College of DuPage Music Student Wins Prestigious Jack Stone Award for New Music

By: Mike McKissack

Melissa Wang

College of DuPage music student Melissa Wang’s original composition, “Downright Up and Left,” has been named winner of the 2019 Jack Stone Award for New Music, earning her a cash prize and the opportunity to travel to Texas to receive the honor in person and see her piece performed live.

The Jack Stone Award for New Music is a national competition open solely to community college students exploring music composition. Wang’s winning composition will be performed by the Line Upon Line Percussion ensemble during an awards ceremony in the Palmetto Center for the Arts at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio.

Wang said she was thrilled with winning the competition.

“The best thing about winning the award is going to Texas where the weather is 40 degrees warmer than Illinois,” she said. “Also, I’m looking forward to hearing another group's interpretation of my composition and to attend rehearsals with the group, because the music making process is as irreplaceable of an experience as the performance on stage.”

Wang, a Downers Grove resident who started playing percussion in fifth grade, said she chose College of DuPage as an affordable opportunity to help her decide on a career path.

“I was undecided between graphic design, animation, architecture, and music education, she said. “I’ve also been interested in being a teacher since third grade, but I did not know what kind of teacher I wanted to be. I became particularly interested in music education after leading rehearsals for a tune I arranged for the COD Percussion Ensemble.”

Wang plans to graduate COD this spring with an Associate in Fine Arts degree in music and hopes to earn her master’s degree in music education, eventually teaching music in a high school or college.

She said she is pleased with her experience at COD, citing the program’s accessible classes, hardworking students and particularly, the professors.

“The professors provide incredibly valuable musical opportunities,” she said. “COD Director of Percussion Ben Wahlund has introduced the percussionists to important aspects of leading rehearsals and given the students spots in concerts for solo performances or small group performances. COD Director of Jazz Ensembles Tom Tallman informs students about projects such as the Jack Stone Award and the Student Research Symposium, and is always supportive about the students' projects. Lastly, COD Choral Music Director Lee Kesselman has been a great help and showed a lot of patience toward me during my beginning stages of composition.”

Learn more about the music program at College of DuPage.