by Gene Kodadek
Whitney Berry is a lecturer in the University of North Dakota music department and a composer with two published works. Born in Winnipeg, she received her Bachelor of Music degree in conjunction
with a Bachelor of Education from Brandon University in 1997. She came to Grand Forks as a result of her husband being accepted into the UND physical therapy department and was accepted into the
graduate program in the University music department. She spent her first year as a teaching assistant, and the second year she taught one section of first year Aural Skills. She received her master’s degree
in composition in 1999 and stayed on as a lecturer in the department, teaching first year music theory and aural skills.
Whitney Berry’s musical aptitude was taken notice of at the age of five, when she began taking piano lessons and was able to repeat the things her teacher played for her by ear alone, in fact, her first
teacher refused to continue the lessons as a result of her refusal to learn to read the music! She wrote her first piece of music at the age of fifteen, and was Brandon University’s first composition major. In
1996 she wrote a women’s choir piece entitled “Prayer” for a contest. The text is partially a Kyrie from the Latin mass and partially original lyrics based on the lord’s prayer. She won the competition,
and in February 2000 the piece was published by the Edward B. Marks Music Company, with distribution by Hal Leonard. Her second published work, which will be available sometime in 2002, is
entitled Arise My Love. It is a piece for unaccompanied mixed choir.
When asked about the compositional process, she says that she usually begins with text or a thematic idea, using a title for inspiration as opposed to strictly musical ideas. Prayer, for instance, began as a
memorial for the Montreal Massacre of 1989. Both of her published pieces were written in a relatively short span of time, with Arise My Love being written in six straight hours. Aside from the two
published choral pieces, she has also written for piano, and often writes chamber music for her friends. One specific example is a clarinet quartet inspired by four paintings by Wassily Kandinsky.
Whitney Berry, being an excellent teacher and a talented
composer, is a valuable part of the musical community of Grand Forks.