What I took away from Composition Intensive

Recently, I had the magnificent opportunity to attend the St. Mary’s 2 week long composition Intensive, and boy was it Intense. It was a fantastic experience overall, and I got to learn from the likes of Zae Munn, Michael Schelle, Kristin Kuster, Jay Batzner, David Murray, and Joshua Marquez as well as the 16 other talented composers who attended (see the bottom of the page for links to some of their pages) and even participated in most of the masterclasses offered. As describing the experience could get extremely jumbled, I have decided to provide a basic list of what I was reminded of and remember learning in the two week session.

Most of the St .Marys group
Most of the St. Mary’s group. Top Left to right: Samantha Hogan, Zae Munn,Cody Kahul, Evan Jay Williams, Daniel Ang, Sakari Dixon Middle: Tori Orvil, Robin McLaughlin, Lam Khoa, Jay Batzner Bottom: Gil Dori, Jeffery Nicholas, Joshua Marquez

1) The World is much bigger than we realize. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the protective bubble of where we are used to (for example the university). However there is so much more to do as well as territory to explore in the world composition than I was previously aware of.

2) The World is much smaller than we realize. Case in point, some professors knew my teachers as well as the other participant’s teachers. Also, some of the participants knew each other from attending other composition festivals.

3) Lugubrious is a fantastic word and is not only used by YSU’s trombone studio, but by fellow composers as well!

Composers at work
Composers at work

4) How to network better.

5) Things I should be doing that I wasn’t doing before concerning advancement toward my desired career: Entering more contests, applying for residencies and attending more festivals, and researching certain grad programs that I was not sure of where to look before. Also, I need to be recording my pieces more often. The suggestion to contact the music ed department to ask for placement to get experience working with students and teachers in clinician type settings was also suggested for me to try (Thanks Robin!).

6) How to go about the things I wasn’t doing before.

St Marys 2014 Site specific
A Site Specific Piece, “The Island” by Lam Khoa being performed at a masterclass.

7)From Michael Schelle: You can still be your- (eclectic, unconventional, cat loving) self and still be a successful composer(Yes,there is hope for everybody who really wants this) what a site specific piece is, and new methods to include extra musical influences in my music like theater for example. Also, don’t trust the Dining Hall’s grilled cheese.

8) From Kristen Kuster: How to interact with an audience professionally and in a way to avoid boring them when you talk about your piece. This was needed as my experience talking in front of large groups is limited at this point and I can use this. In accordance with her valuable suggestion, I am going to try laying out my pieces horizontally in a time line format to get a better sense of what I am doing as far as building up pieces and refining their form.

9)From Jay Batzner: It’s ok to focus on writing for young groups as a composer (even needed) and that I am going in the right direction with the piece I brought in for our lesson (Reverence). Moreover, I was enlightened in the ways of electronic composition and how to go about trying this cheaply. The possibilities excite me and I cant wait to get started on exploring this “new” world.

St Marys 2014
Michael Schelle Master Class        Pictured: Nathan Brown, Lam Khoa, Samantha Hogan, Michael Schelle and Robin McLaughlin (piano)


10)From Zae Munn: “The Big Permission slip” solves any doubt about what you “shouldn’t” do in composition. Also, the lesson she gave me provided a better understanding of how to use text to shape a composition and how to set text.

11)From Joshua Marquez: He introduced me to the “over bowing triangle marking” and I’ll probably use it the next time I attempt to write a string piece. Additionally, he showed me how to better use Audacity to clean up audio.

12)From David Murray: A thorough understanding of how string instruments work. Also, he is a beast at sight reading! His recording of the techniques I attempted to employ in the bass piece sketch will serve me well in a future piece.

13) Squirrels can make Kicka** mascots. Ours was eventually named Cheeeeezy when Whiticre Whiskers and Berkowicz was eliminated.


14) Most importantly, I learned that I  have a fair shot at getting to do what I want  as a career for the rest of my life and that it is not a mistake to chase my dream. Additionally, I should and will keep playing my horn (thank you for the encouragement everybody) as it is important for a composer to keep a musical and personal connection to the performing world and I am not the only one to hold that view. (Also,unexpectedly performing  for nuns is fun and oddly satisfying).In the mean time though, it’s Bach to composing to hone my craft, and working on life one step at a time.

Here are some  links to my new friends and future colleagues sites/sound cloud pages. Please check them out as there is a large variety of music to explore composed by some talented people who are certain to go far.

Adam O’Dell     Robin McLaughlin     Jeffery Nicholas    Sakari Dixon

Andre Codeco    Kevin Wilt     Tori Ovel     Nathan Brown


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