Gettysburg College senior Jeff Binner was recently one of only two undergraduates in the country selected to have their orchestral composition performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, one of the nation’s most renowned orchestral ensembles.
Binner’s composition Grief was selected for the 10th Annual Reading Session for Young Composers’ Work and performed on March 15 at Heinz Hall in downtown Pittsburgh.
Grief is inspired by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' model of the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Binner was motivated to craft the piece after suffering a personal loss.
For his particular arrangement, Binner wrote three movements with denial, depression, and acceptance as the composition’s themes. After honing in on these particular themes, Binner began to record how his ideas could be incorporated into music.
“This was the first full orchestral piece I’ve ever written,” said Binner, a music major in Gettysburg’s Sunderman Conservatory of Music. “To have my work showcased was such an honor and an unbelievable experience to hear it performed by one of the top orchestras in the world.”
Binner kept his initial composition limited to three movements to fit the length requirements for the reading session. He is continuing work on the arrangement, and is looking forward to incorporating the other two themes—anger and bargaining—into his final version of Grief.
The reading session, led by guest conductor Leonard Slatkin, provides collegiate composers the opportunity to obtain professional feedback. After a performance of the piece, Binner would receive questions and comments from both Slatkin and the musicians of the orchestra about his composition.
In addition to hearing his own composition performed for an audience and later critiqued, Binner received advice on compositional techniques, gained constructive insights into orchestration, and learned more about the strengths and weaknesses of his work.
Binner heard about the Reading Session at the start of last summer. He immediately began wielding the musical knowledge he’s learned at the Sunderman Conservatory of Music to write his first full score.
Last year, Binner heard another one of his arrangements, New Love Stories, performed by SHUFFLE, a professional ensemble based in Brooklyn. SHUFFLE performs new music, with neither the audience members nor the performers knowing what scores will be requested at each concert. The group offers 40 musical works derived from 14 different styles.
Binner worked closely with Conservatory faculty members to fine-tune Grief and emphasized the impactful one-on-one sessions he had with Prof. Avner Dorman.
“All of my Conservatory classes helped me build my composition to the best it could be, especially my work with Professor Dorman,” Binner said. “I’ve received so much support from him throughout my composition process. I’ve had this incredible experience, which has helped me prepare for graduate school.”
Binner has already been accepted as a grad student to Mannes College for Music in New York, and is also waiting to hear from Johns Hopkins and New York University.
“I've enjoyed all of the support from the Conservatory faculty and students over the past few years,” Binner said. “Being a part of the Reading Session has also put me at a new level as I look ahead to my professional career. I’ve been able to make new contacts, build my musical portfolio, and gain early recognition as a composer. This was the cherry on top of my upcoming graduation from Gettysburg College.”
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition that includes Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate and other distinguished scholars among its alumni. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Nick Skitko, communications and marketing intern
Contact: Mike Baker, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6521