5 questions for: Alex Trotter

Ashland University senior Alex Trotter will present his senior recital Thursday, Jan. 23, at 7:30 p.m. in the Elizabeth Pastor Recital Hall. Assisted by Eric Watts on bass trombone and Branden Barber on trumpet, Trotter will present the recital in the form of a jazz lecture, introducing each piece and explaining the techniques he used to create the arrangement. In addition to his performance on the piano, Trotter has done his own arrangements and also will debut his original composition, “Great to be Me”. The concert is free and open to the public.

Here he answers five questions about what’s ahead:

1. How do you work through the process of composing, creating something from nothing?

The process of composing is similar to that of writing a paper or making a painting. You come up with an idea in your head and then put it down on paper or canvas.  Then one develops it.  The harmonies act as a "color palette" like you would have when you’re painting and the melody is what everyone is going to focus on and hear (i.e. in a painting, it is "the subject"), so to speak.  For this particular project I only did one composition. In this composition I had a main motif that I used as a springboard throughout the piece.  I also did a number of arrangements for this  project. The difference between a composition and an arrangement, and this is an important distinction,  a composition is something you wrote, and an arrangement is something that is already existing (written by another artist or composer) that you take and make playable for however you intend to present the tune.  If you want to add your own flare, there will be an amount of composing that will go into arranging.  The arrangements in this project were done for either solo piano or trumpet, piano and bass.

2. How do you go about preparing for this important recital?

Preparation involved practicing, and a lot of time arranging orchestrating the tunes that I wanted to use. I had to write out four arrangements and arrange a composition  I had already made previous that I wanted to use. It was a lot of time spent meeting with my advisor and thinking about how I wanted to present the music. After that was done I then had to gather performers and rehearse with them. We rehearsed for about a month to six weeks, twice per week. Then in December, I  had what is  called a "hearing", where one plays for a panel of faculty and the faculty determines whether the recital or project is ready to be presented.  After that, it is just matter of finalizing and tweaking and then performing it.

3. Who/What inspires you?

In high school, I was a major Oscar Peterson fan (and still am). Oscar Peterson is a legendary pianist who was, in my opinion, the greatest of all time at jazz piano. He was known for his great technical ability, lovely harmonies, and a strong rhythmic sense. As in, if you're not toe tapping after you finish listening to him, something is wrong.  The other big inspiration in my life is A Cappella music.  I always find amusement in the fact that I have loved  A Cappella for 15-plus years and never learned to sing.  This happened because I am from Cape Cod, Massachusetts and we have three A Cappella groups that perform around the cape and on Martha's Vineyard for the summer, every summer. One particular group,  "The Vineyard Sound",  I have been following since I was 8 years old. They are the reason I am a music major and that I compose and arrange. In addition, they’ve influenced what is in my wardrobe and how I choose to  present myself in front of an audience. Basically, they are my single biggest influence next to my parents. (Sidebar: I will mention that I now arrange tunes for Vineyard Sound.)

4. If I hadn't majored in composition, I would have majored in ... (and why?) 

Well, the school  doesn't have a composition major, though I do take  lessons with theory and composition teacher Dr. (Stefan) Swanson.  I am a Music major and will get a Bachelor of Arts degree that covers all areas of music. To be completely honest, I don't know what else I would do with my life if I didn't go into music.   

5. What will life after AU look like?

I plan to work for a while, though what form that will take I am still figuring out. Then I aim to be in grad school at some point. There are still things to figure out.  I definitely aim to keep composing and arranging for various groups and artists.


Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.eduvalues the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.###