Freshman Wins National Composition Competition

Freshman Wins National Composition Competition

 Jacob's composition was selected as one of two winners for the competition. As one of the two winners, he will attend the Tennessee Valley Music Festival in Huntsville, Alabama, June 5-11, sitting in on rehearsals of his piece, attending lectures and seminars, as well as many other musical opportunities.

Q. Please tell us what inspired you to write "Keepers of the Deep" and what is it about?

In 1997, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) detected a very powerful underwater noise west of the southern tip of South America. This noise was attributed to large icebergs, but then, in 2002, the NOAA admitted the sound was consistent with large marine animals.

This noise was hardly the only odd, seemingly unexplained noise in the ocean, most of which are officially classified as ice-related (i.e. Julia, Upsweep, Whistle, Slow Down, Train, etc.). After listening to these various sounds, I was entranced. It is said that we have only officially explored 5 percent or less of our world's oceans. What else could be lying out there that we have little to now knowledge about?

I began researching, learning about different expeditions and dives, ridiculous looking animals from the deepest depths of the ocean, when I found a post on a website called Reddit titled "Confessions of a Deep Sea Diver," of which there are three installments. The author (a user named PizzND) of these posts explained his former job as a professional diver. He and his team dove for many reasons, from salvage missions for the military to simple clean up jobs for oil rigs and the like.

He explains how, at first, his job was very straightforward and simple. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then strange things began to happen, the first of which was finding strange shells in his tool bag while underwater that had hieroglyphics engraved on them. From there, the diver's experiences only became stranger and more grotesque. By the end, the final explanation is that the strange apparitions encountered while under the water are lost souls of those who died at sea, and are jealous of those who can return to land. They want to hinder their return, and are determined to prevent their escape to land, an image I reference in my piece by a long line of rapidly descending notes.

These beings are referred to by the divers as the Keepers of the Deep. These various stories and sounds led to my initial inspiration for the piece. While composing, I also stumbled across the H. P. Lovecraft stories of Cthulhu, an ancient deity who resembles a man with an octopus head and dragon-like wings. These stories describe the deity as a trapped creature, who must escape to reign terror on the world. A section of my composition resembles a stomp-like gait, directly emulating my vision of this monstrous creature emerging from the ocean and wreaking its havoc across the world.

Q. What was your process for writing it, how long did it take, and how long does it take to perform?

The initial sit-down-and-write was at 3 a.m. in January during winter break. I was in my room at home and I worked nonstop until 7 that morning. After those four hours, I didn't really touch the piece again until March. I finished it in about two weeks total, not counting the time I was not actively working on it.

After I finished the original piece, only meant for a string orchestra, I found out about the competition I entered, which was a call for full orchestra scores. I am always one for a challenge, so I sat down and, with no orchestration experience, arranged my string orchestra piece for a full orchestra (34 instruments!). It took me about another week to finish the orchestration in its entirety. The piece itself is a little under five minutes when performed.


First page of Barrow's composition 

Q. When did you first develop an interest in pursuing music as a career, and what sparked it?

In high school I was highly involved in my choir. I was a member of the Varsity Men, Varsity Mixed, and Show Choir for the last three years back home in San Antonio at Winston Churchill High School.

While in these ensembles I cultivated my love of singing and performing, becoming an All-State Soloist singer. My senior year of high school I took AP Music Theory and that's when I started learning how much more to music there was than just singing the notes written on a page.

The underlying structure fascinated me in a way that performing never had. I had very little confidence in my composing skills at that time, but I just constantly wrote little melodies and now here I am, a year later and a national winner!

Q. Why did you choose to attend ENMU?

I chose this university because of its superb music department. My mom's co-worker overheard that I was planning on studying Vocal Performance and, as an alumnus, he recommended Eastern. I was put into contact with Dr. Jason Paulk and he told me about the department here.

I arranged my audition in February of 2015, and I loved the campus! It was astounding, the Music Building was welcoming, and I knew instantly that this was where I needed to be. I am in love with this department and this school and I am going to have a hard time saying goodbye in 2019, but that's not for a while and I'm going to take advantage of every second I have here at ENMU.

Q. How have you felt about your ENMU experience so far, including professors who have inspired you, your impression of the music program, etc.?

This department is amazing and inspirational. I had Mrs. Kayla Paulk as my Freshman Seminar teacher and she was beyond helpful in making my first semester away from home as smooth as possible. I'm able to perform a ridiculous amount because I was put into both auditioned choral ensembles (Chamber and Swanee Singers) due to my audition last fall.

Being in three college level choirs, as well as being a part of an amazing Vocal Studio, has really pushed me as a performer and made me a better musician. Dr. Sherwood, my private voice coach, has always pushed me to success from our very first lesson, as has Dr. Paulk. I am expected to do my very best, an expectation I strive to achieve with every passing day.

The faculty in the music department is so supportive and I feel welcomed at all times. If I had followed this same path back home, I would have gone to Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. It is a great school, but so many I people attend school there.

Here at Eastern, I have a family in the music department and the one-on-one time I get with my professors is unheard of at those larger schools. For that, I am grateful.

Q. What is your ultimate career goal?

My realistic goal is to be a resident composer for some form of institution (preferably at a college, so I could also be a professor of Music Theory and Composition.) The main plan at this point is to finish my Bachelor's of Music with Vocal Performance emphasis and Music Composition minor, and then to go on to my Master's of Music in Music Composition. If I feel the need after that, I would like to go further and get my Doctorate of Musical Arts in Composition. I love composing, but I also love sharing knowledge and my love of music.

The dream goal is a little bit more unrealistic in the fact that it is a highly competitive field. I would love to be a film composer, not unlike John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Home Alone, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, etc., etc.) and Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Sky High, Ratatouille, Cloverfield, Star Trek, Up, Lost, etc., etc.).

The field of composing for film and television is vicious. Constant competition, constant comparison, ridiculous time schedules (Giacchino had to compose some parts for the TV series Lost within hours so they could be ready for the airing of the show that week!) and just about every other thing that could go against you will. I love the idea, and I hope to pursue it, but I try to keep my eyes set on realistic achievements first.

Q. Other thoughts?

I just want to say what an honor it is to be studying with such talented and knowledgeable professors and students. Coming to follow my dreams here at Eastern truly was one of the best decisions of my life. I can't wait to see what's in store for me next, and I am so grateful for the opportunities I am offered here.

I hope to someday make my alma mater very proud.