Korff School graduate student wins North American Student Composer Competition

Rubén Darió Gómez
Rubén Darió Gómez

Korff School graduate student wins North American Student Composer Competition

calendar icon16 Apr 2019    user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen

Lincoln, Neb.--Rubén Darió Gómez, a second-year Doctor of Musical Arts student in the Glenn Korff School of Music, has won the North American Student Composer Competition organized and sponsored by MetWinds, a Boston-area wind ensemble.

As the winner of the competition, he will receive a $1,000 commission to write a five- to eight-minute piece for the ensemble, which will premiere in November 2020 during the ensemble’s 50th anniversary celebration.

“I was super surprised,” Gomez said of his reaction to learning that he had won the competition. “I sent the application months ago, and I sent that without any expectations. Probably two or three weeks after I sent that application, I received the results for another competition and was not accepted, so I was surprised. The interesting thing about sending in your music for these competitions is you win one award, but you have sent 20 more with no success at all.”

He now has about a year to write the commission for MetWinds. He will turn it in next summer, ahead of a November 2020 premiere.

“They want to have the piece by July 2020 to start preparing materials, and I think they will start rehearsing in September,” Gómez said.

The MetWinds ensemble is a community band that is audition-based.

“It’s a high-quality, community band,” Gómez said.

Gómez has not had a chance to think about the commission just yet, but the piece will be about 5-8 minutes in length, per the guidelines.

“The good thing about this commission is that they don’t have any parameters, other than the length and the instrumentation,” he said. “It is basically up to me. I am free to do whatever.”

Gómez, who is originally from Zapatoca, Colombia, said there’s only one thing he knows about the piece he is about to write.

“The only thing I can anticipate is that it’s going to be based on my rhythms—my roots,” he said. “I think that’s what makes me different here. Every time I have a chance to write, I try to incorporate the rhythms from my country. I’m also trying to expand to rhythms from other countries in Latin America, not just Colombia.

Assistant Professor of Composition Greg Simon said Gómez is a “terrific presence” in the composition studio of the Glenn Korff School of Music.

“Rubén’s music is vibrant, colorful, and full of life,” he said. “He’s an artist who uses his work to ask insightful questions about heritage, place, and story, all while imbuing it with a sense of fun. The result is music that’s a delightful mixture of head and heart, music that’s an absolute joy to listen to. In person, Rubén is curious, insightful, and relentlessly positive.”

Gómez comes from a family of musicians.

“My dad was an amateur musician,” he said. “He was a country man. He had his farm, and took a couple of classes. It’s a thing that has been in my family forever. My dad was a musician. My grandfather was a musician. All my uncles play any type of traditional instrument. None of them studied formal music.”

Gómez started taking piano lessons at age six.

“My dad was taking some piano lessons at the Conservatory, but very, very basic,” he said. “One day, I was watching him from the door, sneaking a look. And he asked me, ‘Hey, do you want to have some music lessons?’ And I said yes. I was six years old, and that was the beginning of where I started with music.”

He obtained his Bachelor of Music from Universidad Industrial de Santander in Bucaramanga in 2000 and his Master of Music from Middle Tennessee State University in 2015.

He is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Musical Arts in wind band conducting and a minor in composition from the Glenn Korff School of Music.

He has developed a career as a composer, conductor, adjudicator, and pedagogue, that is widely recognized in Colombia, as well as in many countries in Latin America. His pieces have been performed in Colombia, the United States, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela, and they have been published by important companies in Colombia, the United States, and Spain. He has conducted bands and orchestras in Colombia and in the United States.

Gómez said when he writes music, he feels powerful.

“I feel very powerful because I can tell something, I can say something,” he said. “I think this is so powerful, especially in that moment of my life where I am in another country with different people. I can tell other people what is our culture—to tell other people where you are from, what are your traditions. There is a lot that we haven’t explored enough.”

He also likes conducting.

“There is a way to make others grow through music,” he said. “The beauty of bands is the way that we can think as a team member, particularly today, where the tendency is to be very individualized. It seems we need to do more collaborative things and playing in large ensembles is an ideal scenario for that.”

His experience at Nebraska has surpassed his expectations.

“I was expecting to have a good experience, but it was more than I anticipated,” he said. “I was accepted to do the secondary area in composition, which is incredible. I appreciate that this school allowed me to do that because these are the two things that I want to do—conduct and write music.”

He also appreciates the support of the faculty in the Glenn Korff School of Music.

“I think the support of the faculty has been terrific,” he said. “All of them are mentors in one way or another. They have had the ability to identify what your strengths are and boost them. I am grateful to have them.”