Philip Silvey - composer

About Philip Silvey

(b. 1965)

I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, one of ten children born to an elementary principal (Dad) and a registered nurse (Mom). My mom says she knew I was musical by the way I could not stop swaying on stage when my kindergarten class performed. I started piano lessons in second grade, tried to quit a couple of years later, but had to stick to a three-year commitment I made with my folks (good thing I did). I remember during opening exercises in third grade, sitting on the crowded carpet with my legs crossed, loving the sound of all of us singing White Coral Bells in three-part canon. In sixth grade I sang my first solo, Gershwin’s I’m Bidin’ My Time, wearing a too-big-for-me cowboy hat supplied by my hippie generation music teacher, Mrs. Holsinger (yes, “singer” was right there in her name).

Because I took piano lessons, I ended up accompanying choirs in junior high and high school. My first big challenge came in eighth grade when I played Captain & Tenille’s 70s hit Love Will Keep Us Together (the junior high choral arrangement didn’t quite capture what made the song a radio hit). The summer after my sophomore year in high school, I was accepted into the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts to study visual art. There I minored in music, shared some of my original compositions for the first time, and solidified my desire to pursue music in earnest. I sang in district, regional, state, and all-eastern choruses, and sang the solo in William Dawson’s arrangement of Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit at the Founders Hall auditorium at the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania.

I started college studying music theory and composition and added a music education major as a sophomore. There I kept writing music and singing with choirs, and even got to reprise my solo in the Dawson spiritual. I finished my degree in December of my fifth year and started graduate school at Penn State in music composition. I sang in the choir there and wrote an extended choral work about my family as my final project. I took some short-term teaching jobs in Pennsylvania while I finished my degree, and then began a full time job in west Michigan. I stayed there for seven years conducting high school and middle school choirs, putting on musicals and madrigal dinners, and really working out most of what I know about teaching choral music. One highlight of that time was having a women’s ensemble chosen to sing at the Michigan Youth Arts Festival where they premiered one of my compositions. Four years later that piece was accepted for publication and now I have a number of works published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Carl Fischer, and Boosey & Hawkes. Another highlight was playing the role of Tony in the Kalamazoo Civic Theater’s 1995 production of West Side Story and singing a portion of my all time favorite song, Somewhere (just before dying on stage).

After seven years of teaching in Michigan, I enrolled in graduate school to pursue a doctorate of music education at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and sang in the graduate chorale and a small seven-member early music ensemble that performed in Paris on September 11, 2001 (as you can imagine, there is a long story that goes with this). After three years of grad school, I graduated and took a job in the music education division of the University of Maryland where I stayed for six years. I followed that with a couple years of teaching at the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory. In 2010 I began working at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester where I have been teaching ever since.