The recent Hauntcert hosted by the Texas Tech School of Music featured spooky Halloween-themed music, including pieces composed by a Tech student.
William Linthicum-Blackhorse, a composition graduate student from Houston, composed two of the pieces performed at the Hauntcert. These pieces were the prelude and aria at the beginning of the production.
Blackhorse said he had no music experience at the collegiate level until he entered graduate school.
“I’ve never actually had any formal music training until grad school. I started composing when I was just 11 years old on the piano,” he said. “I was in choir in high school, so I learned music through that group. I learned to play piano on my own for the most part and I learned that I have this talent for the piano.”
According to the about page on LinthicumBlackhorse.com, Blackhorse began his career as a scientist with the U.S. Forest Service Fire Lab in Missoula, Montana.
Blackhorse said although studying science was something that interested him, he did not feel peace within himself unless he was composing music.
“I went through a lot of depression,” he said. “I even dropped out of school for a semester because I was just so unhappy with what I was doing. Long story short, I finally started doing music, and as far as music is concerned, I wrote music from my emotions and that’s how I stayed sane in college.”
Blackhorse’s first commissioned piece, according to his website, was “The Crush,” which was commissioned for Christopher Jorns and the Hutch Middle School Cantare Choir.
Blackhorse described the piece as girls having a crush on the same boy, he said, and they all sing about their feelings for him.
David E. Becker, orchestra director for the School of Music, said after reviewing Blackhorse’s pieces, he was impressed with his work.
“Last spring, I read one of William’s new compositions with the symphony orchestra, and I was impressed with his work,” he said. “It was an aria from a musical that he is working on called ‘Merlin.’ At that time I asked him if the Symphony Orchestra could play some of this music in the Hauntcert on Oct. 30, 2015. His music was received with praise by the orchestra and the audience.”
Becker said Blackhorse is talented and will have in the future in music.
“If William continues to mature and develop as a composer and musician, I think that he has a bright future after TTU,” Becker said. “He might write music that is commissioned and/or teach composition on a university level.”
When the Hauntcert was getting closer, Blackhorse said he wanted to compose pieces that were fun and spooky for kids at the concert, he said.
Every composer has a creative process that goes into the creation and composition of music, and Blackhorse said he is no different. His process usually stems from an idea or emotion.
“It depends on what it is,” he said. “Usually what happens is I get an idea of something that is happening emotionally or politically or a story that sparks my interest. Sometimes I will get a poem and sit down at the piano. I won’t even play it, but rather I hum a melody, and once I get the melody, then I start filling in the music.”
Blackhorse reflected on how his music became successful at Tech.
“Texas Tech is the only school that would take me. All of the other schools thought that my music wasn’t worth anything,” Blackhorse said. “Dr. Fischer accepted me here and gave me the chance to show my talent and what I could do. For the year and a half I’ve been in school, starting out with simple things, my very first piece, which was a flute piece, was a success.”
Blackhorse said the hardest part about composing music is getting the first people to play his compositions, but once they do, more people want to play them.
Blackhorse said his view of the future includes a full-time job as a composer.
“I want to make a living as a composer,” he said. “Just like any art, you want to do what you want to do and make it what you want it to be, but you have to think of what other people would find appealing. I want to write for film, Broadway, Hollywood and everything in between. My goal as a composer is to write music that everyone can emotionally relate to.”
For any musician aspiring to be a composer, Blackhorse said all odds must be defied.
“You have to do what’s in your heart and what you know is right,” he said. “You have to suffer the punches and keep pushing forward doing what it is you want to do.”