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.”