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Wooster alum selected for prestigous Mitchell Scholarship

Coral Ciupak
Viewpoints Editor

James May ’16 has recently been awarded the George J. Mitchell Scholarship for his studies in music production and performance. The Mitchell Scholarship is annually awarded to just 12 individuals who demonstrate scholarship, leadership and a sustained commitment to community and public service. Recipients are endowed tuition, accommodations and a stipend to pursue postgraduate study at higher learning institutions in Ireland.

May, who graduated from The College of Wooster with a double major in music theory and composition and English, will be studying at University College of Cork in Ireland, where he will complete a Master’s program focused on directing and organizing New Music events. As well as pursuing postgraduate studies in music composition and performance, May will also be meeting with elected officials of Ireland and visiting historically and culturally significant sites around the island as part of his scholarship.

May described his recent compositional work as characterized by atypical instrument textures and time manipulations.

“My work recently has focused on creating some single, immediately identifiable idea, and then slowly but surely dismantling it,” he elaborated. “My music still has harmony and rhythm and quasi-melody, but those tend to be subservient to larger textural or temporal goals.”

Though May has composed 17 pieces — 16 of which have been performed — since his graduation from Wooster and his subsequent study at the University of Louisville, he shared that his recent work has had a greater focus on concert organization and production.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the past three to four years organizing concerts so that my music could be performed, but by necessity that has always been an additional task to take on rather than the focus of my energy,” he said. “That said, I think it’s an increasingly crucial skill to have as someone interested in New Music, so having a year dedicated to just organizing and directing will give me incredible experience for any future career I might have as a composer or conductor.”

As a recent Wooster grad, May credited his education at the College with a large influence both on his being awarded the Mitchell Scholarship and on his general work in music.

“Very specifically, the music department at Wooster built my classical music knowledge and ability from the ground up — I have no doubt that this scholarship and my experience in my master’s program would never have happened without my time at Wooster,” he said.

Beside the formal aspects of his education at Wooster, May identified the collective passion of the students at the College as being most influential in his later studies.

“I think one of the most valuable things about Wooster, for me, was constantly being surrounded by peers in all disciplines who were enthusiastic about their work and incredibly articulate,” he said. “Learning how to have conversations about topics outside my specialty and learning to appreciate all kinds of learning has had a pretty profound impact on me.”

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