the commitment and hard work it takes to bring that talent to fruition.”

Little has worked this entire semester on perfecting the piece and spends hours at a time practicing to make sure he gets everything right. He said he’s been getting three hours of sleep every other night and is “sort of killing (himself)” in preparation for his recital. However, it will be worth it to Little in the end.

“I want to be at the end of it and be like ‘yeah, I put in the work and I feel like I gave a good performance,'” he said. “I want people to come up to me afterwards and be like ‘wow your piece was good’ and ‘I really enjoyed your performance’ … Writing music is extremely personal somehow, and every time I put my music out into the real world, I suddenly start to … (hate it and) I find all these flaws. I just wanna be able to walk out of it and be like ‘you know, maybe the piece isn’t perfect yet, but I played it well.’”

Little’s recital will feature his piece and pieces by artists Bozza and Bach. The Bach piece is a double concerto featuring fellow student and artist Daniela Arias. Little hopes to surprise and entertain audiences with his piece.

“I have some shocker chords,” Little said. “I have trouble writing music that’s the same for a long amount of time, and so there are always these big left turns. And I also like the idea of the audience being like ‘Whoa, I wasn’t expecting that.’”

Little plans on using this performance as a means of overcoming nervousness that many performers and artists face throughout their careers. According to Little, putting yourself out there is the best way to overcome nerves.

“I know that the hour before my recital or the day of, I’m gonna be like heart-pumping, blood-boiling, whatever. And I do want to prove to myself that I kind of have worked through that,” Little said.

As for the long run, Little’s goal is to have his piece known to his audience and to his friends and family hear it.

“One thing I wanna do is I want to get my piece published, or not published, but (put) out there into the world because … publishing can lead to pieces disappearing or being treated unfairly,” Little said. “The thing about that piece is that it’s got such a hard piano part that I don’t think I’ll be able to perform it again for a long time and so I kind of have this one shot with it.”

Little’s junior recital will take place Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m. at Ludwig Recital Hall. No admission is required.