New composition depicts springtime in Iowa

Harrison Sheckler spent his childhood in Charles City, Iowa before moving to New York to study piano performance. His recent composition, “Spring in Iowa,” incorporates violin, cello, clarinet, and piano to paint a nostalgic image of springtime in Iowa.



Maddie Johnston, Arts Reporter

Spring in Iowa is a revitalizing time. There’s nothing like looking into your backyard for the first time after a dreary winter and seeing the first few signs of spring popping up — tulips blooming, blankets of dew covering the newly green grass, and the smell of wet soil filling the air.

For Harrison Sheckler, there’s nothing else quite like it. Growing up in Charles City, Iowa, Sheckler spent most of his childhood surrounded by the country. There was a pond nearby his home where he would go each spring to watch the wildflowers emerge along its banks and flocks of birds settle along its surface.

This specific image is what inspired Sheckler’s latest composition, “Spring in Iowa.” Combining the violin, clarinet, cello, and piano of the New York-based chamber group, Unheard of Ensemble, Sheckler said he hopes the composition will depict the simple, yet beautiful experiences of living in Iowa.

“I was in New York City, a year ago now, and then being home in Iowa, there’s a little nostalgia that’s brought a reminiscence of growing up here in Iowa, and I hope people can hear why I compose the certain things in the piece,” Sheckler said. “Maybe they can relate to it too, especially being an Iowan.”

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Sheckler started playing piano at six years old, and violin when he was eight. Although involved in several extracurricular activities growing up, Sheckler said music always came first.

“I was kind of one of those people where — you know, there’s a lot of parents who say, ‘Oh, go practice, go practice” — it was kind of like, ‘Harrison, it’s 11 o’clock at night, it’s time to stop practicing,’” Sheckler said.

Sheckler went on to attend the Brooklyn College of Music in New York, where he continues to work toward his master’s degree in piano performance.

“I mean I’ve lived in Cincinnati, New York, I’ve been all over, and the Midwest has — I honestly think it’s one of the best places to live in the U.S. The quality of life here is so special and there’s so many things that make Iowa special. And so that’s what I hope people hear in this little piece that I composed.”


Sheckler composed the piece back in 2018 while completing his undergrad at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, when students were instructed to compose a piece for a guest ensemble. The group that arrived was the Unheard of Ensemble. Sheckler said constructing the parts for piano and violin were relatively straightforward but writing for clarinet and cello was more challenging.

Nevertheless, Unheard of Ensemble liked the piece enough to play it and let Sheckler release it. After three years of obtaining rights and going through other trivial matters, the piece was released earlier this spring.

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The four-minute song really does paint the image of Spring that Sheckler described. The whimsical nature of the strings evokes the same awe-like feeling that possessed me as I would watch things return to life as a child. The playful clarinet melody imitates the excitement and opportunities I felt I had as the air would get warmer.

The clarinet is incorporated to imitate the sounds of the trumpeter swans that made their nests on his pond each spring, Sheckler explained. He said he quoted the opening bars of Camille Saint-Saëns, “The Swan,” as a bass line, and weaved in the melody of the Iowa Fight Song to pay tribute to the many Iowa football games he attended throughout his youth.

“I think what I love about music so much is how you can express different emotions and feelings that you can’t, you know, say with words,” Sheckler said. “And it’s a universal language, and I am the kind of person that — I like to bring so many people together in the projects that I partake in. And I think we kind of need more of that where people come together and have that unity. And I think music is the perfect outlet for that.”

The composition is available for listening on Spotify, Amazon, and YouTube.