Saturday , June 28, 2014 - 12:00 AM
LAYTON – When award-winning Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints composer Annette Dickman of Layton was only 3 years old, she was a bonafide Mormon Tabernacle Choir junkie, listening to the choir sing her favorite songs, then trying to pluck out the tunes on her grandma’s piano.
Just a few years later, after attending a piano concert at Utah State University, Dickman began dreaming big. “I had a glorious picture in my mind of me wearing a beautiful long dress, playing the piano with an orchestra, and performing for kings and queens,” said Dickman.
Though Dickman did receive her bachelor’s degree from Utah State University in piano performance, her dream didn’t quite come to fruition. Instead, she began composing hundreds of LDS-themed songs and garnering numerous awards for many of her pieces in the church’s annual music submission program.
The accolades aren’t why she has spent a lifetime composing LDS-themed music.
“I have been blessed to have the most fervent desires of my heart fulfilled in terms of performing not in front of kings and queens, but I was able to do a private performance for President Spencer W. Kimball right before he passed away, playing my songs on the piano while the Rasmussen sisters sang the vocals,” said Dickman.
She also has left cassette tapes of her music for the First Presidency. Once, she heard later that President Marion G. Romney, who had been quite ill, needed another cassette tape because he had worn out the first one. “I can’t think of many things more satisfying than that,” she said,
The quiet, soft-spoken woman related the time she was invited to write a song for the worldwide primary children’s sacrament meeting program performed once a year for all LDS congregations by children ages 3 to 11.
When Dickman opened the letter from the church asking for some of her submissions, she sat down and spent 10 minutes writing the words to “Building an Eternal Family,” which was chosen to be a part of the 2009 primary program.
As a result, Dickman was sent videos of children all around the world singing her song. “It was beautiful seeing kids singing my song in their own language,” said Dickman.
Dickman received her first music composition award in 1989 from the church magazines music contest, receiving first place in the Relief Society Music Category for her piece, “Come unto Christ.”
But along the way, she learned an important lesson when it came to composing music for competition.
“One time I tried to write specifically for the (contest) submission and failed miserably, something I’ve heard several other composers say too,” said Dickman. “I know that the Lord will help you do His work, so when you are doing something in the service of the Lord, it is an added blessing and becomes tangible. If you are doing something for the sake of personal gratification, it’s a much different experience.”
One of the big struggles Dickman says she’s faced as a composer is making sure her music doesn’t sound the same each time. “It is always a challenge to come up with new ideas. It’s important to try new things, but sometimes it takes a lot of effort,” said Dickman. “Sometimes I will be writing, and I’ll either think, ‘I wrote something just like this in that song,’ or, ‘That’s something someone else wrote,’ so you really have to be careful.”
Some of Dickman’s songs have taken mere minutes to write, and others up to a year or longer. Usually, though, Dickman says a song only takes a couple of hours, but only when Dickman knows she has a deadline. “People ask me all the time how I compose music, and it’s hard to describe. It just kind of happens,” said Dickman. “It was something I found I could do in high school and college and enjoyed doing, so I just grew with it.”
Often Dickman says she will discover the words first, and then find the melodies to go with them, and other times, she will reflect on how the theme or hymn makes her feel, and the music will form.
Dickman does not receive payment for her compositions.
“I just feel it is something I want to give and share,” said Dickman. “Music is an extension of my faith, and truly a way for me to share my testimony and love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It is always my hope that I might bring comfort, strength, testimony, resolve, and the spirit into someone’s heart. Music has always done that for me.”
For a sampling of Dickman’s compositions, visit www.lds.org/music/library/search?query=annette+dickman&lang=eng&x=0&y=0.
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