I'm happy to announce that after one year as Visiting Assistant Professor at Appalachian State University, I have been hired as tenure track and can remove the "Visiting" from my title! Here is the new faculty page and the announcement on social media. I'm thrilled to continue my teaching and contributions to Appalachian State University and also be more involved with the composition students!
I'm also happy to share that my piece, The Last Question, was chosen as the winner of the 2023 International Clarinet Association Composition Competition, solo category. It will be performed at the 2023 ICA ClarinetFest by clarinetist Mark J. Cramer on Saturday, July 8.
I have been chosen as the guest composer at Fermilab for 2023! I'm honored to be selected and really excited to get this opportunity to work closely with and learn from the scientists at Fermilab this year to produce some new music based on the amazing research they're doing. This article explains a bit more about the program. Look for some new music about particle physics and neutrinos later this year!
I've also got a few new recordings and new pieces that are coming out:
Last year, the East Chapel Hill Chamber Orchestra gave a wonderful premiere performance of my Lake Michigan Suite and performed it at the ASTA competition, where they received 2nd place. I've posted their recording now. I'm thrilled that this piece was finally able to receive its premiere after the original opportunity was lost during the pandemic.
I've also posted a recording of Radiant Rhapsody, thanks to my friend and colleague Mike Arbucci at the Blue Valley Northwest High School. This touching piece was written as a celebration of the life of a Yorkville Middle School student, Joey Burdiak, whose life was tragically lost in a car accident. Students who knew Joey and his buoyant spirit wrote a series of melodies to remember him, and I put it all together in this piece.
You can also now hear the premiere of my Variations on O Holy Night, performed by the Carthage Philharmonic conducted by my dear friend, Ed Kawakami.
I've also now completed two new band pieces, scheduled for premieres later this spring. ASIMO is a grade-flexible piece about robotics that will be premiered by the Sycamore Community middle school and high school bands in March. Awakening is the commissioned work from the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band about discovering and unleashing one's true identity and will be premiered in May. I have midi recordings and perusal scores for both of those works posted for now. Soon to come will be my organ concerto, Refuge(e), which will be premiered in March.
I'm thrilled to have been selected as the recipient of the 2022 San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band BIPOC Commission! My proposed work, Awakening, will be about the self-discovery and celebration of one's true identity, and will be premiered in San Francisco in May 2023. This work will then be available for the rest of the bands in the Pride Alliance to perform and after a year of exclusivity, will be available for everyone else. I'm honored to be chosen to write this piece for so many wonderful ensembles!
I was also chosen as the winner of the Kennett Symphony Composition Competition with NEOWISE. The Kennett Symphony will perform NEOWISE during the spring of 2023, and I will be visiting for a few days to do a short residency leading up to the performance. More information to come!
The big news to share is that I am leaving Illinois State University, where I've taught composition and theory for the past five years, to join the faculty at Appalachian State University along with my wife, Alexandra Dee, who will be the new orchestral director there starting in the fall of 2022. I am so grateful to ISU for believing in me as my one-year sabbatical replacement position turned into five years. I will truly miss teaching there and working with incredible colleagues and wonderful students. I'm thrilled, however, to be able to teach at the same institution as my wife starting this fall, and looking forward to living in the mountains of western North Carolina.
I'm happy to announce that I've finished writing a new set of concert etudes for a second collaboration with Andy Hudson. This time focusing on contemporary techniques for the bass clarinet, our new publication, SPACE BASS, is set to be released this fall. Andy and I were accepted to give a presentation on Elements of Contemporary Clarinet Technique at this year's International Clarinet Association ClarinetFest conference, which will be held in Reno, Nevada, at the beginning of July.
With the pandemic changing shape drastically this past year, I've been thrilled to be involved in a lot more live performances and residencies, and I have some new recordings to share. First, I've posted a recording of my beginning band piece, Ghost Town Triptych. And below are some videos of some great new performances that took place during this past spring.
Pastorale for wind ensemble, performed by the ISU Symphonic Band, conducted by T.J. Mack.
Lake Michigan Suite, performed by the East Chapel Hill High School Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Ryan Ellefsen.
Ocean of Undiscovered Truth, concerto for oboe and wind ensemble, performed by Nancy Ambrose King and the University of Michigan Symphony Band, conducted by Dr. Michael Haithcock.
Announcing the release of Elements of Contemporary Clarinet Technique! Working closely with my great colleague and dear friend Andy Hudson, I wrote 21 new concert etudes for unaccompanied clarinet this spring to challenge and train clarinetists with 20th and 21st century techniques. Each etude is accompanied by a written master class by Andy that teaches the ins and outs of the technique and the etude, and eventually we'll have video master classes and performances available. Fingering charts for microtones and multiphonics are included in the book. There's also one etude written by a guest composer, Viet Cuong, whose etude "Looking Up" is a fantastic exploration of multiphonics.
Techniques that the etudes develop include breath control of various sorts, slurring up and down and across the break, circular breathing, glissandos, quarter tones, multiphonics, tongue-slaps of various sorts, flutter tongue, quick single tonguing, and double tonguing. My goal for each of these pieces is not just to be a technical study but also a true concert piece. Each work prioritizes its musical shape and expression, and Andy's written master classes also consider these vital aspects of the music in addition to teaching the necessary technical demands. Most of the pieces stand on their own, and others, like a set of etudes on microtones, are grouped together. The four microtonal etudes are structured as a theme and variations that constitute a single 7-minute work, with each etude focussed on a different register of the clarinet. Many of the etudes are written in standard ways, but a few will also give clarinetists experience with spatial notation and post-minimalist styles. The final three etudes are "compounds" that combine many of the techniques from the other etudes.
It was a truly amazing experience writing this set of pieces for clarinet. It has truly broadened my mind as a composer, and I hope that it is a great resource for clarinetists at all stages in their career.
I'm happy to announce that my new flexible band work, Pastorale, has been chosen as the runner-up for the 2021 WBDI Composition Competition. It'll be premiered this coming year by the wind ensemble at Baltimore School for the Arts, directed by Anoa Green, and I'll be traveling to Baltimore for a residency when that premiere is scheduled. I'm very much looking forward to returning to Baltimore for this and thankful to the WBDI for creating this opportunity! In other news, I am returning to Illinois State University for another year to continue teaching composition and theory, and thrilled to be back in person (fingers crossed!) this fall.
I've also recently finished an incredible collaboration with clarinetist Andy Hudson on a book of clarinet etudes focused on 20th and 21st century techniques. Elements of Contemporary Clarinet Technique contains 22 brand new unaccompanied clarinet pieces using techniques from quarter tones and multiphonics to tongue slaps and circular breathing, and will be available in the fall.
I have two premieres to share from the past month. I was extremely fortunate to be able to travel to San Antonio, Texas, for my first in-person residency with an orchestra in a very long time, to work with Dr. Joseph Kneer and the Trinity Symphony Orchestra at Trinity University. They commissioned me just before the pandemic began, and I was grateful to have an orchestral commission during the past year. The resulting work, NEOWISE, named after the comet that graced our skies during the summer of 2020, was recorded at the beginning of May, and you can watch it on Youtube.
Released today is the premiere of Okjökull Requiem for violin and piano, commissioned by Lucia Lin and the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music for Luci's In Tandem project, a series of 10 commissions that all reflect the challenges of our time. Named for the first glacier that died due to climate change in Iceland, the piece very gradually rises in pitch and tempo to reflect the rising global temperatures and CO2 levels over the past 100 years. By the end of the piece, the morose music of the beginning has been transformed into a blaring alarm.
I've been quite busy composing recently, finishing four very different new pieces in the past few months. Hydrostatics is a grade 6 wind ensemble piece, written with support from the ACCBDA James E. Croft Grant for Young and Emerging Wind Band Composers. In January, I completed NEOWISE, a 9 minute piece for full orchestra, commissioned by Dr. Joseph Kneer and the Trinity University Symphony Orchestra, inspired by the comet that visited the inner solar system around July last year. It'll be premiered in San Antonio in early May.
In early February, I was asked to write a piece for the Beginning Band Adaptable Series, a collection of brand new pieces written for grade .5 wind ensemble. Designed for band students in their first couple months of music classes to be able to play, my contribution, Ghost Town Triptych, joins works by a number of other young and diverse composers. It's inspired by the ghost towns and history of the Blacklick Valley in western Pennsylvania, near where I've been living since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. It's published by Murphy Music Press, and a fully flexible version for beginning string students will also be available soon.
Finally, I have just completed a joint commission from violinist Lucia Lin and the Gabriela Lena Frank Academy of Music for Luci's In Tandem project. She's commissioning a series of works for violin and one other instrument that focus on ideas of social injustice. My work, Okjokull Requiem, is about the existential threat of climate change, and is named for the first glacier in Iceland that fell victim to climate change. A group of scientists held a funeral for it, which served as a warning to future generations about the difficulties to come if humanity does not act.
There are midi recordings of the first three pieces I listed on their respective pages. Okjokull Requiem will be premiered online late in the spring.
I've got another few online premieres to share. The first is a brand new duo for violin and bass that is part of #GLFCAMGigThruCOVID, a program created by Gabriela Lena Frank to help give performers who lost their gigs support during the pandemic, and encourage the creation of quite a bit of new music. Over 60 composers wrote new solos and duos that received virtual premieres through the summer of 2020. I was paired with Danielle and Alex Goodin, a fantastic violin and bass duo (who happened to get married right after recording my piece, congratulations!) and I'm thrilled to share their premiere below.
The other music that I composed during the early months of the pandemic is a set of three etudes for solo trumpet. I was asked by my friend and fine composer and trumpeter, Nathan Hudson, to be a part of the Next Generation Trumpet Competition, and I worked with three incredible trumpet players in May and June to come up with these etudes. You can hear each of their premieres and see samples from the scores on my new Trumpet Etudes page.
In early July, I participated in a great roundtable discussion for WASBE. Hosted by Darrell Brown, director of bands at BYU-Idaho, the session featured all seven of the Blue Dot Collective in a wide-ranging interview that touched on our individual processes and philosophies as composers to the current activity in flexible and adaptable music that is in need because of the pandemic. You can watch the whole interview here.
And finally, for July 4, the Champaign-Urbana Symphony posted a video featuring their performance of Strontium Red from 2019.
I'm happy to share a digital premiere of Maroon Bells for solo violin below! While we're unable to come together to rehearse because of the pandemic, the Nebula Ensemble is hosting a digital series by posting performances of solo works from the musician's homes. Thank you to the ensemble for organizing this and to Arlo Adams for the beautiful performance!
Now this is pretty cool - while we're all stuck at home during the pandemic, a really phenomenal sax quartet recorded each part of Z(4430) separately and edited them all together to produce an awesome performance! Check it out below!
While most of the world is quarantining itself from the outbreak of covid-19, I've switched all my classes to distance teaching and had some time to post some recent recordings and features.
I was a guest on Anthony Joseph Lanmnan's podcast, 1 Track. He's a great conversationalist and interviewed me about my clarinet concerto, Bennu's Fire. You can listen to the episode on the 1 Track website. I also had one of my compositions featured on New Music from Bowling Green Live in February. You can hear Brian Snow's cello studio perform Chameleon in an archived recording from its broadcast on public radio.
I've uploaded a couple recent videos of performances from February. Listen to the Illinois State University Symphonic Band's beautiful performance of December Lullaby under the baton of Marykate Kuhne and Elizabeth Koch Tiscione's fantastically virtuosic and sensitive Southeast premiere of my oboe concerto, Ocean of Undiscovered Truth, with the Kennesaw State University Wind Ensemble under the baton of David Kehler.
I'm very excited to announce the completion of We Choose to Go to the Moon, a new wind ensemble work commissioned by the Rocky Mountain Commissioning Project. It's a six minute piece that is inspired by President John F. Kennedy's 1962 speech where he set the directive that would push NASA to send humans to the moon and return them safely by the end of the decade. This piece is a sequel of sorts to my 2008/12 work, Mare Tranquillitatis and takes harmonies and melodic ideas and develops them in a new direction. Mare Tranquillitatis is about the contradictory feelings of isolation and tranquility that the Apollo astronauts may have felt when they traveled a quarter of a million miles away from Earth. This new piece is about the spirit of striving towards an incredibly difficult goal. Humanity has achieved some incredible things, and sending people to the moon and returning them safely is one of the crowning accomplishments of our ingenuity and perseverance. Achieving this goal in the 1960s did not come without many trials and tragedies, as the difficulty of this task was so extraordinary. This new composition is a celebration of the intrepid astronauts, engineers, and scientists who worked tirelessly together to accomplish something truly historic. Today, we are looking again towards the moon and beyond to Mars, and our spirit of curiosity and discovery is burning as strong as ever. I want to thank Alan W. Mills for commissioning me to write this piece and making it possible for me to share my excitement about manned space flight through music.
“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”