Mercer Artist: Denzel Washington, composer

Ireal James, Contributing Writer

Born in Detroit, Michigan and raised in the small community of Waycross, Georgia, Denzel Washington always had big musical aspirations. But it was not always clear what career he wanted to pursue in the field.

Now a junior at Mercer majoring in music with a minor in Christianity, Washington’s musical dream has become clear — he wants to be a composer.

“Being a composer, for me, means creating art using different techniques that incorporate sound and using those techniques to convey a message, a response or evoke emotion,” Washington said.

Though Washington began composing music recently, his lack of experience does not diminish his passion.

“I’ve been seriously composing music since my second semester of being here at Mercer,” said Washington, “It started with just a project, but then my love for composing grew exponentially.”

From that moment forward Washington began to think of his style as a process.

“My favorite part is where you just throw stuff on a page . . . [when] you take out all the ideas you have and you put them on a page,” Washington said. “From there it’s the crafting and molding of those ideas that is really, really satisfying.”

As a saxophone player, Washington has first-hand knowledge of how instruments merge with other musical elements.

“When I think of composing music, I think of it like writing a good book,” Washington said.

Washington says that others have helped him increase his musical awareness, particularly his professors.

“The saxophone professor here, Dr. [Monty] Cole, [is] an amazing saxophone professor, and I learned so much from . . .  taking his advice,” Washington said. “I’ve also been really inspired by the composition professor here, Dr. [Christopher] Schmitz.”

Washington said that the influence professors have shared with him has made his choice of becoming a Mercer student worthwhile.

“What I’ve come to learn is that you cannot stay isolated in one area — you have to expose yourself to much of what Mercer has to offer. That’s what makes college great because when you do that, you’ll have new ways to think about whatever it is you’re doing,” Washington said.

Though Washington enjoys activities, such as playing video games and watching his favorite shows on Hulu, these activities feed his journey toward being a well-rounded composer.

“I get a lot of my inspiration for where I start writing music [and] how I can start crafting good stories [from watching movies],” Washington said.

Washington believes his compositions will make him a success someday.

“I aspire to have proficient skill in many areas of composition, not just one, so if I’m called to write for chamber music and concert music, I’d be able to do that,” Washington said.

Washington will soon participate in the Student Composers Recital, a concert that features new music created by students of Schmitz’s composition studio.

The concert will be held in Fickling Hall on Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m.

Washington will premiere his piece “Maturity: Song Cycle for Soprano, Cello and Piano” at the concert.