By Anna Mann
At the age of five, Annie Bowers’s (C’20) mother asked if she would like to learn the piano like many of her friends. Bowers said no, explaining that she would much rather learn the violin. Surprised that the child knew about the instrument, and wondering if it was a passing fancy, Mrs. Bowers said that her daughter could learn in two years if she still wanted to. At seven, Bowers did, and after receiving a half-sized instrument that would serve her until grade eight, she never stopped playing.
In high school, Bowers played both clarinet and violin, as well as performing in the school’s marching band. In college, she knew that she wanted to continue her violin lessons, but did not plan on majoring in music. However, once she entered Sewanee, Bowers quickly decided that she wanted to enter the music field professionally, and she now hopes to attend graduate school for composition and conducting.
“I didn’t want to be a professional violinist because you have to be perfect, basically all the time. That’s very stressful, and at this point, that’s not what music is about to me,” Bowers explained. “I like playing violin not to be perfect or better than everyone else, but to interpret the music. It’s a very emotional undertaking, [practice] is my meditation time.”
After deciding upon music composition as a career path, Bowers began to incorporate her arrangements into the music department’s events, namely the 2017 Christmas concert, the 2018 Gallery Walk, and the 2018 Chamber Music Recital. Through a full two months of work, she arranged “Ave Maria,” originally for the organ and a soprano soloist, into a score for the entire strings section of the orchestra.
“It was so scary because I really wanted it to be perfect. It was such a part of me and [as a composer] you want every single note articulated in a certain way. Obviously, you can’t have that if other people are playing it, but to be part of the ensemble playing it is pretty meaningful since you can guide everyone else,” she explained.
Her work this year culminated this semester with the Chamber Music Recital on March 4. Bowers and Caiti Berends (C’21) did all the work for the performance, publicizing, planning, and leading rehearsals for the event. Berends and Bowers began playing some of the duets in the Spring of 2017 but only decided to plan the actual recital halfway through last semester. Bowers arranged two of the pieces, “Ave Maria” from the Christmas concert and a French song called “Si mes vers avaient des ailes.”
“It was definitely a rush,” she said about hearing her work performed. “It’s hard to explain, but that’s what I love about music, it goes beyond our everyday experiences. Especially composing, I feel like I’m touching something a little bit beyond this world, and to create that, to make something that could touch other people in that way is so powerful.”
Bowers’s love for classical music and violin, in particular, stems from its awe-inspiring nature. “There’s a certain amount of excellence associated with the violin,” she added. “It makes you aspire to be able to do that too, to be that excellent. Music impacts other people emotionally, there’s something very powerful about creation. It’s very human to create things, but it’s almost transcendent. When I write music, I’m creating something that has a part of me in it while taking on a life of its own.”
The violinist expressed her fear about the probable death of classical music and stated that she hopes to revive interest in it through her own work. “The older the music, the less the everyday person is going to like it, which means my compositions need to take on a voice of their own. Something not Classical or Romantic but that has those things mixed with something new,” she explained.
For now, Bowers plans to continue sharing her music at University events and broadening the music department at large. To involve the student body, she and Maddy Hitel (C’20) intend to create “Annie and Maddy in the Garth,” a medley of the two violinists work on each Friday afternoon in Guerry Garth.
“We want to share classical music with the Sewanee community. Expose people to something they might not normally enjoy,” said Bowers.