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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Friday, August 31, 2007
Rule of Transparency

One of the toughest rules Iíve had to deal with as an administrator is ďNever make them guess what youíre thinking.Ē In other words, always explain your decisions and your vision as clearly as possible. The rule is an important one, because Iíve learned the hard way that students and teachers, in the absence of facts, frequently guess wrong: they will often assume that I donít know what I am doing, or I have some selfish motive, rather than guessing the perfectly valid reason for the decision Iíve made.

This has been a hard rule for me to abide by, because I put a lot of thought into all of my decisions, and I hate having to take the time to go back and explain what Iíve done. It seems like a poor use of my skills: instead of moving forward with the next challenge, Iím stuck rehashing my train of thought on the last one -- the past in slow motion -- so that someone else can understand it.

In my ideal administrative world, everyone who works with me would do their jobs as well as possible, and assume that I am doing the same. Some students and teachers fit this -- admittedly selfish -- ideal, but others need to know exactly what I am thinking and why at all times. I have to avoid feeling like they are just gumming up the works with their questions and do my best to give them the explanations they crave.

I understand their concern Ė I have been very suspicious of Authority myself in the past. Itís easy to see Authority as Power. Now I see it more as Responsibility: when you are in a position of Authority, your decisions mean so much more. A small mistake can have severe costs, so you worry and worry over every decision before finally making a commitment. When people feel powerless, though, they can be justified in believing that those in positions of authority arenít to be trusted.

So Iíve learned this transparency rule, although Iím pretty terrible at following it.

How does this rule interface with composition? While obfuscation for its own sake is generally unattractive to me, I usually like to give music the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes a composition has motives I canít guess, and demanding that it fit my preconceptions isnít beneficial to anyone. So I try to be a good servant, following the musicís orders.

After all, music has even less patience for explaining itself than I have.