Interview with the Composer, Dr. Maria Thompson Corley

Maria Thompson Corley was born in Jamaica and raised in Canada. She has appeared as a solo or collaborative pianist on radio, television, and/or concert stages in North and Central America, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Europe. Dr. Thompson Corley’s undergraduate work was completed at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where she studied with Alexandra Munn, a pupil of Irwin Freundlich. Maria Corley received both master’s and doctorate degrees in piano performance from the Juilliard School, where she was a student of renowned Hungarian pianist, Gyorgy Sandor.

How would you characterise your compositional language?
Eclectic! I incorporate music that reflects everything I’ve heard. It can sound neo-romantic or atonal, with hints of my West Indian background or references to my love of popular music. I also wrote a wind sextet that really wanted to sound like Poulenc, so I gave in. When there are words, they dictate the sound world.

What is your favorite moment(s) in your piece we’ve commissioned?
I really can’t choose. One great moment is when the trumpet gets the melody in the first movement recap. I had a lot of fun writing this piece, and I hope the audience will enjoy the ride, too.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
I honestly feel like things come to me from God. That doesn’t mean I don’t need to work/think. But initial snippets of an idea will just pop into my head. With words, it can be a bit more deliberate. I love movies, so I try to paint a picture with the music in support of the words.

Who or what are the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?
I can’t choose here, either. I will say that I might have become a composer sooner if I’d believed in myself sooner.

Hear Dr. Corley’s composition at the Spring Concerto Festival, May 19-21st, and 24th-26th, 2023.