Pulitzer Prize-winning composer visits campus

By Gus Bode

For Bernard Rands, composing music has been his life. Since the age of 10, he has composed, played and created music for audiences all over the world.

Wednesday night’s musical performance at the Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall brought an array of musical performances by the SIUC Altgeld Chamber Players, conducted by Rands, with musical direction by Eric Mandat.

Casey Ginther, professor of composition in the School of Music, is responsible for bringing Rands to SIUC one day after his retirement from Harvard University.

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Rands has taught music at Harvard University for more than 20 years.

“I felt it was time for me to move on to other things in my life,” Rands said.

Although Rands has retired, people continue to admire his music, as evidenced by the presence of students and faculty from the School of Music at the concert Wednesday night.

“His work really speaks to the heart and mind,” Ginther said. “It’s very distinctive and very beautiful.”

Ginther said her admiration for his talent was one of the main reasons she pushed so hard to bring him to SIUC.

Ginther said Rands has composed all types of music, ranging from operas and chamber music to music for string quartets.

“I do love composing voices,” Rands said. “Operas and solos – a lot of my music is related to literature, not only in English, but German, French and Italian as well.”

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Rands said he is so passionate about voice composition because it has the ability to affect people.

“Even when people do not speak well, due to a disability, it is not the speech but the human voice that touches us deep in our souls,” Rands said.

Rands said while his music uses a variety of instruments and notes, the style of his music is not something he thinks about.

“I don’t think artist should force style when it comes to music,” Rands said.

In last night’s performance, Rands composed a solo voice piece as well as a musical piece called “Memo Seven.”

As for those aspiring to compose, Rands said the most important thing to do is to simply compose.

“Work, work, work,” he said. “It is all about performance – perform as much as possible.

“Composing is a process of discovery. It’s a discovery of what music can do. It’s a discovery of oneself and making things that did not exist before.”

Reporter Sunniya Marquez can be reached at

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