As I look back on another packed and crazy year, I'm able to reflect on how truly fulfilling it has been as well. While preparing and teaching 5 classes and two private composition students at Illinois State University, I managed to write over 30 minutes of new music since the summer and attend the 2019 Bowling Green State University New Music Festival for a performance of my cello sextet, Chameleon. I was awarded the 2019 Outstanding Teaching Award for non-tenure track faculty from the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts at ISU. Just after the semester was over, I returned to the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic with my fantastic colleagues in the Blue Dot Collective for the fourth straight year, pictured to the right.
This fall, I completed two large pieces and nearly finished a third. I was commissioned by the Hudsonville High School Orchestras, led by Adam Davis, to write a new work. After visiting Hudsonville and getting to know his orchestras, I wrote Lake Michigan Suite, a four-movement work that tours the four states that surround Lake Michigan. Each movement can stand on its own, and they include a Pastorale for Wisconsin, Indy's Speedway, a bleak Snowscape, and a rollicking finale inspired by 1920's Chicago jazz. Davis and the Hudsonville HS chamber orchestra will premiere this work in May 2020, but I've posted midi recordings and a perusal score for the time being.
The second piece I finished is a commission from Nomad Session, a wind octet based in San Francisco. I met these great people while in residence at Avaloch Farm a couple summers ago and am thrilled to have this opportunity to write a brand new piece for them. The title, Biomimicry, refers to technology that mimics the incredible designs that are found in nature, like the bullet train's nose that takes its shape from the efficient kingfisher's beak. This work will be premiered in May 2020, and Nomad Session will perform the chamber winds version of Mare Tranquillitatis in March and April.
Due to be premiered in February is a new work commissioned by Dr. Alan Mills for the Rocky Mountain Commissioning Project. Titled "We Choose to Go to the Moon," this piece is a companion to Mare Tranquillitatis and celebrates our original trips to the moon as well as our current mission to return to the moon and then go beyond to Mars. This new work will be premiered at the Annual Colorado State University-Pueblo Festival of Winds on February 15, 2020.
I will be attending the 2020 Illinois Music Education along with the Illinois State University Wind Symphony at the end of January. David Gresham will be performing the third movement of my clarinet concerto, Bennu's Fire, with the wind symphony at the conference on January 30, and then performing the whole concerto at the RED NOTE New Music Festival at ISU on February 13. Other upcoming performances of note include premieres of my oboe concerto, Ocean of Undiscovered Truth, by Elizabeth Koch Tiscione and the Kennesaw State University Wind Ensemble in February and by Nancy Ambrose King and the University of Michigan Symphony Band in March, premieres of a new saxophone ensemble piece and a new soprano saxophone and piano piece at the 2020 North American Saxophone Alliance conference (more info coming soon!), the premiere of the bass clarinet and marimba version of Strange Attractors by Transient Canvas at Constellation in Chicago, three performances of Tectonics by the Tampa Bay Symphony in February and March, and the east coast premiere of Thaw by the IUP Symphony, conducted by my wife, Alex Dee, in April.
I'm happy to announce that I will be returning to Illinois State University for another year! I am very fortunate that a one year visiting position has turned into three years, and I'm continually impressed with the passion and talent of the students there. I taught 13 composition students this last semester, and I couldn't be prouder to say that two of them placed in the Donald Sinta Quartet composition competition this past spring - Harrison J. Collins won the top prize and Kyle Waselewski received an honorable mention.
Two more items of good news I can report: The third movement of my Sonata for alto saxophone and piano, Deluge, was chosen to be included in the NewMusicShelf Anthology of New Music: Alto Saxophone, vol. 1. In addition to its publication in this volume, it will be performed in New York this coming January by Alan Theisen and Marianne Parker. Second, I recently found out that my cello sextet, Chameleon will be programmed at the 2019 Bowling Green State University New Music Festival. This is the second time that I've had this honor and I'm looking forward to returning to BGSU this fall.
Finally, I have new videos to share. First is my brand new percussion ensemble piece, Bioluminescence. Written for solo vibraphone with up to 11 antiphonal percussionists surrounding the audience, it is an immersive experience for the listener (that stereo recording doesn't quite capture, but you'll get the idea). Second is the premiere of my new oboe concerto, Ocean of Undiscovered Truth, featuring Katherine Young Steele on oboe with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Wind Ensemble, directed by John Climer. Next is a performance from last March of the alto flute version of Bunun Fantasy performed by William West at Illinois Wesleyan University, and finally an incredible performance of Phoenix Song by clarinetist Andy Hudson and the Joliet Symphony Orchestra, led by Alexandra Dee.
2019 has been filled with a lot of incredible musical experiences so far, including the completion and premiere of Stein Songs for soprano, violin, bass clarinet, and percussion, written for four of my good friends, an amazing performance of Inferno by the Florida State University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Aaron King Vaughn, and the premiere of the alto flute version of Bunun Fantasy. I am excited to share videos of Inferno, a reworking of the final movement of my clarinet concerto, Bennu's Fire into a stand-alone orchestral piece, and Stein Songs, two settings of poetry by the early modernist American poet Gertrude Stein below.
2018 ended on a high note, presenting with the Blue Dot Collective on various aspects of our compositional process in late December at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic. I also finished a very large project that I had been composing for about four months, but had actually been in the works for about four years. I'm proud to say that my 22-minute concerto for oboe and wind ensemble, Ocean of Undiscovered Truth, is complete and sent along to the commissioning consortium. Look for an info page soon and a recording to be available after the premiere on April 12 by oboist Katie Young Steele and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Wind Ensemble, directed by John Climer.
Coming up next in Chicago will be a performance of Telescopic Variations by The Chicago Ensemble, as part of their Discover America series. This concert will be February 2 at 4 PM in PianoForte. Next up in my composing is a new work for F-PLUS and soprano Lisa Perry, a work that I started while in residence at Avaloch Farm Institute last summer. I'll be setting various texts by Gertrude Stein, and it will be premiered at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago on March 3rd and then performed again the following evening at Illinois State University. I will be able to post some new recordings from last fall and last night soon. I have videos of Lift-Off, performed by the Illinois State University Symphony, Thaw, performed by the Chicago Composers Orchestra, and Phoenix Song, performed by Andy Hudson and the Joliet Symphony Orchestra, that I will hopefully be able to post by mid February.
In October, I traveled twice for two short residencies. Early in the month, I visited the Hudsonville High School Orchestras in Hudsonville, Michigan, directed by Adam Davis. I worked with three orchestras, all of whom had been rehearsing my compositions. In the picture to the right, I am explaining something to the concert orchestra during a rehearsal of Starry Night. The symphony orchestra was playing my Scherzo for Strings, and the chamber orchestra was playing both Mare Tranquillitatis and Bolt from the Blue. I was very impressed by the high level of the orchestras and had a great time working with each of them. They performed all four pieces on their first concert of the fall on October 17.
Later in the month, I attended the Indiana State University Contemporary Music Festival as the winner of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra Composition Competition. My work, Fractal Miniatures, was performed by the ICO in the evening of the 25th, and I spent most of that day talking on panels, presenting about my compositions to the ISU students, and attending rehearsals. In the picture on the left, I am explaining how I structured Fractal Miniatures based on the geometry of fractals. The performance of Fractal Miniatures was absolutely incredible - bravo to the ICO and their director, Matthew Kraemer! The following day, Dr. Paul Bro's studio gave a hauntingly beautiful performance of my new saxophone ensemble version of Mare Tranquillitatis on the final concert of the festival.
Finally, I have posted a video from late September of Caroline Pittman's performance of my unaccompanied flute work, Summer Triangle. I was invited to be a guest of the Chicago Composers' Consortium and joined their program with this piece.
My first year teaching at Illinois State University was incredible. I taught a range of things from composition lessons to undergraduate theory and musicianship to graduate level analysis, and I also coordinated a fruitful collaboration between the composition department and the film studio that created 11 short films and 13 film scores. I worked with the saxophone studio and had three performances of the new saxophone choir version of Mare Tranquillitatis, including its premiere at the 2018 North American Saxophone Alliance conference in Cincinnati. I will continue teaching at ISU during the '18-'19 academic year; I am very fortunate that the one year sabbatical replacement has turned into two years. This coming year will feature a number of new collaborations, including my debut as a conductor when I lead the ISU symphony orchestra on my own Lift-Off on September 30.
On the commission front, I completed 3 new grade 3 wind ensemble works this past year. I had mentioned two of them before, December Lullaby and Water Bear Jig, and they have since been premiered. There are now recordings of both posted on their respective pages. The third was a commission from Ridgeview Charter Middle School and assistant band director Darby Stanton. Celebrating their long time band director, Michael Gibson, I was given one of his favorite gospel tunes to incorporate in the piece. The result is a lyrical and majestic fantasy on Curtis Mayfield's "Amen," and a recording from a reading by the Illinois State University Wind Symphony is available on the Meditation on Amen page.
I was selected by the Flute Clarinet Duos Consortium to be their 2018 commission. I am thrilled to have 23 ensembles in the consortium for my new piece for flute, clarinet, and piano, Zodiacal Light. The first performance will be on August 3, 2018, at Interlochen, and numerous further premieres will take place around North America over the next year. This work will become available for purchase and performance by non-commissioners beginning in July, 2019.
I am also excited to be writing a concerto for oboe and wind ensemble for a consortium of 15 ensembles this fall. Titled "Ocean of Undiscovered Truth," the work is inspired by the seminal discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, and will be premiered by the consortium organizer, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and the principal oboe of the Milwaukee Symphony, Katherine Young Steele, in April 2019.
At the beginning of the summer, I flew to Sofia, Bulgaria, where I collaborated with CERN to present a new version of my composition inspired by the Large Hadron Collider. On a program titled "The Music of Physics," my new piano trio version of LHC was performed three times by the incredible Silhouettes Chamber Ensemble, the third of which you can watch immediately below. Also premiered was a new piece I wrote to accompany the cosmic piano, an instrument that plays notes that are randomly triggered by cosmic rays passing through detectors (video of this is below the LHC performance). We performed at the Sofia Science Festival, the Sofia Music Weeks, and at the Bulgarian National Academy of Music.
In September, I traveled to Boonville, California to hear the premiere of Escher Triptych, a new duo for violin and cello that I wrote for the inaugural Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. I had an incredible experience working with Johnny Gandelsman and Joshua Roman in the spring and then again in September on this piece, and the academy, crafted with love by Gabriela, was a most welcome merger of artistic discussion and community building. Below you can hear Johnny and Josh's premiere of the work in a score-following video.
I'm also happy to share with you the new saxophone ensemble version of my string orchestra and wind ensemble work, Mare Tranquillitatis. The Redbird Saxophone Ensemble at Illinois State University premiered it on November 11, and will be taking it to the North American Saxophone Alliance conference in Cincinnati this spring.
In late December, I will be returning to the Midwest Clinic as a member of the Blue Dot Collective. Our booth will be number 2030, so if you are there, please stop by and say hi! I will have readings of two of my string orchestra compositions, Bolt from the Blue and December Lullaby on Thursday. I will also have my two most recent wind ensemble works, Water Bear Jig and December Lullaby, discussed at a repertoire session run by Dr. Armand Hall (University of Memphis) on Wednesday.
I can officially announce that I have been hired by Illinois State University to teach music theory and composition next year! I will be relocating to Normal, IL and will keep busy with a course load that includes undergraduate theory and aural skills, composition lessons, and graduate analysis. I'll split my time between Normal and Chicago and I will continue to serve on the board of New Music Chicago.
It's been a whirlwind spring so far, and I'm currently in the midst of a lot of traveling and performances. My time spent at the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy was extremely inspiring. Of course hiking in the northern California mountains and driving on the Pacific Coast Highway are always extraordinary, but the workshop was unique as well. There was a focus on community building that I had never before experienced as part of a workshop, and I found it extremely welcome and valuable. I'm looking forward to revising my piece and returning in the fall for its premiere.
I am also happy to share a recent recording of (re)Inventions by Ryan Ramsey and Gözde Çakir at Central Michigan University. A video will be coming soon; their performance on April 21 was incredible! Listen here.
I have been very busy composing new works this spring - Thaw, written for the South Loop Symphony directed by Alexandra Dee; Bolt from the Blue, commissioned by the Mason High School Orchestras directed by Stephanie Jones; Moonstone, for clarinet, alto saxophone, bassoon, and harp, commissioned by Roby George; a set of studies for violin and cello; and a couple of grade 3 band works titled December Lullaby and Water Bear Jig. Thaw was premiered on March 18, Bolt from the Blue will be premiered in May, and Moonstone will be premiered this fall.
The Lullaby and Water Bear Jig were previewed by the Truman State University Wind Symphony II and Honor Band during its honor band weekend in February, during which I was the composer in residence. The Wind Symphony I also performed Mare Tranquillitatis, and quite amazingly I must add. Dr. Curran Prendergast has an incredible program going there in Kirksville, Missouri.
The studies for violin and cello will be workshopped as part of the inaugural Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy for New Music. I will be traveling to northern California to work with Johnny Gandelsman and Joshua Roman on this piece in mid-April, and will then have a chance to revise it for a preview premiere this fall.
Another premiere from earlier this year was of my (Re)Inventions for flute and soprano saxophone, performed by the Centerline Duo at the North American Saxophone Alliance Region V conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Ryan Ramsey and Gözde Çakir will play this work again on April 21 at Central Michigan University
I now have the recording of my 2016 work for clarinet and prerecorded electronics, Bunun Fantasy. You can download it using this link. I also recently revisited my 2013 work, Irlandzki Polonez, and posted a score following video below.