One of America’s foremost composers of vocal and choral music recently joined the faculty at Oklahoma State University. Z. Randall Stroope, who conducts the OSU Concert Chorale and Chamber Choir, has composed more than 90 works for voice and chorus in addition to works for various vocal forces featuring brass, organ and/or percussion. Stroope’s compositional heritage is impressive: private lessons with Normand Lockwood and Cecil Effinger, both of whom studied with noted pedagogue Nadia Boulanger. Stroope also singles out Leonard and Bernstein and Igor Stravinsky, two giants of 20th-century composition who influenced his music. "I studied with Lockwood for 15 years,” Stroope said. "I’d often fly to Colorado to have lessons with him. He turned me on to writing music, and through Boulanger, passed on (the process of) combining instruments and voices to create this tonal fabric of wonderful colors. He was a master of sonority. "Efficiency of writing would be the main thing I took from my studies with Effinger. Boulanger didn’t try to replicate herself through her students; she let them be successful in their own way. As a result, Lockwood and Effinger were very open to different styles of music in my writing. It wasn’t a cookie cutter approach to composition.” Although Stroope started to experiment with composition around age 10, he began composing seriously in the early 1980s. Among his earliest successes are "The Cloths of Heaven,” which features a text by William Butler Yeats, and "Inscription of Hope,” a work set to a Holocaust text. "I was quite fortunate to have written some works that found great attraction across the country,” Stroope said. "That sort of catapulted my career compositionally. I was soon being asked to write pieces and conduct those works with the groups that commissioned them. Through conducting, you learn about what works in composition. Both aspects of my career took hold, and I’ve never looked back. I’m busier today than I’ve ever been.” As part of the Kemp Concert Series, Stroope will conduct the OSU Concert Chorale and Chamber Choir in concert at 4 p.m. today at First Presbyterian Church, 1001 NW 25. Titled "Musical Imaginings,” the program will feature works by Byrd, Bach, Mendelssohn, Vaughan Williams, Hindemith and Bernstein. He’ll also conduct his newly published "Song to the Moon.” Stroope is one of the most frequently sought-after guest conductors today. During his 30-year career, he’s conducted groups at the Vatican, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, the Mormon Tabernacle and Britain’s Canterbury Cathedral. International tours have taken him to China, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Russia, Japan and South Africa. He is also in demand as a composer, with about 40 percent of his work coming from commissions. "My favorite commissions are those of the blank check variety,” Stroope said. "It’s like getting a plane ticket but you don’t know where you’re going, how long it’s going to take to get there or what the journey is going to be like. That lack of boundaries helps you to create something unique. For my psyche, it’s nice when people trust me to create something of value.”
HAVE YOU MET?
Z. Randall Stroope→Title: Associate professor of conducting, director of vocal and choral activities, Oklahoma State University. →Hometown: Albuquerque, N.M. →Age: 56. →Education: Bachelor of Music in voice and piano, Oral Roberts University; Master of Music in vocal performance, University of Colorado-Boulder; Doctor of Musical Arts in choral conducting, Arizona State University.