"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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Thursday, April 10, 2008
Last in Line

Iím the youngest of eight in my family. Itís an unusual position, but certainly not unique. Oddly, I just recently realized that Iíve never knowingly met anyone else who falls into that slot. In the composer world, I do know of one who has two-upped me: Augusta Read Thomas is the youngest of ten.

There are benefits and drawbacks to holding this spot in the queue. Growing up, I had an extensive staircase of human development models ascending before me, whose teachings I think served me well. And as a composer itís easy for me to imagine my ideal audience Ė people who are not professional musicians, but whose cultural interests, curiosity and intelligence overlap with mine.

On the other hand, there are disadvantages to being the tail end of a large household. For example, I was in my teens before I really figured out how to brush my teeth Ė obviously, somebody must have shown me earlier on, but maybe they assumed I was catching on before I really had the hang of it.

Itís also recently struck me that my disinterest in composers who focus on originality may have something to do with my birth order Ė certainly, growing up, I had frequent reminders that everything I did had been done before. In that situation, there was no competitive advantage in doing things first. Accomplishment had to be measured in some other way, and for me it has always been measured by my ability to improve on whatís already been done.

Obviously, both of these pursuits Ė firstness and bestness -- are praiseworthy. A balanced boat has both bow and stern, and a balanced culture has to have people who are forging ahead to counterpoise the people who are fine-tuning the rudder.

Of course, my whole argument could be stood on its head: why wouldnít coming last in a large family make me even more obsessed with being the first to do things?

And thatís another skill I learned from my birth order: if you canít improve on whatís been said before, just stand it on its head.