by Julie Lineback

Katahj Copley has experienced one minute of fame.

If those 60 seconds are any indication, there’s far more than “Fifteen” in his future. And, he can say it all started at the University of West Georgia.

The sophomore music education major recently was selected by Vox Novus to have his one-minute piece, "Willow," performed at Fifteen Minutes of Fame. As the name suggests, the event is a collection of 15 varied, one-minute works by different composers from around the country written for a specific performer or ensemble. This session featured nationally touring Admiral Launch Duo and was sponsored by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Katahj Copley

When Copley saw the opportunity listed on the Composers’ Site website, he said his interests were sparked by the challenges it posed. First, he had to write for saxophone and harp, and he’d never written for harp before. Second, there was the time limit. Sure, he could write a full piece and whittle it down to a minute, but he didn’t want it to be something dissected and discardable.

“If I did that, it would mean my own creation was manipulated,” Copley explained. “Each piece I write represents something either about me or what I’m trying to convey to the audience. If I cut something short, then I’m also cutting something away from myself and from the audience.”

Despite the restrictions, he wrote from scratch.

“Something happens, and it’s just a creative flow that goes through a person and you just want to write something down,” he described of the process. “That’s what drove me into composition—the ability to recreate a magical thing that we can all express, and that’s music.”

Due to a technical glitch, Copley didn’t discover he’d made the cut for Fifteen Minutes until right before the UWG Saxophone Ensemble was to premiere his piece, "Spectra."
“It was like a giant spotlight was shown in my face,” he shared. “I look at some of the other people who were chosen, and most of them are graduate students or went places like New York University. This is my second year here, and the person who is going to be playing the soprano saxophone is a member of Moanin’ Frogs, which is a trailblazing group in the saxophone world right now.”

Although he acknowledged what an accomplishment this was, he remains steadfast in his forward-looking approach and views Fifteen Minutes as a stepping stone to what happens next.

“To me the future is very unexpected,” he said. “There are a million performers out there and hundreds of great elite orchestras. They all still play Mozart and Beethoven. There are a few names that are that big, and that’s what I want—to be a composer they want to play. I want them to see me as one of the wonders of American composers.”

No matter how far he goes in his career, he will always remember UWG helped him hit his first note of unlimited potential. Copley described "Spectra" as his first major piece as a composer, which is a feat in itself because he won’t actually begin composition studies until the fall of 2018.

“Until the Saxophone Ensemble performed 'Spectra,' everything else I had done were just arrangements,” he recalled. “'Spectra' was an original confessional to soul. Dr. (John) Bleuel allowed me tell my full story through that piece.”

“Katahj is a major young talent,” declared Bleuel, professor of music and conductor of the Saxophone Ensemble. “His 'Spectra' is an inspired work that demonstrates a musical sophistication and maturity well beyond his years. We all expect many great things from this fine young man in the future. He is a great credit to the UWG Saxophone Studio, the Department of Music and UWG.”

In turn, Copley said he sees big things in the future for the university due to the passion of the people who embody it.

“I believe in energy and positivity,” he concluded. “There’s this growing energy at UWG, and it makes you yearn to be better and do better. Everyone has this drive, and you want to be a part of it. People think of West Georgia as just a small school—for now. But with our accelerated passion, people will see they need to go here.”

Posted on February 2, 2018