Lawrence Dillon@Sequenza21.com

"There are no two points so distant from one another that they cannot be connected by a single straight line -- and an infinite number of curves."

Composer Lawrence Dillon has produced an extensive body of work, from brief solo pieces to a full-length opera. Three disks of his music are due out in 2010 on the Bridge, Albany and Naxos labels. In the past year, he has had commissions from the Emerson String Quartet, the Cassatt String Quartet, the Mansfield Symphony, the Boise Philharmonic, the Salt Lake City Symphony, the Ravinia Festival, the Daedalus String Quartet, the Kenan Institute for the Arts, the University of Utah and the Idyllwild Symphony Orchestra.

Although he lost 50% of his hearing in a childhood illness, Dillon began composing as soon as he started piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1985, he became the youngest composer to earn a doctorate at The Juilliard School, and was shortly thereafter appointed to the Juilliard faculty. Dillon is now Composer in Residence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has served as Music Director of the Contemporary Ensemble, Assistant Dean of Performance, and Interim Dean of the School of Music. He was the Featured American Composer in the February 2006 issue of Chamber Music magazine.


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Sunday, July 10, 2005
Student of Composition

When I entered grad school, I was asked to choose who I wanted to have for a composition teacher. My options were Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, David Diamond, Vincent Persichetti and Roger Sessions. I opted not to choose, figuring that I wasnít worth much if I couldnít learn something from any one of those guys.

As it worked out, I was able to learn quite a bit from each of them, just by paying close attention to every encounter, every opportunity for dialogue. Thanks to them, I finished my degree with several lifetimes worth of awareness and experience, some of which has taken me years, and even decades, to sort through.

But none of that makes me a good composer.

Good composers learn from good teachers, they learn from bad teachers, and they learn from no teachers at all. Donít ever let anyone imply that s/heís a better composer than someone else because of who hisorher teacher was. The important thing is how good a learner the student was, and continues to be.

The best situation is to have good teachers who help you find your own way. One of the challenges I have in my teaching is knowing when to tell a student that something wonít work, and when to let the lesson teach itself. Thereís always the temptation to want to save a young composer the time and trouble of barreling down a dead end, but thatís not always the best approach. Some of the most important lessons Iíve learned as a student of composition have come from not being afraid to make brutal mistakes.

At times like those, itís great to have a sensitive teacher who can help you focus on what you have gained through experience, someone who can reflect on where youíve been and where you are going, someone who knows that mistakes are a beginning and not an end, and someone who will take sincere joy in celebrating each step in your growth as an artist.