Get to know one of our Student Composer Fellowship mentors through these six questions.
Cristina Spinei writes music that has been described as “hypnotically rhythmic and melodically pleasing.” Active as a composer and a performer, she is in demand with dance companies and international ensembles. Spinei's collaboration with choreographers is highlighted on her debut album, Music for Dance, released by Toccata Classics in 2016. She is a co-founder of Blind Ear, a collective of composers and musicians who present technology-driven concerts. She received her BM and MM in composition from the Juilliard School where she studied with Pulitzer Prize winning composer Christopher Rouse.
Did you always know you wanted to be a composer? Or did you come to composition more gradually through your instrument?
As far as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a composer. It was a Sunday ritual of mine as a kid to watch Breakfast With the Arts on A&E. I knew that I wanted to write music even before I took piano lessons.
Tell us about a favorite music teacher who inspired you.
When I was in high school I had the opportunity to sing in the chorus for the snowflake scene of The Nutcracker. It was a big production with principal dancers from the NYC Ballet joined by the Stamford Symphony Orchestra. During our rehearsals I got to meet Roger Nierenberg, the conductor of the SSO. When I told him that I wanted to be a composer he was very encouraging and offered to look at my work.
For the next few years Roger let me attend as many SSO rehearsals as I could and even let me sit amongst the musicians as they rehearsed. Roger was always generous with his time and nonjudgmental of my early attempts at composing. I learned so much from our composition lessons and from the time that I spent observing rehearsals. His advice is still in my head to this day.
That early exposure and behind-the-scenes look at how an orchestra works was fundamental to my development as a composer. I hope to be as generous and supportive to young composers as Roger was to me.
What music do you like to listen to? Classical or not.
I looooooove Brazilian and Latin music, from classic salsa to funk carioca. I'm also on a Baroque kick lately.
Which composer do you wish the world knew better?
What's an instrument or ensemble for which you would love to compose and are waiting for the invitation?
The Nashville Symphony!
What do you hope students will get from this fellowship?
I hope that during this fellowship students will gain the confidence to express themselves through their music. There is so much to learn as a young composer and it can feel overwhelming at times. I want the students to be able to trust their instincts and to continue exploring their sound. It's also important that they have fun!
Mentor Dave Ragland also answered six questions for 91Classical. Find out what he had to say on Tuesday August 20.