Felton shares love of music as composer, performer and announcer
entered U.Va. in 1991 as an undergraduate student planning to
major in pre-med. But after he won a scholarship that allowed
him to study privately with a music
department faculty member, he changed his tune.
was taken by a storm," he said. "I'd only had an introduction
to [classical] music before then." Felton, a senior Web developer
in the University Webmaster office, proceeded to earn a master's
degree in music, with an emphasis on composition, at U.Va. in
1999. He continues to write music, some of it performed at local
churches; serves as a classical and gospel announcer at WTJU;
and is contemplating pursuing a Ph.D. in music and a career teaching
first became exposed to classical music during his middle and
high school years in Texas and Rhode Island, when he played the
clarinet in concert bands and "got a little taste of the
great composers," he said. During high school, he took music
lessons at a local community college and was selected annually
as a top finishing clarinetist in the Rhode Island All-State Band.
an undergraduate here, Felton studied clarinet and played in the
University Wind Ensemble.
graduate school, he discovered his affinity for composition. "My
experience as a graduate music student here was incredible,"
he said, crediting music professors Alicyn Warren and department
chair Judith Shatin for encouraging him to experiment.
"I like to write music about things that feel familiar to
me, about the senses and feelings and nostalgia for the past,
but I also like ... to step outside who I am and create new things,"
said Felton, who writes for voice, piano, strings and wind instruments.
thing I've discovered about composition is that it's really an
exploration of the self. It's about defining a goal and working
toward it, while at the same time realizing that it might be unattainable.
But the most important thing is the process, not the goal.
"It's bigger than you think it is, and you'll never know
exactly how big it is,² he said. "I feel that way about composition
Felton noted similarities between his work at U.Va. and his avocation.
"Like composition, Web developing is a very creative process
[in which] you are always in search of something, and along the
way you discover things that you didn't expect."
He added that both activities "are ultimately about communication,
and they're both fluid -- every Web site is a performance,² he
said. "It's never fixed, in that you can go back and make
changes based on people's responses to it."
cites a variety of influences on his composition, such as the
African-American religious music he grew up with and a handful
of composers, including David Diamond, Gerald Finzi and Samuel
Barber, all of whom write very melodically, he said.
music that I really love is very accessible. That's the kind of
music I want to write."
admires the tonality and lyricism in these composers' work. Music
that highlights the relationships among different keys has strong
tonality; as in folk music, "the tonal elements return often
and provide a sense of stability," he said.
Lyrical music is that which "sings itself " or has the
quality of singing, he said.
goal is to investigate more closely what [Finzi and Diamond] are
doing not to try to replicate them, but to try to create new
things using their distinct methods," he said.
church music has also been important to him. "That voice
is ever present in my compositions," said Felton, who was
the church pianist and organist at several Methodist and Baptist
churches as a teenager.
Since 1995, he has been singing in the choir at the Thomas Jefferson
Memorial Church-Unitarian Universalist. That group will premier
Felton's short work about winter based on piano improvisations
Dec. 10 at 9:30 and 11:15 a.m.
who has written commissioned works for other churches in Charlottesville,
also shares his love of music with the community by serving as
an announcer at WTJU. He's been hosting a three-hour classical
show one morning a week under a pseudonym, and a one-hour gospel
show on Sundays since 1995.
"People call to say they like the music, and I'm always surprised
by what makes the phone ring. It's never the pieces that I would
expect, the major works; it's the unknown composers," he
said. "It makes me feel like I'm connecting with the listeners."
and Sound File Samples of Recent Music Compositions