Class of 2022: Supportive environment helps composer express human emotion through music

Rafal remembers the feeling.

In early 2020, Rafal, who goes by just his surname, was in the audience at an honors conference hearing his composition for saxophone quartet played by an ensemble of professional musicians. It was a turning point.

“It felt like that was one of the first times that one of my pieces was actually performed,” he said. “I felt like a real composer—I felt like I had just done something in real life rather than just pretending.”

But it might not have played out that way.

The Athens native didn’t declare music as his major when he arrived at Georgia College & State University. Deep down, Rafal knew that’s what he wanted to study, but it seemed out of reach, like it wasn’t a practical enough pursuit for his college career. But throughout his first semester, Rafal stayed open to the possibility. And eventually, he made up his mind to follow his heart.

Rafal’s instrument is the trumpet, but he considers musical composition his true form of expression.

“Music is made to express emotions that can’t always be expressed with words,” he said. “I want to be able to express the full range of human emotion.”

“If you find something you like doing, it can be the reward in and of itself.”

Rafal’s time at Georgia College freed him to experience life and offered a community to support his creative exploration. Through dedicated practice and collaboration with other musicians in the music department’s performance groups, Rafal honed his ability to translate life into song.

“I feel like if I understand it, I can accurately portray it,” Rafal said. “And having lots of different experiences is beneficial to me because now I can write about it.”

As he reflects on his years at Georgia College, Rafal challenges everyone to keep an open mind so you do not miss out on the experiences that could be key to your happiness.

“If you find something you like doing,” he said, “it can be the reward in and of itself.”