By Gina Malone
A senior at Asheville School, Mac Waters has already made a name for himself among young composers nationwide. A piece he composed for solo flute, titled tinted, was selected during the Spontaneous Combustion New Music Festival’s international call for scores. The piece will tour with internationally celebrated musician Orlando Cela on the West Coast this winter.
“I am a firm believer in an interdisciplinary approach to art,” Waters says. “For example, tinted is inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poetry and another piece I have written for piano trio, L’Homme Qui Marche, took its title from a sculpture by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti.”
Waters hails from Valle Crucis and has lived in Watauga County for most of his life. This is his fourth year as a boarding student at Asheville School. Neither his parents—Randy Waters and Melanie Bullard—nor his sister Olivia are professional musicians, yet all are supportive of his musical studies, and music has always been a part of his home life. “Though we’re all spread out—my dad remains in Valle Crucis, my mom works in Washington, D.C., and my sister is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—we remain as close as ever through the power of our family group chat,” he says.
He has been interested in music from an early age and began composing in middle school. “At Asheville School, I try to take advantage of every musical opportunity and thus participate in a wide range of musical disciplines from theater to instrumental performance.” He credits his music instructor, John Crawley, and the fine arts chair Kathy Leiner, both at Asheville School, with influencing his growth as a creator.
His accomplishments include being selected for the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Young Composers program for two years in a row and for the Interlochen Arts Academy Summer Composition Program and the Tanglewood Young Artists Orchestra. Last summer, after being nominated by Asheville School, he attended North Carolina Governor’s School, where he studied viola performance and composition.
At Governor’s School, an assignment in his improvisation class led to his writing a piece titled written words ride on the human voice “by accident,” he says. For the assignment, he wrote down instructions for a piece involving written texts laid out in the center of a group of people sitting in a semi-circle. Performers were called upon to “improvise however they wanted, using those texts as their only source material. When we performed it in class, what resulted was a really cool and strange performance-art-esque conglomeration of harmonies and shouts and some really cool sounds.” When his classmates praised the piece, he wrote it up, titled it and added it to his résumé.
His influences are many, Waters says, including Steve Reich, Julia Wolfe and other Bang on a Can school composers, along with Caroline Shaw, Luther Adams and Stephen Sondheim. “I also find,” he adds, “that I am greatly influenced by my peers—other people my age with whom I surround myself.”
Waters encourages those who appreciate music to “look into the wonderful, albeit bizarre, world of contemporary classical music. When I say that I want to be a composer, I want people to think less about a dead white guy in a wig and more about the diverse community of living artists whose work is brilliantly complex and vastly underappreciated.”
A concert featuring work by Waters will be held at the Walker Arts Center’s Graham Theater at Asheville School on Thursday, February 1, at 7:15 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. To learn more, visit ashevilleschool.org or call 828.254.6345.