The Work of a Composition Student
Graduate student crafts compositions based on war-time poetry and memoirs.
Like an echo in a grand concert hall, the tragic stories of Holocaust victims continue to reverberate, and Justin Rito is listening.
Rito, a DMA student in the Michigan State University College of Music, is composing music to convey the emotion in Miklós Radnóti’s poetry. Radnóti, a Hungarian poet, was raised in a Jewish family and was shot and killed by German soldiers after forcibly marching across Hungary. Radnóti documented his final journey in four short poems entitled “Razglednicas,” or “Picture Post Cards.”
“I was drawn to the story because of its range of human experiences, some poignantly sad and others joyful,” Rito said. “Eventually, we witness his body and spirit crumble under cruelty and reflect the human qualities war took from us.”
Rito has experience drawing musical inspiration from heavy topics. He wrote his last song cycle during the Iraqi War about the wife of a soldier who was in Iraq. He said a range of emotional experiences is crucial to composing moving music.
With a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, Rito has years of experience in higher education that have improved his music performing and writing talents. Still, he credits Ricardo Lorenz, MSU associate professor of composition and Rito’s faculty adviser, for pushing his skills to a new level.
Before he graduates, Rito would like to create a piece for the Spartan Marching Band and have a performance for all his works in the fall. His positive experience at MSU has him hoping for a career at a university.
“I would really like to teach composition and other music classes,” Rito said. “I’ve always enjoyed music, and working as a professor would let me keep surrounding myself with it.”
Source: Alex Barhorst, “Grad at a Glance: Justin Rito,” MSU Today, Feb. 3, 2014.