Composer Spotlight Q&A: Jenna Stewart

Jenna Stewart enjoys all aspects of music, but finds herself particularly drawn to composition, songwriting and music production. 

Jenna recently took part in our annual development opportunity for composers' in association with Any Enemy composing a piece of music which was premiered at soundfestival 2022. 

Photo by Sissi Burn

What stage are you at in your career right now? 

Currently I am in my first year of studying music at Edinburgh Napier University, specialising in composition and music production. As well as this, I often play gigs at public venues and work on releases as a songwriter. 

When and what made you decide to pursue composition as a career?

I was always sure I wanted to be creating music in the future however my experience with composing for the BBC Concert Orchestra as part of the 2022 proms reaffirmed my aspiration for a career in composition. For me my favourite moment in the compositional process is hearing the music out loud played by the musicians for the first time. During the first rehearsal for my piece Unchanging Purpose, I had a real sense of wanting to pursue composition further than a hobby and into a career. 

What are your compositional aspirations? 

I would like to be able to combine my love for classical music and popular music in a song-writing context. I’d love to become a fulltime composer and artist in the future, perhaps working with a label and doing more commission work with my composition. 

What forces do you prefer writing for and why? 

For me personally, I find I can be quite indecisive when writing! It is helpful to overcome this when given a prescribed ensemble or group of vocalists to write for. I like to be creative with whatever I am given to work with, as it’s a joy to work with professional instrumentalists and vocalists. If I were to choose a favourite medium to write for, I would pick orchestral composition, because I am captivated by the fullness  and colour of sound that an orchestra can produce. 

Which composer (dead or alive) has most inspired you and why? 

I find Carole King a great inspiration and musical role model to me. I resonate with the fact she has a classical background in music, however, does not see any barriers in terms of style when creating music and so uses her background in her creating of popular music. You can clearly see her talent wisdom and skill in all her writing, combining genres, creating songs which people can relate to, and writing beautiful music. I aspire to write music which tells a story, like Carole, and to write lyrics which provoke thought within the listener.

What would you consider to be a dream commission? 

My dream commission would be to write for film and television or perhaps music used in synchronisation. I feel very fortunate to have already received ‘my dream commission’ by the BBC concert orchestra.

What do you do to take your mind off composing?

I usually try to avoid taking my mind off composition because often the best ideas come to me when I am not expecting them during the day, so I feel like I am constantly creating music even if it is just in my head. However, I do enjoy walking, whether it is along the streets or in the mountains of Scotland, I love being outside and breathing fresh air.

If you could describe your work in three words, what would they be? 

Relational, colourful, curious

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