Harrison Collins is a first-year music composition major at Illinois State. The Little Elm, Texas native has played the bassoon for six years and has experience playing the piano and clarinet. Although he has always enjoyed performing, Harrison’s desire to compose is a fairly recent development.
“I suppose the insect of music composition bit me when I wasn’t looking,” Collins said. “In eighth grade, my band directors encouraged me to write a piece for our band, so I churned out my first full work, Clash.”
Collins looks back fondly on his middle school band’s performance of Clash, which he conducted himself.
“I remember vividly the moments immediately following that performance,” he said. “I heard the loudest applause I’ve ever heard in my life. I had my doubts up until then, but that’s when I knew I wanted to compose for the rest of my life.”
After his epiphany, Collins began examining the work of other composers and stumbled across a piece written by Illinois State Assistant Professor of Music Roy Magnuson, entitled Seeking, Seeking. Collins was stunned by the piece and knew immediately he had to get in contact with Magnuson.
“It’s an inspiring thing when you have a student ask really interesting, inquisitive stuff,” Magnuson said. “He was very specific, very articulate with his questions. As a teacher, when you’re pushed, you push back.”
The two then began to exchange music, composer to composer. Collins would study Magnuson’s work while Magnuson would critique the compositions sent him by Collins.
“He’s outrageously talented, a very talented composer,” said Magnuson. “Generally, other composers in high school compose because they’re good at something, an element of writing or notation. Harrison, he’s pretty good at all of it.”
After conversing back and forth by email for some time, the topic of where Collins intended to go to college arose. The pair scheduled a time for Collins to visit Illinois State’s campus, and Magnuson personally gave Collins, his mother and brother a tour of campus, and the surrounding area.
“I showed him everything to give him the sense of what it’d be like to be a student here,” Magnuson said. “I sort of have a unique perspective on it because I came through this program. My time as an undergraduate was outstanding. The support from faculty and their commitment to the individual experiences of each student was profound, and greatly shaped my understanding of my role as a professor.”
After the tour Magnuson gave him, Collins decided to audition for Illinois State’s music composition program.
“When I was accepted to the program, I was fully ready to commit and be a part of the school,” Collins said.
When reflecting on what influenced his decision to commit, Collins said he wanted to go to a place where he felt confident that the faculty welcomed and cared for new students. After his correspondence with Magnuson and visit to Illinois State, he said he was left with no doubt.
“I feel confident that Illinois State will enable me to stretch my musical borders,” said Collins. “It will enable me as a composer to craft meaningful music.”