Alexandra Coursen K’77 is a finalist in the international harp composition contest known as The Future Blend Project.
Coursen is the only woman out of 13 finalists selected. She has only recently started composing, which only adds to this accomplishment. In 2014 she composed her first piece for the harp; by the end of the following year, she composed five others.
“I had no training in composition,” she explained. “So from that beginning, to now find myself two-and-a-half years later to be one of 13 finalists in a harp composition contest was astounding.”
Her recognized piece, Neshama, was originally composed as a wedding gift for another Kirkland alumna, Jani Klebanow K’77. This composition is called a namepiece, which translates the names of the bride and the groom into notes on a musical scale to create a melody.
This year’s finalists come from all over the world. The competition will be held live in Warwick England on Jan. 7, 2017 in the historic 14th-century Alm’s House. In this medieval performance site, harpist Olivia Jageurs will perform Neshama. The Future Blend Project will stream this combined concert and contest over the Internet. “My daughter will be taking a computer to a senior living community so my 92-year-old mother and other residence of the nursing facility can watch and attend virtually,” she commented.
At Kirkland, Coursen studied piano with Albert Bowen and frequently performed as a soloist and accompanist in the Chapel. In order to pursue her study in music further, she transferred to Oberlin. Her musical education was interrupted by earning a law school and starting a family, but she eventually found time to buy a Celtic traditional harp and teach herself how to play. Seven of her compositions plus a section on how to compose a namepiece can be found in her book, “Namepieces.”