Concert on Thursday to feature student writing set to original music

Creative writing students at Northwestern State University are combining their talent with music students for a special event “Outspoken: Collaborations in Story and Song,” on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Magale Recital Hall. Admission is free and open to the public. A livestream will be available at 

The concert will feature original poems, fiction and creative non-fiction set to original music. 

Creative writers who submitted compositions were Chloe Blank of Houma, a 2022 graduate in English, “Doves in Montana,” Cleo McKinlay of Lake Charles, a liberal arts major with a concentration in humanities and social thought and minor in creative writing in the Louisiana Scholars’ College, “Of Corpses and Bloody Rivers,” and Izzy Plauché of Zachary, an English major with a concentration in creative writing, “Don’t Look at Me,” “Drinking Stars,” “My Memories Like a Graveyard.” 

Composers are NSU alumnus Steven Wimberly, who is a doctoral student in percussion performance at LSU, music business major Leah Morace of Pineville and Taylor Carrell, a music education major from Huntington, Texas. The performing musicians will be Molly Laird of Texarkana, Texas, on oboe, Kristoff Hairr of Sulphur on bassoon, Richie Salzer of Bossier City and Craley Johnson of Garland, Texas, on horn, Colin Stevens of Alexandria on alto saxophone, Miguel Bustillo of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on percussion, Cullen Goscienski of Mandeville on soprano saxophone, Hallie Ward of Cleveland, Ohio, on flute and Maddie Prattini of Slidell on clarinet. Jessica Breaux of Slidell is the conductor. 

Prattini came up with the idea for the concert last spring and approached Dr. Rebecca Macijeski, the coordinator of Creative Writing Programs at Northwestern to see if her idea could lead to a public performance. 

“I was talking to my professor (Dr. Malena McLaren) about wanting to get involved in collaboration with another art discipline.  She asked if I had any ideas, and I told her that I wanted to bring life to stories through the use of music,” said Prattini. “One of the elements of media like movies that makes it so engaging and emotional is the musical score. With this being the case, I wanted to try and recreate this with stories written by our creative writing students. I also wanted to give the opportunity to student writers to have their work read aloud for an audience and for the student composers to have their work played by live musicians since many composers will write works that won’t ever get performed.”    

“This is an incredibly unique opportunity for our writers,” said Macijeski. “Collaboration is a core value we hold in our program, and we are grateful to be able to combine artistic forces with such strong talent from across the NSU community.” 

Wimberly earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree at Northwestern State. He said the process of composing with text is much different than composing a piece without words.  

“Having a narrative as the main focus of a performance means that composers can’t cover up the text with parts of the music that are too busy or else the performance doesn’t make sense,” said Wimberly/ “This means the parts I’m writing are fairly toned down and are meant to accompany the narrator. Writing to a fixed text that came from someone else’s creativity means that there must be a collaboration between both parties.” 

Plauché said her three pieces are each movements of a larger idea. 

“They’re each based on what I believe are the three essential experiences to the overall human condition, love, rage, and loss,” said Plauché. “I feel that all of us as people are bound together by experiences and everyone at some point must experience these things in one form or another. These poems focus on my personal view through these huge emotions and experiences.” 

Plauché worked with Carrell on the compositions.  

“This is definitely a very unique project and I’ve never worked on anything like it,” said Plauché. “I think poetry in itself has a certain kind of movement, especially when spoken aloud. When I write, I write with the kind of flow and rhythm that would work best when read out to an audience. Music works in a similar way. I’ve been a musician almost as long as I’ve been a writer so to see these two mediums with such similar intention and design is an amazing experience.” 

Plauché said hearing the work for the first time was special.

“When I heard the full pieces being played by the ensemble for the first time, I was fantastically excited,” said Plauché. “They sound amazing and the emotion they generate I hope will resonate well with our audience. I’m so excited to have everyone hear these pieces.” 

Pictured: Creative writing students at Northwestern State University worked with music students to set student writing to music. The results of that collaboration will be presented in a concert on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Magale Recital Hall. Among those involved in the project were, left to right, Jessica Breaux, Dr. Rebecca Macijeski, Leah Morace, Richie Salzer, Izzy Plauche, Kristoff Hairr, Madison Prattini, Colin Stevens, Hallie Ward, Molly Laird, Carley Johnson and Cullen Goscienski.