A Twin Cities Composition Career With Alumna Carol Barnett

Carol Barnett

Alumna and composer Carol Barnett (BA, music theory and composition, 1972, MA, music theory and composition, 1976) has spent her storied career contributing new compositions to the local music scene while living in the Twin Cities community. This summer, a local quintet featuring Civic Orchestra of Minneapolis musicians, including School of Music alumna and Student Services Specialist Rachel Hest (BM, flute performance, 1984) will perform Barnett’s piece “Shaker Suite: Canterbury” outdoors at the Milwaukee Avenue Historic District Park on July 1 at 7:00 pm. 

In the near future, Barnett will premiere several works that were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra will premiere her song cycle “Will’s Ladies” with Clara Osowski. Additionally, a new organ work is scheduled for the national American Guild of Organists convention in Seattle next summer. 

Barnett is a long-time Twin Cities resident, where she has lived since graduating from the University with her bachelors degree in theory and composition and masters degree in composition. “I had already made many friends in the local music world, and it seemed much easier to build on that foundation rather than to start fresh somewhere else.” Barnett said. 

As Barnett’s career grew, she developed into a prominent female composer in the industry. “Sometimes being a female composer is an advantage, sometimes it’s not. When people are thinking about diversity, it is.” Barnett has seen a shift in inclusion during her career and believes that “the scene is more welcoming these days than it was 40 years ago.” 

Initially, Barnett was attracted to the School of Music because both of her parents were University of Minnesota alumni, and she was familiar with it from the Minnesota Music Teachers Association’s annual contest. In 1966 she attended a High School Musician’s Project, which sparked her interest in composition. It was the first time she was able to collaborate with musical peers; over 100 students attended the program that year. Barnett said the experience “gave me an idea of what a life in music could be.” A highlight of her studies at the School of Music includes the 7-week tour of the Soviet Union with the Concert Band Ensemble, conducted by Dr. Frank Bencriscutto. 

Barnett has kept herself busy during the COVID-19 pandemic. She says that the pandemic has given her “more time to concentrate on what is important to me – practicing, writing every day, getting enough exercise, and reading more.” She also finished a few pieces while sequestered. 

To aspiring composers, Barnett shares this piece of advice: “Read widely, not just about music. Listen to lots of music of all kinds. Sing or play in an ensemble. Be curious about everything, and bring all you learn back to your work.”  

To learn more about Carol Barnett and her work, visit: https://www.carolbarnett.net

The performance by the Civic Orchestra of Minneapolis chamber musicians of “Shaker Suite: Canterbury” will take place outdoors at the Milwaukee Avenue Historic District Park on July 1 at 7:00 pm. Details: https://www.facebook.com/CivicOrchestraOfMinneapolis

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