Music major performs self composed pieces at senior recital

Regina Budden

When Alex Wise arrived at Washburn University, he thought he was going to study medicine and become a doctor, working to earn a music degree in the process. He then was hired to do a work-study for the orchestra, and helped in the conducting, which impacted plans for the future.

“Seeing and hearing how professionals did it was inspiring,” said Wise.

Now he is a music major with a concentration in piano performance, and his senior piano recital, which featured four difficult piano pieces, two of which were written by Wise himself.

His piano career began with piano lessons at age 12. He had already learned to play guitar, and he played the saxophone in his school band in Great Bend. But Wise wanted to write music, and he thought that an understanding of piano would be a great asset.

Wise’s proficiency on the piano was met with a lot of encouragement from members of his family, whom he said are very involved in the fine arts.

“My dad has good musical sense,” said Wise. “He has a good sense of rhythm and poetry.”

His father used to write song lyrics and send them to music companies in an attempt to get them published or used by bands. Wise’s two brothers are also very artistically oriented. One was in a band and another (Chris, who performed in Wise’s recital), is a novelist and poet.

Although his family offered encouragement, Wise said it wasn’t their influence that drove him in his musical pursuits.

“It was my own desire to be involved in music,” he said.

His current musical studies stem from a habit he developed in high school. Wise said he was surrounded by music in school, and after school he would go buy CDs of classical music.

Wise’s future plans include continuing in his education until he obtains a master’s degree in orchestral conducting. Once that is accomplished, he wants to conduct professionally. Ultimately, he wants to compose pieces that will be performed by professional orchestras.

“There’s a lot of joy that comes from taking something that only exists in your head and taking the time to write even a few seconds of it,” said Wise. “Then, it’s actually performing something for an audience after the whole process and being able to say, ‘Six months ago this was just in my head. Only I could hear it.’ It’s incredible to see something like that realized.”

For Wise, the best thing about music is the imagination it inspires.

“The thing about music is that 30 different people can hear music and take away 30 different things from it,” he said. “It gets people thinking outside of just the normal concrete way of thinking.”

His biggest challenge is keeping himself going and pushing himself to the next level.

“My single greatest influence would probably be the desire to be great,” said Wise. “Music is a really self-driven field of study.”

He started working on his senior recital a year and a half ago, and he has seen it through to the end.

Wise’s favorite piece of the performance is the one he composed as a collaboration with his brother Chris, called “The Pilgrim Within.” It was performed using a percussionist, an eight-person choir and Wise on the piano. Chris read his poems in the midst of it all. The theme of the song was inward change, and the insecurities a person experiences in life. Wise especially likes this piece because of its expression and theme of change.

“It’s the idea of what college is, or what being human is,” said Wise. “It’s what it takes to be successful in life.”