Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Lauron Kehrer

Second Advisor

Dr. Lisa R. Coons

Third Advisor

Dr. Christopher Biggs


Music, composition, graphic notation, contemporary, indeterminacy

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


As a Composer/Performer, my work exists in both realms. This thesis reflects the principle that my experience as a violist influences my compositional process and vice versa. Since identifying under both artistic skill sets, it has become evident that the two areas that exist as a creative and presentational output, thrive off one another’s success.

In June 2019, I had the chance to play Wadada Leo Smith’s String Quartet No. 3: Black Church, The First World Gathering of the Spirit (1995) at the Nief-Norf Summer Festival. This encounter was the first time I interacted with graphically notated scores as a performer. With the help of Cellist Ashley Walters, Violist/Violinist Andrew McIntosh, and the three other members of the string quartet ensemble, Smith’s music came alive in a way I had not experienced in the classical music environment. My detailed listening and flexible interpretation abilities were heightened, along with my understanding of indeterminacy factors.

Since performing this work, the musical skills I developed have influenced my own compositional process and assisted me in developing a unique graphic notation system of my own. Throughout where I go, a collection of five distinct works dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement, there are depictions of nostalgia, sorrow, and hope; all emotions I experienced while rehearsing Smith’s creations. The vulnerability that Smith encompasses in his music encourages artists, whether composers or performers, to live in the moments that the music creates.