Anna-Louise Walton ’14 Uses Practical Interdisciplinary Skills in Music Composition Career

By Mirabella Miller ’24

Portrait of Scripps College alum Anna-Louise Walton '14

Photo: Zack Smith

Inspiration can be found anywhere, even in a single sound. For Anna-Louise Walton ’14, a current doctor of musical arts (DMA) candidate in music composition at Columbia University, that is often where a composition begins: She explores and plays with sounds until she finds one so captivating that it can serve as a springboard to the rest of the piece. Evocative work by other musicians is also a profound source of inspiration.

“Occasionally I will hear a piece or song that I connect with so much, I almost wish I had written it,” she says. “In a strange way, this desire pushes me to keep exploring to the next project.”

The inner drive to create something listeners will connect with fuels Walton’s work composing chamber and electronic music. She graduated from Scripps with a BA in music before going on to study composition at Kunstuniversität Graz in Austria and earning an MA in music composition from Tulane University in 2018. Her compositions have been played by a variety of ensembles around the world. Most recently, the Women’s Committee for the Wooster Symphony Orchestra commissioned a piece from her, titled The Arrival, to celebrate the College of Wooster’s 50th anniversary.

Professors in the music departments at both Scripps and Pomona College were instrumental (no pun intended) in affirming her passion for music, and their support helped give her the confidence to pursue a career in music. Her time at Scripps also equipped her with the practical skills necessary for a career in the arts; namely, knowing how to write.

“With the Core program and other required courses, it’s really impossible to go through Scripps without learning how to write a decent paper,” she remarks. “I use those skills often in my academic writing and especially in grant proposals, which are central to any career in the arts.”

Although Walton did not start formally studying music until her junior year, music was a major part of her academic, extracurricular, and social experience at Scripps. She was a member of the a cappella group the Ninth Street Hooligans for all four years; during her senior year, she had the opportunity to serve as the musical director for the group, which entailed a host of responsibilities such as running rehearsals, arranging music, and playing piano. “The role was a fantastic experience for me to give musical coaching to some of my dearest friends,” she says.

Walton was also a member of the Chamber Choir for her entire time at Scripps, and worked at the Music Library as well. “Looking back, it’s pretty clear that I was really leaning into music as my life’s work and passion,” she says. “With the exception of a few friends who lived in my dorm in my first year, I made all of my close friends and mentors through music in one way or another.”

Walton’s experience at Scripps culminated in a senior composition recital. She remembers the packed seats of Boone Recital Hall, with members of the community even standing in the back once all the seats were filled. She recruited all of the student performers, rehearsed with them, and even conducted one of the pieces herself. “It’s a very cherished memory for me,” she says. “Sharing my work with so many people in the Scripps community and feeling their support was incredibly meaningful for me.”

Those moments in recital halls continue to fuel her passion and commitment to her work. “Having the experience of sitting in a concert and hearing even a few seconds of music that I find special, and knowing that I was part of the creation of that, is the most meaningful aspect of my work,” she says.