It was less than a year after graduating with my doctorate that a high school in the town I lived hired me as their writer for marching band. They also hired me as a staff member to work with the students all season. These students don’t view me as a female composer. They view me as their teacher and composer. She just happens to be female. These students get excited when they see me. They enjoy having me ask them questions about their abilities on their instruments, knowing I’m trying to write them music that works well for them. This band also has me as their fitness “coach” during marching band season for conditioning, and they see a healthy woman who is not trying to be the American version of beauty. They see someone who is of average build, yet strong and healthy. But that’s a topic for another time. Back to music.
A middle school in the same district plays my music on at least two concerts each year. Again, these middle school students do not view me as a female composer. They just see me as a human being coming into their classroom and teaching them music I wrote for them. What excites them is the music I write.
While the great focus of mine is writing for universities and professionals, I absolutely love writing for younger students. And I believe it is important to do so as a woman who is skilled in that area. I spend a lot of time around young musicians. I know their abilities and I am constantly learning how far I am able to stretch them or deliberately choose to not stretch them. I say all of this because I see the push for including more women composers on concerts. And I am in full agreement of this. But I believe it begins in the middle schools and high schools. The more they see diverse composers, the more normal that will seem to them. They won’t even think twice about it.
One final thought for now. The quality of the art is top priority. If a woman’s art is not well crafted, it should not be performed just because the composer is a woman. I think we all agree on that. And I think we are all starting to agree that diversity is also important. I just felt the need to say it. Also, I never want to be viewed as simply a woman composer. I am a human. I compose music. And I happen to be a woman. Children and young students understand this. Let's have them grow up continuing to understand it.
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 best music can both fill us and reveal our hunger. Music can help us ponder the reality of this life as well as the next. It can awaken wonder in us. It can fill our souls with beauty while it sounds. It can create channels within us that allow space for more beauty to be carried inside us throughout this life. It is food that provides filling and energy for a brief amount of time, and then leaves us hungry for True Food when it ends. It is a pointer. A shadow of what is to come. In other words, it whets our appetite for everlasting Beauty. At it's best, music is a vehicle that allows us to connect with our True Home for a short period of time during our exile on this earth.
Lyrics are not necessary to reveal the character of God. They aren't necessary to glorify Him. Ofcourse what we hear is incomplete for true reality and it cannot point to any one thing about Him in particular with exact precision. But music can reveal something outside of itself. God created the tone in such a way that we can use harmony and counterpoint to reveal truth. Appalachian Spring, for example, creates longing in such a way that it connects that longing with the Word within me. It fills me with memories of a city I have yet to enter. It increases my desire for it (Hebrews 11:16). And it does so with absolutely no words.
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:
A great composer has passed. I was first introduced to David Maslanka's music while working on my MM at Central Michigan. Symphony no. 4. What a piece. That piece not only changed the way I write music, but it gave me a wonderful vision of heaven that can never be taken away from me. Here is the ending of the great work:
When the Old One Hundredth sounds in it's fullness I see the victory of Christ as He entered back into His Father's presence after completing His work on this earth. This is a vision no other piece of music has ever been able to give me.
Maslanka visited MSU a number of times during my graduate studies. I had the privilege of meeting him and hearing him speak. He was kind and gentle. A deep thinker. He stayed true to what he believed and why he writes music. This clip of him speaking below also had a great impact on me and encouraged me in ways I cannot explain here.
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.
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!
Three new works have resulted from visits to certain locations at Hocking Hills in Logan, OH. The first work is for unaccompanied trumpet: Songs of a Sojourner. My goal with this work was to create primarily lyrical unaccompanied pieces for the instrument, because many of my colleagues have asked for this style. I am also interested in creating unaccompanied works that can serve the performer in his private practice. I received the comment that these pieces have a calming effect and have served as a meditation practice.
The other two works flow from these pieces. To give trumpet players another option, I wrote an accompanied version of the first piece in Songs of a Sojourner. This piece is titled Poem at Cantwell Cliffs. The final piece uses the remaining 3 pieces in Songs of a Sojourner. This piece, Poems, is written for solo euphonium and piano.
Plans for performances and recordings of these three works are being set up now!
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.
Music is invisible and bodiless.
Yet it's weight will astonish you.
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
Seeds, Premiere planned by Eduardo Farias on piccolo trumpet at Michigan State University in the Spring. (date TBD)
Unless a Seed Dies, Performance by Josh Ganger at Indiana Wesleyan University (date TBD)
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