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!!!).
So what's next on the docket? A few works to finish, some traveling to do, and the occasional gig here and there. Right now, I'm gearing up for the world premiere of Summertime Echoes, my brand-new concerto for soprano saxophone and wind ensemble that will be receiving its world premiere later this November. This piece was written for Dr. Jordan VanHemert, and he'll be premiering the full work with Dr. Gabe Southard and the Hope College Wind Ensemble.
Jordan has been absolutely wonderful to work with this year, on this concerto and with Four Ethereal Planes. Another aspect I enjoy regarding the collaborative process with performers and artists is the different perspectives and ideas they bring to the table during the compositional process. Not only has Jordan brought that, but he also brings a strong educational component that has allowed for an even greater amount of possibilities to explore with this work. This allows for the music to become something different, perhaps even greater, than its first incarnation. I think this component makes the final version of the work better as a whole. I find it especially necessary and vital when working on a concerto and with your soloist - that brings a greater degree of collaboration to the table that I think is absolutely needed.
Two other gigs I recently completed: first, an original score for a powerful short film directed by Natalie J. Harris called Uma fruta estranha. The film is, in Natalie's words, "a visual poem exploring the glue that binds Afro-Brazilians to African-Americans." The instrumentation featured for this score includes a saxophone quintet (bass saxophone included!!), a guitar, and a synth pad.
The second was an orchestrating job for Thiago Tiberio and his company Tiberio Music Design & Publishing LLC. The music we prepared was for a project entitled America's Wonders that showcased various important landmarks and scenic locales throughout the country. The film premiered with the music played live-to-picture - it was also apparently the FIRST EVER live-to-3D-film concert experience created as well (that's right - this project was for a 3D film!!). It was an incredible opportunity and an even greater learning experience for me.
In the midst of all of this, I'm currently working on three chamber commissions - a tenor saxophone and piano duet commissioned by Ben MacDonald & Matthew Hartson; a brass quintet for 5KBrass; and a mixed-ensemble work with text for Ember Septet, a group based in the Twin Cities area.
2019 has challenged me far more than I even anticipated. Strangely enough, it makes me more excited for 2020, because I'm not sure where life is going to take me next. I think that makes it all the more thrilling to experience.