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St. Olaf student participates in summer music program in Paris

Nathan Crowe ’17 spent his summer at La Schola Cantorum, one of Paris’ most historic music schools.

St. Olaf College student Nathan Crowe ’17 spent his summer at one of Paris’ most historic music schools, participating in a program that introduces young American composers to the teachings of legendary music instructor Nadia Boulanger.

Crowe took part in the European American Musical Alliance (EAMA) program held at the La Schola Cantorum.

The program’s curriculum builds on the vision of Boulanger, a renowned French composer and conductor who taught some of the most celebrated composers in modern times — including Aaron Copland, Olivier Messiaen, and Igor Stravinsky.

Over the course of July, Crowe had the opportunity to take private lessons in composition with distinguished composers David Conte, a composition instructor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the founder of the EAMA, and Philip Lasser, a faculty member at the Juilliard School.

“Dr. Conte is an amazing teacher and gave me great insight about my own work,” says Crowe, an active composer and member of the St. Olaf Band, St. Olaf Orchestra, and Collegium Musicum. “Dr. Lasser was capable of offering tremendously helpful suggestions on orchestration and musical gesture. His vast experience is reflected in everything he does. I’m extremely grateful to have worked with them both.”

The view from a practice room window at La Schola Cantorum. Photo by Michael Betz ’15.

When not in private lessons, much of Crowe’s time was spent in the classroom, where expert instructors helped him hone his skills in counterpoint, keyboard harmony, and musicianship.

He also joined a chorale composed of students and musicians enrolled in the program — an experience that enabled him to put what he was learning in class into practice.

Crowe, a bachelor of music major at St. Olaf, received internship funding from the college’s Piper Center for Vocation and Career to support his participation in the EAMA program this summer.

In the past year, 107 St. Olaf students have received Piper Center funding for unpaid or underpaid internships. Another 107 students have received internship funding through college programs such as the Rockswold Health Scholars Program, the Svoboda Legal Scholars Program, and the Johnson Family Opportunity Fund — all part of the college’s commitment to supporting students as they navigate potential career paths.

The EAMA program held at the La Schola Cantorum builds on the vision of renowned French composer and conductor Nadia Boulanger.

“The EAMA has reinforced an incredible degree of personal musicianship, pedagogy, and training that I can and will continue to cultivate for years to come,” says Crowe, who plans to pursue a graduate degree in composition after graduating from St. Olaf.

“What initially drew me to this opportunity was the significant presence of Oles in this program’s past sessions,” adds Crowe, who learned about the program from past participant Michael Betz ’15. Betz has gone on to pursue a career as a composer and producer, and one of his pieces was recently awarded Honorable Mention in the 2017 Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute.

“The important connection that our institution can make with theirs seems to open many doors for future Oles, and I believe this presence at EAMA represents our school in a unique way,” says Crowe.

For his remaining time at St. Olaf and his upcoming senior recital, Crowe will be able to draw upon what be bought back from his time in France — quite literally. While in Paris, he composed a piece titled and here that received professional readings by the musicians in residence at EAMA.

“I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity to study in a beautiful place with an incredibly supportive and helpful faculty and with incredible people who I will remember forever,” Crowe says.