Composing music and attending Juilliard were not on Will Stackpole’s radar when he began his undergraduate degree in Music & Technology at Stevens.
“I came to Stevens as an electric guitar player with ambitions to become a recording engineer or record producer,” he said. “I had written songs and played in bands in high school, but had never had a formal introduction to classical music or composition.”
As part of his degree, Stackpole studied guitar under famed guitarist and Distinguished Artist in Residence Carlos Alomar and completed a rigorous series of courses in Music Theory under Professor Andy Brick. He believes these courses tied his playing and writing together in a way that made sense, which introduced him to a path he would never have considered before coming to Stevens.
“Something about it — the subject or the teaching or a combination of the two — really enthralled me. By the time I got to courses in orchestration and composition, I was completely hooked, and I finally realized that I could legitimately compose music as a career,” he said.
After completing his degree with a concentration in music theory and composition, Stackpole worked as a commercial composer, writing music for the Discovery Channel, several short films and off-Broadway theatrical productions. He also worked as an orchestrator for the Manhattan Symphonie.
“Because of the diverse education I received, not only with the humanities but with STEM fields as well, I’ve been able to work comfortably and collaboratively alongside filmmakers, audio engineers, theatrical crews and, of course, musicians,” he said.
Applying to Juilliard
The intensive pre-screening process at Juilliard is not your average graduate school application. To be considered, Stackpole had to submit original scores, audio recordings, compositions with orchestrations and dates of performances. He devoted nearly a year to studying and composing music in order to create the materials needed for his application.
“I embarked on a year-long composing marathon of sorts,” he said. “I actually had a calendar next to the piano where I would cross off days that I had written music. It was a great tactic to keep me motivated, and I wound up with an unbroken string of days from January 21st to December 21st. I also had to get live players to record my pieces as I finished them. Once Juilliard was on my radar, I didn’t want to leave anything up to chance.”
Upon successful submission, he was invited for a live audition with personal interviews with some of the world’s most renowned music composers and musicianship testing in areas such as score identification, rhythmic dictation and harmonic analysis. After intense preparation, he was accepted to the Master of Music in Composition program, and now studies under the advisement of Bob Beaser, Chair of the composition department. And he says the preparation was more than worth it.
“Places like Juilliard are looking for not only skilled and talented folks, but also men and women who are willing to put in that much work because they love it,” he said. “Now that I’m in graduate school, I can give myself the skills and opportunities to write music for whatever ventures present themselves.”
Stackpole will graduate from The Juilliard School of Music in 2016, and plans to pursue a career as a concert composer — with ambitions to write music for orchestras and chamber ensembles — and also teach music at a university. While he’s busy focusing on his future, he said his undergraduate experience at Stevens instilled in him the ambition and commitment to his work that has enabled him to achieve success as a composer and musician.
“I can honestly say that if I hadn’t attended Stevens, I would not be attending Juilliard. In fact, I might not even be a composer at all. My professors were some of the most inspiring teachers I’ve had, and they helped me realize what I actually wanted to do with my life.”
Stevens Institute of Technology, The Innovation University®, is a premier, private research university situated in Hoboken, N.J. overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Founded in 1870, technological innovation has been the hallmark and legacy of Stevens’ education and research programs for more than 140 years. Within the university’s three schools and one college, more than 6,300 undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with more than 350 faculty members in an interdisciplinary, student-centric, entrepreneurial environment to advance the frontiers of science and leverage technology to confront global challenges. Stevens is home to four national research centers of excellence, as well as joint research programs focused on critical industries such as healthcare, energy, finance, defense, maritime security, STEM education and coastal sustainability. The university is consistently ranked among the nation’s elite for return on investment for students, career services programs and mid-career salaries of alumni. Stevens is in the midst of a 10-year strategic plan, The Future. Ours to Create., designed to further extend the Stevens legacy to create a forward-looking and far-reaching institution with global impact.