Sound Designer and Composer
Rare Terra Theatre Company
Music Major, English Literature Minor
Taking his experiences in the Knox College Choir and as a student in the
music department, Edward Davis '12, who graduated with Honors in composition,
is now working as a sound designer and composer and singing in professional
choirs in the Chicago area. He is headed to Roosevelt University to pursue an MM in music composition.
How did your Knox experience affect the course of your life?
It was at Knox, through my amazing experiences singing with the Knox College Choir and studying with the incredible music faculty, that I discovered my two greatest passions: singing and composing. I've recognized my long-term goal, which is to be a successful, published composer and a professor of composition at a school like Knox. I also want to keep singing in at least one group until the day I die, since choral singing has truly been the inspiration behind all my musical pursuits.
Did any Knox contacts lead to your current career?
One of the professional choirs I sing with, Bella Voce, is actually directed by Andrew Lewis, brother of Greg Lewis. Greg was a voice teacher at Knox whom I worked with in the Knox Men's Ensemble; he recommended I audition for the group and thankfully I made it in. It's a really excellent small ensemble -- it reminds me in many ways of Galesburg's Nova Singers, which I sang with for two seasons -- and singing with them has been especially rewarding for me because this past April I got to perform the world premiere of a new piece by Gabriel Jackson, literally my favorite living composer. (At right: Edward Davis with composer Gabriel Jackson after a Bella Voce performance.)
Why did you choose Knox?
The two main draws for me were Knox's inimitable creative writing program (at the time I applied, I wanted to major in creative writing) and the Knox College Choir. I also knew that I wanted a school that was relatively small, since my high school class consisted of only 80 people, and a school that placed a great deal of emphasis on academic and social diversity. Knox fit the criteria perfectly.
Any advice you would give to high school students undertaking their college search?
I cannot recommend a liberal arts education like the one I received from Knox highly enough. If you're unsure of what you want to study and/or do after college, the wealth and variety of options at a liberal arts school is the best way to discover your passion. If you ARE sure of what you want to do, having that variety of ways to become a better, well-rounded, more enlightened student is still, I think, the best thing a school like Knox can offer. Also, if you sing in a choir, schedule an audition with Laura Lane. That woman will change your life!
Describe a memorable experience or professor and the impact it had on you.
For my Honors project, I composed a 15-minute setting of the Latin Mass, words taken from the Catholic liturgy that have been set to music literally thousands of times, and I chose to undertake it in order to pay homage to those great composers who have done so throughout Western music history. The project was challenging in ways I did not anticipate. Writing for choirs was something I was very familiar with, but writing for the genre itself raised some questions. Given that I don't actually consider myself religious, how would I become inspired to write a powerful new setting, especially when the text has already been realized musically by so many other, greater composers before me? I always believed that to compose is to render oneself musically, but how can one do that with a traditional genre like the mass? Combine these questions with the fact that I was writing with a quickly-approaching deadline and, well, the process was often quite stressful! I beat the struggle for "inspiration" when I decided to analyze the sacred text as if it were a secular poem (my experiences in the English department greatly helped me in this respect), and with the help of my Honors committee -- Laura Lane, Bruce Polay, and Jason Helfer -- as well as with the capstone guidance of Sarah Day-O'Connell, I overcame all other obstacles. In the end, I created a work that I am still very proud of, one which played an undoubtedly central role in my acceptance into grad school.