Published: April 20, 2022 By

Nelson WalkerEvery spring, the College of Music honors one undergraduate fourth-year student with the Outstanding Graduating Senior award in recognition of their hard work and dedication to their education. 

This year, Nelson Walker—who will graduate May 5 with a bachelor of music degree in composition—has been selected to receive this prestigious award.

“Nelson has been a standout among our undergraduate music students, having combined his creative compositional style with his entrepreneurial mindset,” says Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and Enrollment Management Matthew Roeder. “He’s worked with colleagues and peers to bring his new musical works to life, and has even utilized his own cello performance skills on recordings of his compositions.”

Adds Roeder, “Nelson has been Bixler Scholar since he began his musical career at the College of Music [the Bixler Foundation offers merit aid scholarships to resident undergraduate students each year].

“It’s clear that faculty across the college feel strongly about Nelson’s quality of work, as well as his enthusiastic interactions. There is no doubt that Nelson will find great success in the music profession while representing CU Boulder and the College of Music extremely well as a Music Buff alumnus.”

Walker originally applied to schools with the intent of pursuing solely a bachelor of music degree in cello performance. CU Boulder was the only school he was drawn to apply to as a double major in composition and cello performance. “It was a last minute decision to apply for composition,” he explains. “The string faculty and composition program are world-class. And when I toured the College of Music, I remember standing in the tile lounge, where everyone would congregate. From the interactions, I could tell there was such a strong sense of community and I knew I wanted to be in an environment where everyone rooted for everyone else.” 

Ultimately, Walker decided to fully dedicate his time to studying composition. “I am most appreciative of Annika Socolofsky, who supported me in getting outside of my comfort zone, and Daphne Leong for her phenomenal theory knowledge and post-tonal course,” he says, adding that he feels “an overwhelming sense of admiration for everyone else in the department and College of Music.” 

“There’s an incredible breadth of talent here and I would like to extend my immense gratitude to the faculty for the Outstanding Graduate distinction. I would also like to acknowledge my peers who are also working on so many incredible projects. I’m honored to have been selected, but it’s an even bigger honor to be a part of the College of Music community.”

Reflecting on his time at the College of Music, Walker offers this advice: “Feel empowered to do what’s right for you. Be bold in following what you’re most interested in, rather than being caught up on what pays the bills.”

Walker is also a Spark Award recipient for his composition “Untitled [wind],” which reflects his processing of—and reflection upon—the devastation of the recent Marshall and Middle Fork fires. Composed on SuperCollider, a platform for audio synthesis and algorithmic compositions, Walker describes his piece as “an ambient, meditative soundscape of synthetic wind and fire crackles.”  

Walker is looking forward to his newest album release on May 8. “Holloway and Walker: Four Sonatas” was recorded in collaboration with other College of Music alumni including Jordan Holloway (BM ’21 in Composition), Grace Stringfellow (BM ’21 in Oboe Performance), Derek Sharman (BM ’21 in Piano Performance) and Er-Hsuan Li (DMA ’23 in Piano).

Following graduation, Walker plans to pursue a master’s in composition at the University of Michigan. 

Congratulations to all our outstanding undergraduate recipients this spring, selected by faculty vote: 

  • Outstanding Graduating Senior—Nelson Walker, Composition
  • Outstanding Junior—Isabel Goodwin, Bassoon Performance + Composition
  • Outstanding Sophomore—Sam Jarvis, Violin Performance
  • Outstanding Freshman—Anna Kallinikos, Trumpet Performance