|THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE FOR ALUMNI AND FRIENDS||VOLUME XIX NUMBER 3 Summer 2004|
Louise Dierker '96 Makes Nature's Music Her Own
Louise Dierker, B.A., B.Mu., M.Mu., M.D., M.P.H., practiced psychiatry for 25 years, maintaining several offices and clinical and teaching appointments at Harvard and Dartmouth Medical Schools. Their three children now grown, she and her husband live at the family's home in Nelson, N.H. There, out among the pines and beeches, mic in hand and minidisc recorder over her shoulder, Dierker has begun a career as a music composer at age 60.
The gray-haired novitiate composes art music for piano and strings and creates electracoustic soundscapes (www.soundscapeartist.com). After digitally recording, for example, the sounds of different winds in the trees, she manipulates the files using Peak software. In her composition "Windward of Winterbeech," she used nothing but manipulated wind for music; in "Wind & Ice," she merged the sounds of wind and ice breaking with music for strings.
Dierker started her music career in the same way she began as a psychiatrist: by persisting in advanced study in a field that generally favors men. After graduating from Keene State in her 50s with a bachelor's in music education, she earned her master's of music degree in composition from the prestigious Longy School of Music in Cambridge.
Dierker visited KSC this year for a Department of Music recital titled Women Artists of the 21st Century, in which her compositions were performed by music faculty and other musicians from Keene.
Did she compose music in her head while practicing psychiatry?
"No. I didn't even listen to music," says Dierker. "I had played the clarinet until my sophomore year of college, but I put it away for med school."
The clarinet came out of its case in 1991, when her daughter joined other high school students on a trip to perform in Europe organized by Jean Nelson, director of the Keene High School Choir, and Doug Nelson, chair of the KSC music department.
"I was green with envy watching them get on the bus," admits Dierker. "I thought, I'd love to play in a concert band! I saw the KSC Concert Band listed in the Continuing Ed catalog and asked Doug if I could audition."
Soon Dierker decided to end her psychiatric practice and enroll full-time in the music education program. Her family applauded her decision.
"When I began, my expectations were in line with conventional ones for women," says Dierker. "I'd do a little teaching and perform as a freelance clarinetist. But I don't really like performing. I like to play, but not perform. And what I really wanted to do was compose."
Still, she auditioned for and was accepted into the master's program in performance at the Longy School of Music, where, at age 58, she played principal clarinet in the orchestra.
The next year at Longy, Dierker made her move. While at Keene State, she had taken Professor Ted Mann's Counterpoint course on composing music and had written a movement for cello and clarinet. Submitting this work in application to the composition program at Longy, Dierker finally entered the world of composition.
"It can be difficult for a woman to be an artist," says Dierker. "As a mother, a music teacher, a psychiatrist, you're giving. As a composer, you need to go away alone and write music.
"Women generally aren't allowed to be selfish. Even if men tolerate it, they often ignore your work. If you really have talent and you're a woman, you can be just sort of 'dropped.' It's scary. There can be a basic fear of being isolated because you're a talented woman."
"I read somewhere that you need to compose for about 10 years before you start getting commissions," notes Dierker. "I've got to live like Elliot Carter, composing in his 90s."