-Anonymous review of Shadow Waltz
The music of American composer Thomas Little (b. July 12, 1996) combines expressivity and urgency within the parameters of complex formal designs. He is pursuing his PhD in Composition at the University at Buffalo on a Presidential Fellowship, studying with David Felder. He received his MFA in Composition and Theory at Brandeis University, studying with Yu-Hui Chang, Eric Chasalow, Erin Gee, and David Rakowski, and his BM in Composition from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), where he studied with Michael Rothkopf, Lawrence Dillon, and Kenneth Frazelle. He has participated in master classes with composers as diverse as Kati Agócs, J. Scott Brubacher, Phyllis Chen, David Coll, Robert Cuckson, Richard Danielpour, Nathan Davis, Zosha di Castri, Brett William Dietz, Christopher Dobrian, Suzanne Farrin, Charles Fussell, Jennifer Higdon, Vijay Iyer, Pierre Jalbert, Solbong Kim, Mari Kimura, Amy Beth Kirsten, Jordan Kuspa, Zhou Long, David Serkin Ludwig, Gilda Lyons, Valerio Murat, James Romig, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Matt Sargent, Caroline Shaw, George Tsontakis, Nils Vigeland, and Chen Yi.
Highlights of his prolific and eclectic output include Strange Languages, performed by the Lydian String Quartet; Nonexistent Chimera, recorded by Robin Meiksins as a part of her “52 Weeks of Flute” project; Imaginary Poetry, performed by violinist Jubal Fulks; The Elephant’s Foot, a Chernobyl-inspired tone poem commissioned by the American Guild of Organists; Awakening, commissioned by Wachovia Winds; Invasion of the Minor Seconds, recorded by Eighth Blackbird during their UNCSA residency; “Teton Pass” from Symphony №. 1 The Grand Tetons, which took first prize in the Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestra’s 2018 Composition Competition and was performed by the orchestra under the baton of Jessica Morel; the musical-theater chamber piece Overdrive, commissioned and performed around the United States by the “Low & Lower” cello/bass duo; and the electronic Christmas Dance and Snowfall for the Tanglewood Festival of Lights.
Thomas’s music is characterized by the fusion of old and new compositional techniques, an affinity for Haydnesque humor, and a fascination with music’s ability to directly convey the emotions associated with lived experiences. In the realm of vocal music, he is particularly fascinated with the poetry of Robert W. Service, the “Bard of the Yukon,” for its vivid imagery. As a performer, he was was a bass at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Marblehead, MA from 2019–20 and was pianist and organist at St. Michael Lutheran Church in High Point, NC from 2013–19. He also played gangsa and saron in MIT’s Gamelan Galak Tika (a Balinese gong kebyar and experimental ensemble) under Evan Ziporyn and Pak Gusti Komin in early 2020, having been introduced to Balinese music through playing gangsa, reyong, and ceng-ceng in Wake Forest’s Gamelan Giri Murti (an angklung/gong kebyar and beleganjur ensemble) under Elizabeth Clendinning from 2016–19.
Thomas’s love of collaboration has led him to a variety of projects, including modern dance pieces with several different choreographers as well as student films. Films with his music have been selected for screening at the Full Bloom Film Festival in Statesville, NC, the Carrboro Film Festival in Carrboro, NC, the RiverRun Film Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, and the Real to Reel Film Festival in Kings Mountain, NC. He was elected president of the UNCSA Synergy Project, a student-led organization dedicated to the promotion of inter-campus collaboration, for the 201819 term.
As a firm believer in the value of accessible music education, he is the creator and host of the “Classical Nerd” channel on YouTube, creating educational content for the platform since January 2016. Classical Nerd episodes have been used as supplementary material by music educators around the world, including at the University of Freiburg, Germany, UNCSA, the HazeltonMoffitBraddock middle and high school in North Dakota, the Gateway Chamber Orchestra of Tennessee, and the KincoppalRose Bay School of the Sacred Heart in Sydney, Australia. He is a self-taught harmonicist, can passably imitate a kazoo with his mouth, knows a handful of chords on the mandolin, and goes on road trips of exorbitant length (including 49 states, nine Canadian provinces, and the Yukon Territory), which he occasionally turns into symphonies.