It’s really hard to pinpoint precisely when I first wanted to be a composer because I come from a musical family. My father was a singer. As a child, I started studying the piano. As part of that, I’m sure I was already picking tunes out on the piano.
I really knew I was going to be a composer when I went to Washington University in St. Louis as a music major. I think it was during the freshman year, after I had completed a course in music theory, that I really thought it would be great to write music as a profession.
The very first piece that I wrote after having thought about it seriously was a Woodwind Quartet. I wrote this as an assignment during my private studies in composition. However, I think of that piece as being primarily a study. The first piece I still acknowledge as “a piece” is a Trio for piano, flute and cello, which was written during my sophomore year.
In retrospect, I now realize that I had been thinking compositionally for a longer period. As a young teenager, I had written popular tunes and jazz pieces as well. And all of this was really preparation for serious involvement in composition.