“Listening to your music being performed by others is addictive.”

Juan Marulanda Lopez had a taste of that joy, and now he’s ready for more. As a graduate student in the University of Northern Iowa’s School of Music, Juan compiled a portfolio of original compositions as part of his degree’s culminating experience. The UNI orchestra even performed one of his pieces!

“When I write a piece of music, my major interest is to have a collaborative experience with performers,” said Juan, who holds a BA in Music Composition from Javeriana University and a Graduate Specialist Diploma in Management of Music Companies, Services and Products from EAN University. “[Collaboration] is an opportunity that I have had here at UNI.”

Juan has a wide range of experience in the field of music; he has taught, served in administration, and even started his own music engraving company. But UNI has granted him the time and relationships to develop his skills in composition. 

“I searched through many programs in the US, but UNI was one of the few places where I got a personal response to emails sent to composition faculty,” Juan said. He knew right away that UNI would offer him a collaborative, energized environment to develop and share his music.

“In general, the opportunities for [graduate] students are quite varied,” said Dr. Suzanne Hendrix-Case, Graduate Coordinator for UNI’s School of Music. She noted that Juan, like many graduate students, had a rich variety of experiences at UNI. “We try to provide students with both teaching and performing opportunities to help prepare them for the many demands placed on professional musicians.”

“[Juan’s was] a unique experience because few composers have the opportunity for an entire orchestra to read through a new composition,” Dr. Hendrix-Case added. “The different divisions in the School of Music work together frequently, and it is lovely that [the conductor was] willing to give rehearsal time so that Juan can hear his work performed.”

And it was a rare treat for the musicians as well, who got to play Juan’s piece Raudal.

“Juan’s work is varied and compelling,” said Dr. Daniel Swilley, Juan’s thesis advisor. “[He makes] use of novel and interesting combinations from a range of musical references: aleatoricism, free atonality, serial processes, sonification, as well as folk and traditional musics from his home country, among others.”

When asked where he finds source material for his work, Juan commented, “Inspiration appears in the least expected places.”

“Music composition is hard to describe,” he added. “It is mostly through hard and constant work that a musical composition gets to the point where it takes a shape.”

Juan plans to continue his composing work, and he hopes to spread the word through social media and more live performances. Look--or rather, listen--for his work in the future!