“The thing that has stayed constant in my musical life is that I write music that I love. My basic bias is that I tend to like music that is different from what I have heard before,” wrote Dr. Ovens in the program of his farewell concert.
Alumni, current students and music lovers alike all gathered together to listen to Dr. Douglas Ovens’ final concert at Muhlenberg College, on the evening of Apr. 10, in the Recital Hall. The concert was a part of The Contemporary Music Festival during Alumni Week.
Dr. Ovens has been a member of the music department for twenty-eight years and has served as a chair for the music department for eighteen years.
Before Dr. Ovens began composing music, he was a teacher’s aide at Marshall High School in Portland, Oregon, during the day and played the drums at bars at night. He dropped out of college twice. Dr. Ovens explains that when he resigned from his job as a teachers’ aide, he told the principal that he had just discovered that he had to become a composer. At this point in his life, at age 22, he did not know how to read music.
“I stayed up all night in Denny’s restaurants memorizing the note names on music paper from my guitar lessons … took the placement test for the theory sequence beginning in January at Portland Community College and eight years later had a PhD in composition,” he wrote.
During his music career, Dr. Ovens has written over one-hundred pieces and performed in sixty to seventy cities around the United States and outside it, including Paris and Berlin.
The concert featured music composed by Dr. Ovens, who also conducted and played percussion, piano and the vibraphone during the concert.
Dr. Ovens’ selection of original songs featured the premiere performance of “Music for a Crowded World” (2017), as well as “She Sings” three songs on texts of E.E. Cummings (1996), Largo (2001), “Improvisation 6B” for percussion and loud sounds (1998/2017), “Brightly Shining” (music box #2) (2005), “Yours and Mine” three songs on poems of Alice Fulton (2010), and “Sempre Forte (except when not) for piano, four hands” (2016).
“I like my music to seem to ask questions at least as often as it proposes answers. I take the position that if I like it, there is a good possibility some other human might like it, too,” Dr. Ovens wrote.
Music lecturers Elizabeth Manus (piano), Alexandra Porter (soprano), Anthony Simons (clarinet), Audrey Simons (cello), James Thoma (marimba/percussion), Vincent Trovato (piano), and guest artist Julie Bougher (violin) also performed in the concert.
As Dr. Ovens described, “To say that music can change one’s life would seem a redundancy here. But it did most assuredly change mine.”