Merit School of Music

Alumni Spotlight: Noah Meites


Year(s) Attended Merit:
1994 – 2001

Program(s): Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory

Instrument(s): Trumpet

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Education (most recent): Royal Conservatory of the Hague, the Hague, the Netherlands, Postdoctoral Study (Music Composition), 2013; University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, Doctor of Musical Arts (Music Composition), 2012

Current Profession: Musician, composer, performer, and lecturer at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and The Colburn School.  Co-founder of LA Signal Lab, a composer-performer collective that explores new sounds in Los Angeles.

Noah’s advice for young composers:  “Don’t be in a rush to define yourself — live a creative life and you will write creative music!”

What fun facts would you like to share with Merit folk? Favorite Merit memory, teacher, performance, etc.?  Favorite Merit memories: In addition to the sights and sounds of the old Dearborn Station, I’d have to say trumpet classes with David Spencer and playing in Chip Gdalman’s jazz ensemble. Mr. Spencer was a demanding teacher (favorite quote: “Noah, you’re great — in your own mind.”), but his high standards and genuine care for his students inspired me to develop a strong work ethic and to improve as a trumpet player. As the director of the jazz ensemble, Chip Gdalman empowered me to be a leader both in the trumpet section and in the band more generally. Chip’s dedication and sense of humor made a lasting impression on me. I also really loved the Merit assemblies (so many good naps!) Seriously though, I have a particularly fond memory of hearing violist Charlie Pikler of the CSO perform one Saturday — I had never heard a string instrument played so beautifully before!

Since your graduation from the Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory in 2001, you’ve become quite an accomplished musician, composer, and lecturer. You’ve participated in a variety of national and international performances, completing postdoctoral studies at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague in the Netherlands, and lecturing at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and The Colburn School. How did your time at Merit prepare you for these opportunities?  The diversity of activities I participated in at Merit (trumpet class, wind ensemble, orchestra, jazz ensemble, honors jazz combo, theory, and ear training classes) were formative in my development as a musician. Today, whether I’m composing, performing, or teaching, the musical foundation I developed at Merit allows me to be comfortable in just about any musical situation. Merit helped me hone my musical skills, but being a part of the Merit community did even more for me as a person. Being a successful professional musician has everything to do with ability and willingness to collaborate. Merit allowed me to interact with diverse students and teachers from all over Chicago in contexts ranging from rehearsals to performances to pizza parties. I use the invaluable interpersonal skills I developed at Merit nearly every day professionally.

What advice would you give to current Merit students and Merit alumni who have dreams of pursuing composition as a career? What hurdles did you overcome as you matured as a composer?  I came to “classical” composition relatively late in my mid-20s after studying jazz improvisation, playing in bands, majoring in literature in college, and living abroad. These diverse experiences have helped me form my artistic voice, and my best advice to Merit students/alumni interested in pursuing composition would be to stay open to as wide a range of experiences as possible (both musical and otherwise) while also remaining active as a performing musician. These days, young composers have a diversity of opportunities (e.g., readings, competitions, summer festivals, workshops, etc.). While such opportunities are terrific regarding learning technique and building a portfolio, they can also have the adverse effect of “professionalizing” young composers too early in their artistic development. Don’t be in a rush to define yourself — live a creative life, and you will write creative music!

Tell us more about the co-founding of LA Signal Lab, exploring new sounds in Los Angeles. What inspired you to start this group and what’s on the horizon regarding performances/events?  LA Signal Lab (LASL) is a composer-performer collective I co-founded in early 2015 with Dan Marschak, Hitomi Oba, and Nick DePinna. We are all classically-trained composers as well as jazz improvisers, and we started LASL to commission, perform, and record new works that bridge these two worlds. Although we’re only three years old, LASL has already premiered twelve new works, recorded two studio albums, and collaborated with some outstanding new music ensembles including HOCKET and Aperture Duo. We’ve had an exciting season so far, including a standing-room-only performance at the LAPhil’s “Noon to Midnight” contemporary music marathon, and we’re currently working on a concert-length collaborative multimedia piece that will be workshopped this spring and premiered next season.

What are some of your musical goals for the next year?  In addition to my projects with LA Signal Lab, I am currently working on a chorus and chamber ensemble commission for the Vancouver-based Arkora ensemble and a chamber concerto for wild Up, a contemporary music group based here in Los Angeles. Another goal: finding more time to practice the trumpet!

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