Duck Pond Visit Inspires Winning Composition For Montana State Music Student


BOZEMAN — A composition inspired by a Bridger Range snow cloud this winter has earned a sophomore music student from Montana State University a spot at the SoundSCAPE composition and contemporary music festival in Italy this summer.

Austin Whisler said he stood near MSU Duck Pond where the rise and fall of a cloud inspired his musical composition, “I Saw a Cloud.”

A sophomore from Boulder Creek, Calif., and an Honors College student, composition was something of a freshman endeavor for Whisler, who took his first music composition class in the fall semester.

“The piece follows the cloud as I imagined it, descending over Bridger’s ridgeline and into Gallatin Valley where it becomes a ferocious, albeit short-lived, snowstorm,” Whisler said. He said the melody quickly took shape in his mind as a French horn sextet. A fourth-generation musician, Whisler has been playing the French horn since he was in fifth grade.

“I had a wonderful time writing this piece and working on/adapting the work with the help of the studio and the French horn ensemble,” he said.

Shortly after, Whisler spotted a poster at Howard Hall for a songwriting contest to enter the soundSCAPE festival in Bobbio, Italy in July and decided to submit “I Saw a Cloud.” The submission required the piece of music, a draft of a recording and a brief biography.

Whisler said he thought the entrance was a long shot and quickly forgot about it. But just before spring break, he received an email letting him know he was accepted into the festival, which runs July 6-16.

“And it’s been a whirlwind ever since,” Whisler said.

Part of the reason it’s hectic is that now Whisler has to compose a new piece of music to perform at the festival, this one a 5-7 minute duet for oboe and percussion instrument. Whisler said he was working with MSU School of Music faculty, including clarinet and composition teacher Greg Young, on the new piece. During the festival, Whisler will work with the music composition faculty at Rice University, the Eastman School of Music and the University of Toronto to refine and prepare the piece for performance at the festival.

After the festival, Whisler plans to take a few more weeks from his summer job as a line cook for Eddie’s Café in Glacier National Park and travel to Europe with his sister.

In addition to composing music, Whisler performs in the Wind Symphony, MSU Orchestra, Brass Quintet, French Horn Ensemble, and the Spirit of the West Marching Band. The brass and horn ensembles will perform Whisler’s original composition, “I Saw a Cloud,” at a concert later this semester.

Whisler said he expects the opportunity to participate in the international festival to be life-changing. But the timing of entering the festival also changed the direction of her life. While previously a double major in music and neuroscience, he decided to focus solely on majoring in music, with a possible plan to audition for graduate school in music.

“It’s about those little moments when something just resonates with you,” Whisler said of the excitement he feels working with the composition. “You know it when you get those shivers down your spine.”

Young said Whisler was both talented and an effervescent personality, which contributed to his early success.

“Austin comes to class with both energy and a smile and seems excited to compose music and share it with his peers,” Young said. “I’m sure it will take him along the way. His mix of talent, enthusiasm and dedication will surely brighten his future.

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