Many thanks to my good friend and colleague, composer and educator Jeff Herwig, on hosting a wonderful discussion I shared with him for his new podcast Composer Disclosure. You can listen to the full podcast episode below.
Topics Jeff and I talked about include some of the Millennium Composer Initiative's recent endeavors and some of the major elements that will be used in my upcoming symphony - post-bop jazz from its 6-player combo (Emily Dierickx, Jordan VanHemert, Lillie Christie, Kevin Day, Amanda Ruzza, and Kevin Keith), fixed media, sound healing from its solo flutist (Amy Rosendall), and more.
Be sure to follow Jeff's podcast too - he's going to be interviewing some fantastic composers for his first season, including Kevin Day, Jodie Blackshaw, Randall Standridge, Julie Giroux, and JaRod Hall.
Earlier this month, the chamber music group The _____ Experiment asked me to join them for a roundtable retrospective discussion about their latest album Conversations (which I helped co-produce). All of the artists who have, and are currently part of, this group are incredible advocates and champions of new music, and I'm thrilled that they not only represented three of my chamber pieces for their album, but also honored that my work is represented with a plethora of fantastic new pieces by equally wonderful composers.
You can view the full interview below. Go purchase their album too!!
Do I even need to say what's been going on in 2020?
We all know. We've been living the nightmare, enduring it, surviving it, each in our own way. We are 6+ months into this global pandemic and crisis, with the arts continuing to be devastated and no foreseeable plan to address the long-term negative impacts of this chaos. There are short-term plans in place - some of us have been able to meet in-person and in smaller numbers, while others have gone fully virtual.
Teachers, educators, artists, composers, and more need our collective support, now more than ever. We all need to support each other equally - not some artists and groups and composers more than others. ALL OF US. EQUALLY.
So how has all of this impacted me? Well --
Like so many of us, this brutal pandemic gradually shocked me into an artistically catatonic depression for a while. At first, I created a series of Isolation Improvisations just so that I COULD write, but looking back on it, the whole experience essentially forced myself into a creative state of mind during difficult times. It ended up being unhealthy for me - something that actually drained me more than I think I would have felt had I NOT created those improvisations.
So, as we have all each accomplished in our own way, I moved through every moment of quarantine one day at a time.
This year, I've tried to find new outlets for productivity and focused my energies on finding personal, and dare I even say spiritual, balance. I've been cooking and baking much more often now (so many cookies baked this year - so. many.). I started meditating earlier this year, which has actually created a more positive, overall impact on my mental health that I would have ever thought possible. I've been reading more books and articles, learning some new technological skills, and I hope to start learning a new language by the beginning of next year.
Again, taking everything one day at a time.
Before this pandemic occurred, however, I had been developing something else - something that's absolutely now a long-term project (several years, at least).
The _____ Experiment (a chamber trio consisting of clarinet, saxophone, and harp) is a wonderful advocate and champion of new music. I am thrilled that not only three of my chamber pieces are included on their brand-new debut album Conversations, but also honored that my work is represented with a plethora of fantastic new pieces by equally wonderful composers. Thank you to The _____ Experiment for challenging me and pushing me to create music that opened my eyes to new and exciting possibilities of timbre and sound.
Conversations includes my chamber works INFERNO 7.0 (tenor saxophone, Bb clarinet, harp), ANTIKYTHERA (bass clarinet, bass saxophone), and CONVERSATIONS (Bb clarinet, harp). All three of these pieces are available to purchase and perform. The album is now available on Spotify (listen below), Apple Music, YouTube, and more.
I'm so excited to be returning to Chicago this week for the 2019 Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference with 9 of my colleagues in the Millennium Composers Initiative!! This year, Nature's Light and The Dance That Never Was will be featured at the Orchestra and Jazz New Music Reading Sessions!! In addition, a big-band arrangement I created of Kevin Day's Windy City will also be featured at the jazz session.
Here's my schedule of events for the week:
In addition, if you're attending Midwest Clinic this week - MY ENTIRE CATALOG IS 40% OFF. Stop by Booth 2008 while I'm there for the secret coupon code :)
Finally, thank you to MCI for the wonderful shout-out! The video below is of a Composer Spotlight featuring the three works that will be showcased this week. Check it out:
I hope to see you at the conference this week! Looking forward to this year's events, meeting and re-connecting with all of you, and hearing my colleagues' wonderful work.
If you've been following my two blog series on Four Ethereal Planes and Summertime Echoes, then you probably already know how busy this year has been for me. But, all of it has been so good and so wonderful, every step of the way. The most rewarding aspect of every single note of music I've written this year has been the fruitful and artistically engaging collaborative processes I've shared with the artists that I'm working with. This year is no exception, with still more to come.
Four Ethereal Planes received its world premiere last October in Holland, Michigan as part of a collaborative concert between the Millennium Composers Initiative and the Holland Concert Jazz Orchestra. The program also featured new works by three additional fantastic composers and colleagues - Kevin Day, Chris Evan Hass, and Janay Maisano (HCJO was also co-founded by another MCI composer - Dr. Jordan VanHemert, Assistant Professor of Saxophone and Jazz Studies at Hope College).
The concert was fantastic in all regards. The representation of up-and-coming composers on the program was extraordinary, and all of the music from my colleagues on the program was wonderful (seriously, go check these artists out). HCJO brought their absolute best that night for every piece on the program, including for my suite (which I also was given the opportunity to conduct - my first-ever professional experience conducting a major ensemble. Thank you Jordan for this incredible opportunity as well!!!).
It's been just about five or six months since I graduated from New York University with my Master's Degree in Music Composition (with a focus in Screen Scoring). Since then, much of my time has gone towards planning. Lots and lots of planning:
-Organizing and planning many different events (some of which are upcoming) in my role as president of the Millennium Composers Initiative, which has expanded to 37 composers from all around the world as of this year [check out the link above to learn more about each of our members, and consider programming some of their music!]
-Planning a big move with my wife and two cats [we intend not to stay in New York City as of this year]
-Picking up, and constantly searching for, additional part-time work that has helped me to continue to grow and develop the skills that I've learned from college
-Somehow attempting to have a social life in the middle of all of this
Some weeks have been very good. Some weeks, not so much. That's not to say all of it has been bad because that's simply untrue. But with all of this planning and organizing, among continuing to learn how to adjust to a professional working life beyond my time as an academic student, it feels like I've had both a large amount of time to compose and yet little to no time at all! This was more apparent at the very beginning of the year, though, as I've begun to find my way back towards a regular routine more often.
Recently, I've been thinking about how two of my recent (and most supported) works for band relate to my Michigan roots - “The Straits of Mackinac” relating to the Mackinac area and “The Great River Rapid Chase” being more inspired by Michigan landscapes conceptually, in a sense. The more I’ve thought about this lately, the more I realized I had one more idea about Michigan I needed to write about.
When I was growing up, my family and I would sometimes travel to Grand Haven. I remember how the lighthouse and pier located here captivated me the first time I saw it [including it being the first time I had ever seen a lighthouse in person]. Lighthouses, of course, provide signals for sailors to aid their journey back home to the mainland. The overall experiences of traveling there brings back warm memories and represents to me some of the best qualities of family and home together.
So “The Golden Pier” is inspired by the Grand Haven lighthouse [and its beaches] at sunset. It will be a slow and lyrical Grade 3 piece for concert band with several dramatic moments, at approximately 3-6 minutes long. This will complete a “Michigan Triptych” that bridges the fast-paced action of “The Great River Rapid Chase” and the adventurous nature of “The Straits of Mackinac.” I plan to have the piece finished by June. And I’m offering it for free.
That’s right. No consortium buy-in. No commission fee. As a way of expressing my thanks to all of you who have supported my music over the past several years, I am creating a free PDF GIVEAWAY for the full set (score and parts) for anyone interested in performing this new piece, open for the entire month of March. Fill out the form provided below to join. If you also know anyone who might be interested in this, please share this post with your friends and colleagues and let them know!
Contact me if you have questions about “The Golden Pier.” Once again, thank you so much for all of your support! I'm very excited to begin working on this new piece.
I tried to go about posting day-by-day on my experiences with The Midwest Clinic this year, but with so much going on, it seemed better to do a bigger recap at the end of the week.
First off, I have to say my heart is so full right now. So many fantastic concerts, clinics, booths, and more happened at the conference this week. It was both an honor and a thrill to be a part of it all, to be able to meet and reconnect with so many people at the conference. I can say with absolute certainty it's changed my thinking as a composer and musician, and it's certainly opened me up to many things to think about.
Not only was this my first time at The Midwest Clinic this year, but I also had the opportunity to EXHIBIT new music with six other composers of the Millennium Composers Initiative. This also meant I met a number of these people in person for the first time as well (the majority of this composer collective had been formed online as its members are based around the world), specifically because of this conference. Again - what a huge honor. And what a wonderful week.
I previously posted about my first day at the conference, so I'll do my best to recap my experiences for the other days during The Midwest Clinic.
This week, I'm in Chicago with hundreds of others attending this year's Midwest Clinic conference in Chicago. This is my first time ever attending this prestigious conference, and I'm thrilled to not only be here for it this year, but to also have the opportunity to exhibit with six other composers in the Millennium Composers Initiative, a new collective that started this year.
My first day was to get registered for the conference and set up the exhibition booth for MCI with my good pal Duncan Petersen-Jones. He's finishing up his Master's degree at the University of Michigan this year and is also a REALLY good bagpiper. McCormick Place (the venue for Midwest) is unbelievably gorgeous. There's a reason this conference has been hosted here for so long.
Today, I've had a chance to meet four of the seven composers (including myself) whom attendees will get to meet over the next few days at the conference. One of them, Harrison J. Collins, will be having his piece "O rose of May" premiered at the Stoneman Douglas HS Wind Symphony on Thursday (his piece was part of the same consortium I was involved in this year that included "The Great River Rapid Chase"). The other two I met were Kevin Day and Quinn Mason, whom I'm collaborating with on our new consortium we just opened up.
It's been a LONG time since I've been to Chicago - last time was many years ago when I was a kid - and I've completely forgotten how gorgeous this city is. And nothing beats a good deep-dish pizza right at the heart of it all.
I'm so excited to meet all of the attendees this year at Midwest! I'm excited to share more about MCI and what we do as a new initiative. And, I'm excited to see everything happening over the next few days at this conference.
If you're reading this and are attending Midwest Clinic this year, I'll be at Booth #1927. Be sure to stop by and check it out!!