Two of my newest trumpet pieces will be performed at the 2019 International Trumpet Guild New Works Recital. Steve Siegel will perform my Poem at Cantwell Cliffs and Peyden Shelton will perform the Sonata for Trumpet and Piano that he recently commissioned. It’s an honor and I hope to make it to Miami, FL.
for Wind Ensemble: I will lament and love (grade 4+)
for Chamber Ensemble: Improvisations for trumpet and percussion ensemble
Current project: Trumpet Concerto commission for David Amlung and the Cooper High School Wind Symphony. Premiere planned for early 2019.
Thank you to Mark Connor for the opportunity to speak on his Everything Band Podcast. It’s a great podcast to hear from various composers, conductors and educators. It was nice to share some aspects of my story and be able to give credit to some key people in my life. I don’t know where I’d be if it were not for people like David Gillingham, David Ludwig and Jim Gray. Music is so important and for some reason it seems to be one of the best vehicles to bring out community and encouragement in people. Such a wonderful thing!
This picture reveals the reason I am a composer today. This was taken 10 years ago and I am just now ready to talk about it. I took that picture a couple weeks after having lip surgery in order to document the healing process. If that cut looks bad, you should see the scar it left on my heart. I was way over-worked during my undergrad time in terms of how many ensembles I had to play in on top of maintaining a rigorous practice schedule. That led to a severe lip injury during my 4th year of study. I had already been accepted to the University of Michigan to work on a masters degree in performance and decided to attend in hopes of figuring out what was wrong and then moving past it. The day I heard I got accepted to my first choice school was one of the happiest I've ever had. I just had no idea how severe the injury was until I got there. While I was at U of M I also got accepted in to Michael Daugherty's composition studio, but turned it down because I wanted to focus *entirely* on solving the mystery of my playing problems. The semester there was humiliating. None of the other students knew what I sounded like pre-injury. Everyone was very kind, but I so badly wanted to "prove myself" and wished they could have just heard what I used to sound like. All they heard was a masters student who sounded like she was just learning to play the instrument. My range was gone and I had a severe double buzz on every note I played. I went to see a doctor in Toronto one weekend during the semester and he told me I likely have a lip muscle tear. After one semester I decided to leave school to have surgery with this doctor in Toronto. That surgery happened just over 10 years ago. The doctor told me the hole in my muscle was even bigger than he expected and he was surprised I was able to play through it at all.
After 5 months of recovery, I began the process of re-learning to play thinking I could return to school and still pursue a career as a performer and teacher. I don’t let go of dreams easily. I truly am a fighter. I was willing to suffer for it. Willing to go after it with everything I had. And I did. But, it was also during this time that I started writing music again. I had written during high school and also during my time in undergrad, but I only viewed it as a hobby. In 2008 I took a piece I was writing to David Gillingham to get a lesson with him with zero intention of going to school for composition. I just wanted this piece to be the best it could possibly be. At the end of the lesson he asked if I’d be interested in attending school at CMU to study with him. I told him I’d think about it but that I definitely still see myself as a trumpet player. I thought about that offer the whole drive home (5.5 hour drive). Comments that the wonderful David Ludwig told me during my time studying with him at a music festival I used to attend echoed through my mind (a story best told in person). When I arrived home from the drive I sensed composition was the route I was supposed to go even though I didn’t understand why. I found a teacher to study with for the remainder of the year and then I left for Central Michigan in 2009. I tell people I went kicking and screaming, because it wasn’t the route I planned for myself. “I had such a great career ahead of me as a trumpet player” was the lament of my heart the entire time I was there. But the competing thought was that I knew I was supposed to compose. That conviction kept me going. It wasn’t that I didn’t like composition. After all, I had been writing and enjoying it many years prior to this. The problem was that it wasn’t the specific thing I planned for my life. I had many writing sessions with tear-stained eyes during my time at CMU.
This continued into my time at Michigan State while working on my DMA in composition and a second MM degree in theory. I was more able to accept the reality that performing was no longer my focus, but I still struggled with believing composition was important enough to pursue. I’d wake up everyday and force myself to sit down and write music. I didn’t like the process of writing, but I did like the feeling of “having written”. Again, it wasn’t that I didn’t like composition. It was now the fear that I was wasting my life pursuing something that wasn’t as important as other careers. Over these three years and even the year after graduating I thought deeply about why music is important. I developed a philosophy for why I write and why music matters. That is when I truly began to let go of my past life and accept this new path. There is a lot I can say about the past 7 years, but much of this is more easily spoken than written. I can say that since committing to this career path years ago I have found new joys I didn’t know existed. I now not only enjoy “having written”, but also enjoy the actual writing process. I know some people hate the word “passion”, but I don’t. It means “suffer”. If you love something, you should be willing to suffer for it. That’s how you know you love it. I love writing music. I love being a composer. It has not been an easy path to commit to it, but I am fully committed and am willing to suffer for it. I have been for years.
I have had absolutely fantastic performers play my music and the joy that brings me cannot even be put into words. And I plan on many more playing my music in the future. Though I've known it for many years, I am now ready to say it: The worst thing that ever happened to me has turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
I said these words almost two years ago (video below). I had no idea just how tightly I'd have to hold on to these very beliefs in order to write the piece I just finished. I said those words before my piece, Eternity in an Hour, was performed. However, these words are even more applicable to the piece I just wrote that is dedicated to Stoneman Douglas High School, titled I will lament and love. The piece is a lament, but also a display of hope. I've included 17 short solos throughout the work to draw attention to the individuals who lost their lives.
The students at Stoneman Douglas are putting hope on display right now and I find this beautiful. When you sing through suffering (whether through the human voice or giving voice to an instrument through human breath), that means hope is present. A lament can hold the saddest melody, but if that melody is sung then hope is present. These students are singing through their instruments and that shows hope and beauty.
I was approached in February about writing a piece to give to the group at Stoneman Douglas and we are now at the end of the process. The Ohio State University Wind Symphony generously recorded the piece to give them as a gift as soon as I finished the work. I am so glad to have been a part of such a thoughtful process.
6 wind ensemble performances coming up!
February 11th- Capital University will premiere "Solace Dance"
February 22nd- The University of West Georgia will premiere "Poem at Cantwell Cliffs" with Raquel Rodriquez as trumpet soloist
February 25th- Quad City Wind Ensemble will perform "Yet not as I will...".
March 3rd-Columbia University gives the US premiere of "Beauty Broken"
March 5th- Rowan University will premiere "Autumn Air".
April 23rd- Arizona State University concert band will perform "Dance the Joy Alive". Winner of composition contest for the Arizona State University concert band which was held by the Beta Omicron Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi.
The beauty of music can make you desire more beauty and more joy. It reveals a longing. But we can't stop at the bus stop of this music. You have to use it as a vehicle to get to true Beauty. Just like light can hide Light-beauty can hide Beauty. Unless you have eyes to see. If you have eyes to see, this beauty only enhances true Beauty and helps you see it for how glorious it actually is.
So many take pause at the bus stop because of how lovely it appears to be, not knowing that the place to which the bus travels is infinitely more glorious.
This last week the Michigan State Trombone Choir gave a fantastic concert which included the premiere of my piece "All the Skies Above". The beginning includes my introduction to the inspiration behind the piece.
The University of Akron Faculty Brass Quintet gave "Monterey Sketches" a wonderful premiere last week! They have such gentleness to bring out subtleties, yet intense playing when the music calls for it. The entire concert was extremely enjoyable. Here is a recording of this fine group performing the piece:
Michael Brest recently sent me this video of his performance of "Poem at Cantwell Cliffs"
I am amazed at the musicality in his playing and am beyond pleased and impressed with this performance of my piece. This is exactly how I imagined the piece to be played.
I have attended each International Trumpet Guild conference for the last 4 years as my music has been performed. I always enjoy being surrounded by the sounds of trumpet and catching up with old friends (and making new ones!) This year my trumpet solo, Refractions, was featured on the New Works Recital. Rob Waugh approached me about a year ago to write him a solo. He mentioned that he'd like it to be a piece that his students could also easily perform. He performed the third movement of this piece on the recital in Hershey, PA. He sent me a recording of the piece from a recital he gave at his school last Fall, but it was so wonderful to finally hear his big and beautiful sound live.
It was also great getting to catch up with a former Michigan classmate, Jason Bergman. He is such a great trumpet player and is a person of great personality and character! He has some of my music in his hands and I can't wait to hear what he does with it.
It was a great conference as always and I walk away ready to write some new music!
"It occurs to me to wonder: are you a better person for having heard a great work of art? Are you morally a better person, I mean? In the largest sense, I suppose you are, but in the more immediate sense, I doubt it. I doubt it because i have never seen it demonstrated. What happens is that a masterwork awakens in us reactions of a spiritual order that are already in us, only waiting to be aroused. When Beethoven's music exhorts us to "be noble," "be compassionate," "be strong," he awakens moral ideas that are already within us. "
Over time, works of great beauty can change a person. These works can bring out the person you are meant to be. Protect your ears from mere entertainment. Find the music that will carve out channels within your soul where beauty and courage can be stored.
My music will appear on two CDs that are due out in the next few months.
The second is a CD by Josh Ganger. He recorded an unaccompanied version of Songs of a Sojourner.
I am fortunate to have such great players with beautiful sounds recording my music.
Tonight the Bath Spa University Wind Band gave Beauty Broken its world premiere in England!
Though this rushed and wearied world often forsakes us-It needs musicians and poets to remind it that life is not about usefulness. It's about loveliness.
And maybe in so doing-we'll find in the end that these professions proved to be most useful of all.
Monterey Letters, Performance at the University of Akron by Mike Waddell on euphonium on February 1st and at Akron University on February 11th.
Postcard from Monterey and Solace Dance, Premiere planned at Davis Middle School February 13th
Monterey Letters, Performance at Mississippi University for Women by Dr. James Zingara on trumpet on March 3rd.
Monterey Letters, Performance by Kate Amrine on trumpet in New York, NY in the Spring (date TBD)
Until the Peace Comes, Premiere planned by the ATLAS quartet in March
Peanut Butter Jam, Premiere at Gahanna Jefferson Middle School East on their Spring concert
Beauty Broken, Premiere planned at Bath Spa University in Europe in April
Refractions, Performance by Robert Waugh at the ITG conference in Hershey, PA in May