Senior Music Composition major Andrew Isom views music as a God-given duty—one that he fully plans to fulfill. Isom has been playing the piano since he was seven at the request of his parents, but found his own desire to continue playing and composing music in the ninth grade when he learned jazz theory. Since then, he has struggled with determining why he continues to pursue music as an art and a career.
“I’ve struggled with the question of why I do this until last week. I’ve had a hard time figuring out why I do this, but I’ve figured out that I do it because I’m good at it. It’s hard for me to believe that God wants me to do this,” Isom said.
Isom plays the piano because he’s been playing it the longest; it’s the instrument that he’s best at. He has composed around 15 classical pieces, and many other jazz tunes on the piano.
“Composers are not geniuses. We’re just normal people. Just because I’m a composer doesn’t mean I’m more talented. Just because music is my vocation or calling, doesn’t mean it’s not hard work. I’ll compose and wonder if this is what I want to do, because it’s so frustrating. I’ll spend an hour and put something on the page and not like it, or I’ll put nothing at all,” Isom said.
Isom said that his compositional philosophy—the way that he approaches composing music—is somewhat different from that of other composers.
“I value thinking of what I want my philosophy to be before the piece. What I usually think about most is the setting. When I’m composing, I try to strive to create a setting, an atmosphere. If my music doesn’t do that, it’s empty,” Isom said.
Isom’s focus on setting was inspired by playing Legend of Zelda growing up. He said he was fascinated with the characters moving between worlds.
“God gives us the ability to create. We have the ability to create other worlds,” Isom said.
Isom thinks about the relationship between music and spirituality. He said that although God made music for people to enjoy, people give it too much spiritual value and its purpose has much more to do with our experience of music.
“God gave us music to like it. The existence of sin is proof of good things gone bad. Music goes bad all the time, but the enjoyment of music isn’t inherently bad,” Isom said.
Isom said that he believes that the main purpose of music is for enjoyment, but also detailed that music does not have just one purpose.
“Two other purposes of music that I believe in, but don’t always represent in my compositions involve music’s ability to teach us about God in the way that an artist may paint a picture of Jesus and music as an avenue in which we express ourselves to God, the Psalms being an example,” Isom said.
Last Friday, Isom had his senior recital in which six of his pieces were presented by himself and others. After graduating, Isom’s plans involve private music education and continuing playing and composing jazz and possibly going to graduate school.
Aside from plans for what he wants to do after graduation, he has a more personal goal he would like to achieve.
“I would like to reach a point in my life where the effort i put into my music, that I will compose with all of my heart—for God and not man,” Isom said.