Chadron State College
Chadron State College

Commissioned composition performed during Graves Lecture

Nov 16, 2017

sax and piano
Dr. Jim Margetts, left, and Dr. Michael Stephens perform an original composition by Stephens Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in the Sandoz Center Chicoine Atrium. The piece was commissioned by the Nebraska Music Teachers Association for their conference in October 2017. (Photo by Tena L. Cook/Chadron State College)

CHADRON – During a Nov. 14 Graves Lecture at Chadron State College, Dr. Michael Stephens and Dr. Jim Margetts performed a saxophone and piano piece, “Relics and Remnants.” Stephens, associate professor of music, was commissioned to compose the piece by the Nebraska Music Teachers Association (NMTA).

Stephens and Margetts, the dean of the School of Liberal Arts and former music faculty member, performed the piece at the NMTA annual conference in October in Lincoln.

Before the Chadron performance, Stephens explained the background of the eight sections included in the 22-minute piece.

“During my undergraduate years I was looking for absolutes. ‘How do I write something that will be lasting, permanent and inspirational?’ I was looking for guidance,” Stephens said.

Instead, his mentor gave him parameters and approaches, then offered guidance later.

“At that time, there was a lot of freedom for composers characterized by a write what you want to write sentiment,” he said.

“Music has no meaning, inherently. We get meaning through culture and through sharing music together. This was a bit confounding. I was looking for absolutes but culture and the answers are constantly shifting,” Stephens said.

Stephens said music was powerful and comforting when he was a youth.

“Music was my best friend,” he said.

Stephens shared a theory by, Edward Cohn, who proposed that, just like there’s a frame around visual art, there’s one around music and literature as well. That framework is time.

“What I’m trying to do in this piece is work with musical meaning,” Stephens said.

Referring to the Remnants portion of the title, Stephens said he incorporated musical remnants that run through the entire piece.


—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator