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Student Profile: Tate Commission


Tate Commission, a current Junior at SSSAS, plays the viola in the school orchestra. He has been playing for 5 years, and recently composed a piece titled “Daydreams” for the string orchestra. The composition was selected by the Virginia Music Educators Association and performed in Richmond on November 16th. He composed the work over a few weeks from July to August of 2023. I interviewed Tate and asked him a few questions about the process and result of his composition. 

When asked what instruments he plays and how many instruments he wrote parts for, Tate explained, “I play the viola (I have played for five years now), and I wrote “Daydreams” for [the] string orchestra, which has five different instruments: Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass. There are around 25 total players in our school orchestra.”

As mentioned previously, the song was titled “Daydreams,” but what is the composition inspired by and what’s the story behind it? In response to this question, Tate said that “‘Daydreams’ is inspired by the circle of life, from birth to death. It begins very quietly with a simple yet graceful and melancholic motif, which gradually takes on new perspectives as it weaves between the instruments in the orchestra. The melody and harmony parts gradually climb upwards and become louder throughout the first half of the piece, which all leads into a climax in the middle of the piece, consisting of a gigantic swell. However, in contrast with the romantic-period classical inspirations in the first half, the second half of the piece suddenly takes inspiration from American film music and introduces a viola solo followed by further transformation of this new yet somewhat familiar melody. Finally, the last part of the piece returns to the original motif with very quiet dynamics, eventually fading out to nothing with five final chords, representing a human’s final breaths.”

Tate received the acceptance email, but what was his reaction to the incredible news? He described his reaction and emotions by saying, “I was thrilled when I got the email that said I was nominated for the VMEA Composition Festival in Richmond and that we could bring the orchestra. I rushed down to Dr. Criswell’s office, and he too was very enthusiastic!”

When asked how the performance went, Tate reported that “The performance went well, and I am proud because I believe our orchestra performed the best that we could. In addition to the performance itself, I also saw our trip as a fantastic bonding experience for the orchestra and exposure for our school in performing arts.”

Tate says that he’s been sending emails to conductors around the country after the performance and introducing himself along with his music. He says that “This conference gave me valuable exposure, especially since I met some conductors at various colleges located in Virginia. I plan to seek more performances of not only ‘Daydreams’ but also my other original classical pieces.” He continues by saying that “[I] plan to keep writing more music throughout my life.”

Next, I interviewed Dr.Criswell who is the Upper School instrumental music director and has worked with Tate in the high school orchestra. 

He shares that “The performance was excellent and exactly how I expected it would go.” and when asked if the composition was created fully independently by Tate, or if he helped or guided him during the process he stated that “Tate composed his piece entirely independently of me although he shared it with me for feedback after it was completed. This was the third piece he has written for string orchestra (he composed a piece both his freshman and sophomore years as well that we performed on campus).”

Dr. Criswell proceeded to provide an explanation to the Saints to describe just how incredible this is and just how big of a deal this is. He shared that the “Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA) is the state level organization of the National Association for Music Education (the largest organization in the world for Music Educators). VMEA advocates and supports music education in all of its forms across the Commonwealth. Current VMEA membership averages 3200 members including Active Members, Retired Members and Collegiate and Pre-Service Members. VMEA is actively involved in the support of Music Educators at every level from Pre-K through University. We performed at the annual state convention in Richmond where music educators across the state gather to hear concerts, attend workshops, and network. This was a huge deal for Tate, the orchestra, and SSSAS, as it gave him a state-wide platform to present his composition, for both the orchestra and SSSAS to be spotlighted at the state level.”

Next I interviewed Dimitri Criswell who is part of the string orchestra with Tate and was there to perform Tate’s piece “Daydreams” in Richmond. 

When asked “What was it like playing the piece in Richmond? Did it go well?” Dimitri responded by saying “It was a really unique experience being able to go down to Richmond to present Tate’s piece to music educators from across Virginia. We performed it very well, and I think everyone in the orchestra really enjoyed having that experience of playing Tate’s piece and hearing other young composers’ pieces as well.” Next, when I asked him “What did you think of the composition?”, he shared that “It’s hard to overstate the talent that Tate has to compose. Daydreams is full of both passion and professional quality writing, and from both the listening and playing perspectives, I think it is an excellent piece.”

Congratulations Tate for his incredible accomplishments surrounding “Daydreams” and all his hard work and dedication! And congratulations to the entire orchestra for their performance in Richmond and for bringing Tate’s composition to life. We can’t wait to see what you all will do next. 

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About the Contributor
Grace Hendy, Staff Writer and Layout Editor
Grace is a sophomore at SSSAS and has been at the school since kindergarten. She loves writing about world news and hopes to go into journalism later in life. She loves to paint, play sports, and hang out with friends and family. She is excited for her first year of Journalism!   

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