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Student Project Recognizes Art of Composition

“Enthusiastic” is a term friends have used to describe Emmanuel Stokes, BC communication student, a trait which he brought to work on a daily basis while working with Krista Bowker and Dr. Kathy Bullock on the “Edition of Art Song by Contemporary African-American Composers” project.

Now just a rough manuscript, “Edition of Art Song by Contemporary African-American Composers” will develop into an anthology of African American art songs. The value of such a text can be found in it’s rarity, as this category of study is relatively unexplored, “There is a great need for this book,” says Emmanuel,” Numerous books have already been written on American folk songs, Chinese art songs, and such, but there is a need for a book on African American art songs; currently only two exist.”

The authors hope to offer an additional twist to the anthology which will not be present in similar texts. “It allows the composer to actually ‘speak’ by including their directions for performance as well as the back story for why the songs were written,” says Emmanuel. This supplementary information should provide the reader with an additional dimension with which to understand a composition.

This dedicated student works a schedule ranging between 8 am and midnight, yet Emmanuel's perseverance and love of the subject keeps him moving. Emmanuel’s thirst for knowledge is what lead him to this project. “I choose this project because in Short Term I took the class "The Black Composer Speaks" where I learned a great deal about many of the composers who are included in this text. I enjoyed the class and wanted to further my knowledge on these awesome individuals.”

The most challenging part of the project for Emmanuel has not been writing, and researching, but setting up interviews with the composers. Even though the busy lives of the contemporary artists may have stopped them from donating a few minutes to the authors, Emmanuel found that they were willing to speak with him and his team, despite their distractions. Emmanuel explains, “One composer we interviewed just a few weeks after his son was born, while another allowed us to interview her over the phone while she was helping her sister move.”

While the most difficult part of the project has been contacting the renowned composers for interviews, it has also been the most rewarding part. Emmanuel says, “What surprised me the most is what we most enjoyed about the project: the interviews with the composers. Never did we consider that we would have such a good time listening to the words and wisdom of composers.”

Despite the tremendous time and effort by Emmanuel and his co-workers, Emmanuel is able to see the benefit to his future as a professional. “It has allowed me to see how attainable the world is… the project, working alongside people with Master's degrees and Ph.D.'s, allowed me to see that I can go on after I graduate from here and gain those degrees. The project also opened my eyes to lots of careers that are available to me when I graduate.” he says.

What path Emmanuel will take has yet to be decided, but one thing is for sure his excitement and passion will not subside. “It is really exciting when you wake up and look forward to going to work because it is something you enjoy,” says Emmanuel. “I have totally loved this project.”

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