BHSU's top three competitors of the
collegiate composition category of
the South Dakota Music Teachers
Association. (left to Right) Jesse
Dunaway from Rapid City, Kendra
Iversen from Sidney, Mont., and
Raquel Sweat from Broadus, Mont.
Black Hills State University students received the highest top three places in the collegiate composition category of the South Dakota Music Teachers Association (SDMTA) competition.

“I'm very proud of the work they've done,” said Dr. Symeon Waseen, assistant professor of music. “I feel that this is the beginning of a strong tradition of composition here at BHSU. Composition is my passion, and I am very excited to share it with willing students in the region.”

According to Waseen, composition students submit a work they have written to the composition chair who sends it to a judge. The judge then reviews the submissions and chooses the top in each age category.

Raquel Sweat, music education major from Broadus, Mont., placed first. Sweat’s piece was titled
“Frive” and was a piano piece using the 20th century technique of quartal and quintal harmonies—harmonies that are based on the intervals of fourths and fifths.

“We all wrote our own pieces using a 20th century technique we learned in Advanced Music Theory II. We didn’t have any rules and could use any instrument we wanted. I wrote for piano, so I could play it myself,” Sweat said. “I named my piece ‘Frive,’ which is like if the words four and five had a baby.”

Jesse Dunaway, music education major from Rapid City, placed second, and Kendra Iversen, vocal music education major from Sidney, Mont., got an honorable mention.

Dunaway’s piece “Messagejio de Dio,” which is Italian for “The Message of God,” started with two vocals and later was revised to four vocals for a full men’s choir. Like Sweat, Dunaway also performed his piece himself along with some fellow students. Iversen chose BHSU students Matt Adair, music major from Sheridan, Wyo., and Kortney Brunner, music education major from Nisland, to perform her composition.

“My piece was a piano and vocal piece,” Iversen said. “I used the 20th century theme, with a lot of tone rose, serialism, and word paintings in my piece.”

The three music students submitted their recorded pieces on Sept. 11 and found out that they placed top three Nov. 26.

The collegiate composition category of SDMTA is a competition that provides opportunities for instructors and music students to gain recognition of their musical growth as an undergraduate or high school student. SDMTA holds student competitions every year.  The competitions are for instrumental/vocal performance and composition.  

“I am very thrilled that BHSU students received all of the top places for the competition,” Sweat said. “Dr. Waseen is such an inspiration to all of us and is a wonderful instructor. When I came to BHSU, I was completely against composition and improvisation, but he helped us learn enough to feel confident in composing our own pieces. He has taught me so much about piano and theory, and it is because of him that I want to pursue my master’s degree in music theory after graduation.” 

Waseen encourages anyone to take composition lessons.

“Even if you don't have a strong musical background, I encourage anyone who wants to get in touch with their creative side to give it a try,” he said.

Anyone interested in taking composition lessons with Waseen can contact him at Symeon.Waseen@BHSU.edu or (605)642-6241.