Music, School of


First Advisor

Tom Larson

Second Advisor

Gregory Simon

Third Advisor

Dave Hall

Date of this Version

Spring 4-26-2022

Document Type



Cope, John David. Esther's Rise. 2022. The University of Nebraska, MM Thesis.


A Thesis presented to the Faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Music, Major: Music, Under the Supervision of Professor Tom Larson. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2022.

Copyright © 2022 John David Cope


Two of the most important parts of my life are my faith and my love of writing music. To conclude my time in Nebraska, I wanted to combine these two facets of my life to create something inspiring and beautiful. To that end, I composed “Esther’s Rise,” a six-movement work that programmatically retells the book of Esther from the Old Testament. To further enhance the story, I commissioned Vera Eva, an international freelance artist, to create a collection of eighteen digital illustrations that help audiences imagine the story unfold. Furthermore, I also paraphrased the biblical text to accompany the illustrations as subtitles. My goal was to create something that audiences could read, watch, and listen to throughout the performance.

Each of the six movements are scored for instruments that I believed would best tell the story. Movements one, three, five, and six are scored for a large chamber orchestra, movement two is scored for a chamber orchestra with electronics, and movement four is scored for a small chamber group featuring two vocalists. As a whole, “Esther’s Rise” is connected by four primary themes: the banquet theme, Esther’s theme, Haman’s theme, and the Courage theme. The first four movements each focus on one theme, while movement five, “The Banquet,” combines all four themes. Finally, movement six, entitled “Rise,” focuses on Esther’s theme to finish the story.

The story of Esther, regardless of one’s religious affiliations, is a powerful and relevant tale that covers themes of adversity, discrimination, courage, and faith. My hope is that my composition reveals Esther’s incredible story to any audience member.

Advisor: Tom Larson

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