The musical legacy of professor Norman Weston will live on past his retirement

Professor Weston seated at his office piano. (Chloe Hernandez/Lariat)

From 1989 until now, Dr. Norman Weston has made many achievements and changed the lives of countless students here at Saddleback College. He recently announced his retirement plans next year, so through this article we will take a look back into the life and achievements of one of Saddleback College standout professors.

His journey of learning the ins and outs of the piano began at the age of seven, and soon after was composing his own music.  To further his musical education, he went on to Indiana University where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music Composition.

Weston’s professional career began with him teaching high school music for three years, but he later furthered his education at Northwestern University. After earning his Doctorate, also in Music Composition, he was offered a job at Saddleback College where he has stayed ever since.

Dr. Weston’s portfolio of original pieces includes, but are not limited to, those written for orchestra, chorus and piano.  Some of his most recent works are an Ave Maria for choir, a Toccata for two pianos and a ballet score called Octet that he wrote for Deidre Cavazzi, one of the Saddleback College Dance professors, that was based on the Fibonacci series.

Creating original music is an incredibly complex task, but Dr. Weston has worked his entire life in mastering it.

“The key to creating any art is the discipline to devote the time to it, day in and day out,” said Dr. Weston.  “When working on a piece of music, I write every day from 9 to 5, constantly analyzing and re-writing what has been completed thus far.”

Over time he has learned quite well that despite a large amount of pre-planning going into creating music, but when the creative process starts to flow, a work of music can go off in a different direction than what was originally planned.

“When your writing is going particularly well, you can get on a bit of a creative high, where you lose all sense of time and before you know it you have been writing for 8 straight hours without a break,” added Dr. Weston.

Composers that were active in the early 20th century have most influenced his musical style: Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok among them.  Opera was his first great love and he was especially influenced by some of the great opera composers when writing his most recent piece, “Bernice Bobs Her Hair.”

Despite his love for Rock and Roll and Jazz, he is a classically trained musician, so these genres rarely influence anything that he writes, instead his style is influenced by all of the classical music he has played over the course of his life.

As his time as a composer he has learned how important it is to always have in mind the particular musicians that will be performing his music and to be aware of their strengths, but to not be afraid to challenge them as well.

“In terms of instruction, teaching at Saddleback has been the most rewarding professional experience I could have imagined,” said Dr. Weston. “I have learned so much through the incredible variety of students that are in my classes, from young music majors, to students taking fulfilling their GE requirements, to retirees who have always wanted to learn how to write music.”

Career wise, Dr. Weston’s holds his main achievements in two categories: as an academic and as a composer. As an academic, he holds the creation and growth of the Music Composition program at Saddleback College. Hundreds of students have been involved through the years, many of whom have gone on to professional careers as composers.  As a composer, it was finally writing the opera “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” and getting such a wonderful performance at Saddleback College.

While Dr. Weston has brightened the days of all of those lucky enough to encounter him during their time at Saddleback College, in the end it was the students who taught him the most important lessons.

“Humility, empathy, and the importance of growth,” said Dr. Weston in his closing message on the impact the students here at Saddleback have had on his personal growth.