With some help from my brother Michael at Blue Stripe Studios, I was finally able to design this personal website! For those who don't know me, my biography tells all. But I wanted to share the neat opportunities that I have had since graduation from Brigham Young University.
The week following graduation, I left with the Brigham Young University Wind Symphony to a tour in Mongolia, South Korea, and Japan. The tour impacted me. It helped me understand the power of music, feel important in both what I have chosen to do as a career and as part of a group of good-hearted people who love to serve others, and gave me life-long friends. The opportunity to have gone to Asia now for the second time leaves me in awe; how could I be this fortunate? I hope to live up to these opportunities.
When I returned, I needed to write three pieces within two weeks. I immediately began Horas serenas del ocaso breve, a setting of a poem by Miguel de Unamuno. This poem in particular struck me because of its focus on the liminality found at the moment before death. For me, I constantly find my inspiration in the moments in the expression of moments that transcend tangibility. And this piece fits into this recurring theme. My friends Zane Harker (tenor and fellow composer) and Chris Morrison (piano), with the tech help from Daniel Nash (composer) and Robert Willes (cellist), helped me with a rough recording of the piece.
The next two pieces I needed to write were for the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival. I first wrote Oh, That Light! for the Imani Winds. It was going to have, again, the theme of transcendence, but my ear took me a different and more scientific route. I was overlaying rhythmic patterns and realized that I could control the pacing of the piece by only changing the density of my materials. I had planned to do this, but not to the extremes that I felt like using in the end. It also lent itself to a humorous ending, another aspect of music that I think studying Mozart and Beethoven has inspired me to do.
The final piece I wrote was Terelj, a work based on aspects of Mongolian culture, an homage of sorts to the Wind Symphony tour to Asia. I wanted to create music that reflected the feelings I felt there without being too Mongolian. Yet I still wanted to pay tribute to the musical styles I heard while there. I first gave tribute to the morin khuur or horsehead fiddle with Camel's Tear. The piece used a drone centered around the fifth of the original tonal center like I heard in some horsehead fiddle music. The next movement, Shagai, gave tribute to the ankle bone shooting game enjoyed by Mongolians. The middle contains a theme largely inspired by the Mongolian National Hymn. The last movement, Ger, evokes the feeling of home. I wanted to see how the phrasing of long lines of grace notes in regards to fluidity, and I provided these lines to every instrument. I also tried to make a smooth yet brief transition to double-time and back as another experiment.
Finishing these pieces just in time for the festival (well, Ger was actually finished at the festival), I left for NYC. I was lucky enough to find a private room in a so-called hotel in a Chinese neighborhood in Brooklyn for $48 a night. Just down the block was a wonderful fruit market and grocery store. And across the street from the fruit market, I had my first NYC food--a big and delicious sub sandwich. The Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival was an excellent experience; I recommend it to all my woodwind player friends and fellow emerging composers. The Imani Winds performed Oh, That Light! with their awesome enthusiasm and precision, and I am excited for them to premiere the work. Woodwind Quintet Emoji Winds, comprised of Julia Barnett, Zack Borowiec, Ruth Aguirre, Amanda Ray, and Martin Van Klompenberg, spent hours of diligent practice refining my piece Terelj. They rocked the piece and the Visionaries concert, and I am grateful for all their hard work on the piece. I'm excited to hopefully continue working with each of these excellent musicians on future projects.
Additionally at the festival, I was able to learn a lot from composers and music business experts. Eric Ewazen served as our main mentor, and I was able to have two masterclasses with him. We first looked at some of my earlier works and discussed them, and then we talked about my future plans and works. I also had a lot of interaction with Mohammed Fairouz, who writes excellent music. Mohammed's vocal writing is inspirational, and I was lucky enough to get feedback on Horas serenas del ocaso breve from him. Other notable guests included Jason Moran, who told us that we need to "dig up the soil" and liven up the music scene, and Cliff Colnot, who taught excellent intonation rules and music notation guidelines for efficient readings (it saves a lot of time to have clear notation). I should also mention my fellow composers at the program, Sequoia Sellinger, Devon Yasamune Toyotomi, Jake Walsh, and Ray Fields. In the end, the festival gave me energy and excitement to write music for great performers, and I have a lot of great people who would be happy to play my music.
Once I returned from NYC, I began writing my first post-festival commission for Marcus Moore. He needed a closer for a recital in Atlanta, Georgia, and he wanted it to be fast and flashy. Being a clarinetist, it is a sin that I haven't written too much clarinet music (no solo music for over two years). I readily took the opportunity to write for the instrument I know best. The story for the emotional content of the piece is slightly goofy. Right before the composers Visionary concert at the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival, I felt nervous to introduce my piece. I happened to be by Marcus and told him that the piece would be about that nervous feeling. And then I told him about this creepy millipede-like creature I saw in my hotel. So combining those two, I created a light-hearted piece that thrives off of what I thought of as "nervous energy." I made use of chromatic lines and unusual arpeggios while making sure that everything felt nice to the fingers. Marcus performed the piece last week, and he said it went well. In July he plans to record it! This was a lengthy post, but I'll be on top of updates! Feel free to leave comments and/or questions!