Cleveland Wind Trio performing a special arrangement of my Petite Suite at The Holden Arboretum. Thank you to Mackenzie Brauns, Nicole Raven, and Adrian Gonzalez for their great performance!
Holy Moly! It's a grand piano trio! Nearly 24 feet of piano . It's not everyday you get to have a Bösendorfer and Yamaha jam session!
Onward! Super amazing workshop with Black Moon Trio. Thank you to Jeremy Vigil, Khelsey Zarraga, and Parker Nelson for inviting me to join them in Chicago!
Big thanks to the brass faculty of Indiana State University for performing my brass quintet Big Ideas! as part of their faculty artist series! Grateful to work with these musicians and hornist Dr. Brian Kilp who made it all happen! Listen to their performance by clicking here.
Not only do I compose, I perform! I recently gave a solo recital for Church of the Covenant as part of their Tuesday Noon Concert Series in Cleveland's University Circle. The program was especially fun to prepare and features music by Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, John Adams, and myself. Take a listen and enjoy!
Morceau pour Sill is a concerto for solo bassoon and septet: clarinet, horn, trumpet, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. It takes its name from its first soloist, Brendon Sill—fantastic musician and friend. Through countless meetings scattered across months I sought Brendon’s guidance for how to best write for the bassoon. We tested out contrasting musical ideas, experimented with playing techniques, and determined together where improvements were necessary. A few times I wrote something nearly impossible, but Brendon could always play it! I am forever grateful for his willingness to try new things and fearlessness of challenge.
The opening movement, Zigzags in Watercolor Harmonies, is based on a lyrical melody that first appears in the bassoon. It is long and winding with large leaps and inward spirals that create a sense of yearning. Alongside the bassoon melody is an ethereal sustain by the septet, an ever-changing chord of blurred harmonies. From the septet, instruments emerge with their own variations on the melody, engaging with the bassoon as secondary soloists. Everything builds towards an expansive climax, but then collapses into agitation. Like a rogue snake charmer, the bassoon twists and tangles the melody, distorting it into unpredictable, theatrical gestures. The septet joins with biting interjections that grow into fiery counterpoint. At its peak, the music transforms into the earlier anticipated climax, complete with soaring melodic lines and rich harmonies. As things settle and relax, the melody is last played in its entirety by a solo horn, the rest of the ensemble gradually disappearing into air and silence.
The shortest of the three movements, ROAR! is an extensive cadenza for the bassoon. The music is rough and visceral, the bassoon snarling in its lowest register and performing wild acrobatics. With ominous drones and dissonant outbursts, the septet responds to the bassoon, marking an ensemble dialogue of conflict: bassoon versus septet. The heated dynamic between the two sides takes its inspiration from a mafia-type board game of secret identities. Eventually, the conflict turns to an aggressive sprint that leads directly to the finale of the work.
Fireworks, Fanfares, and Shenanigans could be described as a certified smorgasbord, incorporating jazz, Mario Kart, Stravinsky, and more! It begins bright and explosive with virtuosic solos for the clarinet, trumpet, and cello. Not to be outdone, the bassoon enters and begins a conversational duo with the double bass. In this movement, all the instruments become equal protagonists, playing together in a variety of duets, trios, and quartets. In these groupings, the bassoon functions like the host of a party, checking in and conversing with each guest. At this musical gathering there are rambunctious dances, groovy musings, celebratory flourishes, and cameo appearances of earlier melodies and motifs. Jam-packed with nearly everything but the kitchen sink, Fireworks, Fanfares, and Shenanigans provides a rousing, kaleidoscopic close to Morceau pour Sill.
Working at the Aurora School of Music (ASM) has provided me with many learning opportunities, namely the chance to familiarize myself with beginning and intermediate piano literature. In this genre the work and collections of James Bastien have remained a staple since their initial printing in the 1960s. His anthology Easy Piano Classics is frequently purchased at ASM and is nicknamed “The Spiral Book” for its distinctive binding. Spiral Suite was born as a twenty-first century supplement to this curriculum, much needed since the book's contemporary section still lists Dimitri Kabalevsky as a living composer! (He died in 1987.)
In this suite I have sought to encompass a wide range of emotions. The opening movement, Castles in the Sky, creates a magical, enchanted atmosphere using accentuated bell-like sounds that blur together, resulting in a shimmering resonance. Rainy Day is the most somber of the movements but contains glimpses of optimism and hope through gentle melodies floating above a rocking accompaniment. In contrast, Groovy Dance Party is vibrant and sassy with upbeat, energetic rhythms. In a Dream closes the suite and uses contrasting modalities and drones to illustrate a mysterious but ethereal soundscape. I hope this work becomes a joy for pianists of any age!
Spiral Suite was commissioned by the Aurora School of Music (Aurora, OH) and was first performed on May 15, 2021.