If 2020 was a year of dismantling and destruction, 2021 will be a rebuilding year. This coming years resolutions have a lot to do with this, and I aim to rebuild my existence into the individual I’ve been aiming to be since starting this musical journey over a decade ago.
BIG GOAL: Make More Money/ Be able to solely do MUSIC to survive.
I’m sure that this seems like a lofty goal, but the years preceding this one were the steps on the ladder to that loft. Thankfully, I am used to being frugal and making a little go a long way when needed, and am LUCKY to have my SO around to help these days. Don’t worry. I still aim to do my share financially. We aren’t the Rockefeller family after all 😉
One of my reasons also has to do with my desire to work for myself and control my schedule. I am much happier when I don’t have to ask permission from someone else and can control my own schedule. Yes I know that to make a music career, it requires more hours than the typical 9-5, but I’ve tried that several times, and found through trial and error that I am much happier immersed in music. That, and I’m wise enough to know that I need to keep variety within the spectrum of music activities to avoid burnout and know the signs much better now.
Mini Goal: Sell 10 scores of my own music. My goal is a minimum of 25 total including arrangements.
For me, joining SMP was a good move in 2020. This has allowed me to start selling some of the arrangements I’ve had sitting on my hard drive for the last decade and allowed me to offer digital downloads. This was something I had been trying to figure out how to do, but the start up cost far outweighed what I can afford, especially given I’m not quite at the point where I can confidently say that my sales would recoup the cost. Originally, I joined because 2 distributers I had contacted in January of last year decided I wasn’t for them but ironically recommended each other for me to contact. I guess I’m ……unique?
So far, I’ve sold far more than expected, but because most of my sales have been arrangements, I’ve made just enough to afford 4 cups of Starbucks coffee in commissions. It’s definitely a start though!
In 2021, I’ll be updating my FB page weekly as new arrangements and pieces come out. If you have a request for an arrangement and it’s on the SMP list, please contact me and let me know.
I’ll be curious to see how this pans out as I add more.
Mini Goal: 15 students by June
While I don’t like putting a number on people, this is the realistic number I’ve calculated to be able to pull my weight financially and still be safe on average. This is of course after calculating taxes and rent.
As of now, thanks to a Festivus miracle, (actually some amazing people providing referrals) I am only 5 away from this goal.
Ultimately, I hope to grow this number a bit beyond 15. This is my benchmark for the moment.
BIG GOAL: Get to know more people
Mini Goal: Contact 2 new people in music/ month minimum
As an introvert, this is not easy to convince myself to do. I often think about it and even draft emails in my head but never get to it for whatever reason. 2 people a month is manageable. I might even surpass it if I can safety attend some music gatherings in 2021 ( and convince myself to do so of course :P). I’ll be keeping a checklist in my journal to remind myself.
Big Goal: Write 3 hours minimum of music
In my journal I will have a thermometer and every time I finish a piece ( even if it’s something that might not see the light of day), I will color it in. If I remember, I’ll even update you on my progress at every check in post.
Mini Goal:Create more creative opportunities
Talking with more people will hopefully help with this!
Big Goal: Be even more giving and spread more JOY
Mini Goal: Send more notes in the form of cards and emails
A few months ago I started picking a composer on my social media friends lists every few days and listening to their music. In 2021, I will continue this as I’ve gotten to hear so many wonderful creations and gotten to know my colleague’s music better. I will be letting composers know I listened to their work and send more encouragement in the form of DM’s and emails.
Mini goal: volunteer my time in a musical capacity at least 4 times
Time will tell how this shapes up. Maybe I’ll perform for a charity event or just for my community. Or, maybe I’ll be able to help out a fellow musician some random way. Who knows.
One of my goals for my teaching studio is to have at least 3 recitals this year and am hoping to stream at least one to a retirement community. Fingers crossed this works out (and that I have some willing fellow volunteers).
So, what are your 2021 Music Goals? Please let me know in the comments and may 2021 be a WINNING year!
I Hate Cleaning!!… Or more specifically, I hate the process of getting motivated enough to go through my things and- as Marie Kondo says (In a paraphrased form) Get rid of “What does not spark joy”. You Know what I hate more than cleaning though? Feeling Claustrophobic because of having too much stuff around. Needless to say, I’ve been doing some heavy duty picking up lately. As such, I’ve unearthed a few treasures, and as this is a blog written by a music composer, I’m going to share some of these with you before I either get rid of the physical object or talk myself into putting it into a Save to Digitally Archive pile only to be burned a few years later.
1.) Old Forgotten Pieces
If you’re a composer (or even if you are not and dabbled for one reason or another) did you ever listen to a piece that you wrote eons ago, maybe for a class or just your own enjoyment? Here are some of my fabulous blunderous Musics.
This Beauty is Something that a piano player friend of mine dubbed “The Drunken Belly Dancer song”. It was my first Notated piece, after my mom got the free version of Finale notepad while I was in High School and I started experimenting. Take a look at THIS Masterpiece!
At the time, I had no idea what most note values meant, much less how to count (Thanks Pepperoni Hot-dog syllable method of teaching rhythm!). As such, I could only conclude that smaller looking notes sounded faster so I sounded out what I was hearing in my head, experimenting until it sounded “right” on the playback. Notation was a mystery to me. Unfortunately, there is no playback, but trust me, it sounds hilarious- and did when James played it for me to hear 11 years ago- after hours of course. Note the Gorgeous trills notated with 64th notes.
EDIT: I FOUND MY OLD LAPTOP AND GOT ONE! Here you go.
Also featured, for your enjoyment is something I wrote when I finally upgraded my finale a couple of years ago and wanted to experiment with the pretty new sounds and instrument options. Don’t ask me why it’s called Sandwich Dream- I honestly don’t remember.
2) Pieces and Arrangements Written for Classes
Most students of music theory probably have at least one of these projects floating around from an old class. I went to YSU, where the written theory program was excellent in that you would end up with at least one for each semester of written theory. The thought was to reinforce the concept that you were studying. However, as we know, forcing creativity does not always work.
Ironically, this was not always the easiest project wise for me to do. Take a look at some of these masterpieces.
For one Music History Class, a a couple of classmates and I teamed up. I arranged Korobeiniki (aka the Tetris Theme) for us to report on and perform. I’m particularly proud of how this arrangement sounded when we performed it live- on La’s of course. Neither one of us could pronounce the Russian properly so we decided to play it safe .
Also, my theory professors had some sick fascination with Radio Head. At least three semesters had a unit focused on examples from their songs and there are at least two of these projects floating around in my hard drive. Nice Dream is sort of Nice so I’ll share the first page.
Needless to say, when a grade is held above your head for a subject as subjective as sonic art (aka composition), you want to keep your professor happy.
There are several examples of pieces that have chords and voicings that don’t sound like me. I came from the sound world where videogame music,church choir, concert band, and rock music were part of my steady diet. As such, my natural tendency is to write melody and lots of it! Sometimes “gouche” harmonies and parallelisms would find its way into my music. Sometimes it still does- though I’m much more cognizant of it now thanks to theory classes and my professor scolding me on a constant basis until I picked up on what he was talking about. Usually, I kept the “corrections’ because I did not know any better, and over time, some of these sounds and concepts crept into pieces. For better or for worse, they are still there though, there was a period between my Jr. year and about a year and a half out of school that my music did not sound like me. Case in Point!:
I wrote this about 5-6 months out of school. There are bits that sound like me, but a lot of one of my teacher’s harmonies and chord voicing made it into this piece as well. I was a bit depressed and almost forgot how to write as me during this time.
4)Virtually Unplayable Pieces
One thing that I pride myself on is asking players whether something is possible nor not an the instrument and checking on the practicality before making an educated decision on whether to include it in the piece. That being said, I do occasionally make mistakes too. We all do (don’t deny it- unless you are a robot. Then I might believe you!).
5) One or two pieces that were actually Quite Good , even Beautiful
It’s always good to land on a high note. While searching through my archives I found my first attempt at a band piece composed during my first year at music school. Despite the timeline of creation, it’s surprisingly not bad. I never did get around to refining it, but maybe it’s time. Please enjoy the midi.
Mr. Slocum was a wonderful human being. He was the one professor who, no matter who you were, would cheer you on and always have encouraging things to say after brass juries. It did not matter if you were in his horn studio or not. He always seemed to care about the students. Mr. (Bill) Slocum always took time out to talk with anyone who would listen to his recollections of his remarkable past, and he had a plethora of stories to tell from his experiences! It was through these recollections that I learned of his past performing summers at Tanglewood (under Leonard Bernstein!), his time with the Cleveland Orchestra, and his connection with my Hometown Orchestra of Buffalo NY, the Buffalo Philharmonic, having performed in this organization as well as several others. Sometimes these stories would trail into the next hour when you were trying to leave for class. You’d try to say good bye but somehow could not, as his stories always left you hanging on for more.
He also took time out to help me in a way that I’m not sure the other professors knew how. Although he was not my composition professor, he would give me helpful advice as to which pieces to study, and what I should try next. He also took me aside after a class once and did what most do not do: told me to my face how much potential I had, the good things he had heard around the building, and how he recognized my work ethic. (Sadly Mr. Slocum, I could not afford to go to the festivals that you advised me to go, but I promise to keep my promise to you to keep composing). Somehow, he knew that I needed that confidence boost.(Thank you!)
When he passed away in April of 2015 , I was heartbroken. I can only imagine the grief his students and family must’ve felt upon hearing this news.
At the time, shortly after graduating, I had reluctantly moved to MN to live at my Dad and stepmom’s home, and was broke, car-less and jobless. That day (April 15th), after taking the bus to the next town over to job search for the afternoon, I had some time to burn while waiting for a ride back, so I stopped at a Perkins for some coffee. It was there that I received the news.
Shortly after that bombshell, a theme in 6/8, distinctly played on a horn appeared inside my head. It was a theme fit for a hero! Thankfully I was prepared with some scrap staff paper to scratch it down, and fatefully place my coffee, leaving a ring- or “seal of approval” over the new melody.* This melody would remain untouched for about four years.
*This is also the origin story of how I came up with the coffee seal of approval and why I call my self publishing business Coffee Seal Music, summed up in one sentence!
This past Summer, Bill Richter, who I hadn’t heard from in almost 3 years, contacted me asking if he could commission me to write something for his Master’s recital. This came as a surprise, as the last time I had heard from him, he’d left YSU and transferred schools and as far as I was aware, was studying something completely different. At the (no doubt incessant- he had an almost magical way of making his thoughts and intentions known ) urging of Mr Slocum, Bill had returned to school to study the horn! In a stranger twist of fate- call it serendipity if you will- Bill had requested that I put the ending to Mahler 1 in the piece as this was the last piece that Mr. Slocum had coached the YSU Horn studio on, and, this melody that had been sitting there since Mr. Slocum’s passing fit PERFECTLY alongside Mahler’s melody.
A Well Traveled Rhapsody starts with the hero’s theme, where it morphs into several references to many famous horn lines and solos, of which I am told Mr. Slocum enjoyed on his time on earth. Some of these you may catch are a reference to Holst’s Jupiter (as he exuded Jollity), Mozart’s Jupiter (the piece he advised me to study as it has everything I’d ever need), variations of the opening to Strauss’s Horn concerto and Wagner’s Siegfried Call and , of course, Mahler 1.
The middle section, while not a direct quote, alludes to the melodic horn writing of Jerry Goldsmith as heard in the Star Trek the Motion Picture Soundtrack. As the piece seems to wrap up in the last third, I tried to emulate the feeling of listening to his stories and trying to leave his office, but truthfully wanting to hear more as he’d trail on with his wonderfully interesting recollections. Finally, the hero’s theme rises up gracefully in the piano, octave by octave just as his spirit, as far as I can tell, may have risen towards the heavens upon his departure from this mortal realm. It ends on a plagal cadence because, well, of course it does!
Bill Richter will Be premiering A Well Traveled Rhapsody at his recital on April 19th , 1 PM at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. This piece is written in the memory of William (Bill) Slocum and his gregarious, giving, uplifting, musical spirit.
Edit: The Premiere is on Sunday, April 25th, 11 am Central Time ( Noon Eastern Time).
As is now the tradition for me, I have written down my music related goals for this coming year.
The reason that I do this is because it gives me something tangible to periodically look back on and remind me of the things that I set out to accomplish. As a person who is very focused yet paradoxically gets distracted easily, this is very helpful to have when it comes to staying on track.
BIG GOAL: Pay off the last of my student debt
As of December of 2019, after years of sacrificing 90% of of my “fun money” (the little bit left over after bills and minimum payments are made) , I am down to my last 5K. Though there is far more debt to tackle (mainly the mess that is my SO’s student loan and the last bit for the used car that we purchased after their’s died), this will be a huge load off my back. The bit of anxiety I’ve felt since starting college because of this will finally be gone! Additionally, though much of my “fun” money will still go to start helping with my SO’s loans, I can start saving for things like buying scores, taking colleagues out for coffee more often, and grad school applications (if that is the road I go down for sure. This year will be a big indicator if/ when I can or should do that).
Mini Goal: Actually get better at marketing
I am going to start by aiming to get something out at least once a week. This may be a piece, a blog post, or (ghasp) a youtube video. Stay tuned for more on this one.
I will also make more of an effort to be more interactive on social media by either posting or commenting at least once a day.
Mini Goal: Finish setting upthe storeand sell some gosh danged scores(at least 5)
This is self explanatory. 2020’s the year it’s going to happen.
Part of my plan is to contact some music distribution companies to help get my music electronically accessible as well. (As of now, I can only offer physical (but personally autographed) copies as I lack the funds to pay for the technology that would help me prevent electronic file theft at a level that I’m comfortable with.
Mini Goal: Increase teaching studio numbers
My goal number for 2020 is 10 students. I am trying to keep it to no more than 3 evenings to avoid burnout as I already work 40 hours a week at my day job. This makes it more difficult, but, I am determined. Also, this will certainly help me build up the wealth I gave up by committing to paying these loans. The ultimate goal though is financial freedom.
Marketing with social media posts, hanging posters for my teaching business, and handing out cards for those who can help me with the word of mouth factor should help.
BIG GOAL: Be more giving/ pay things forward more
Though there is a long way to go to get where I want to go, I am thankful for where I am in life and acknowledge that a big part was because of the help and kindness I’ve received from strangers, mentors, and friends.
As soon as my 5K is done, I am going to begin donating a portion of what I used to have to pay on a regular basis. I am going to pick a couple of the helpful podcasts I’ve taken advice from or gotten enjoyment out of in an otherwise bleak existence over past years, and join their patreon pages. I won’t name which ones I’m going to pick. But, I have an idea for a future post where I outline my current favorites and you can speculate from there if you’d like.
I also aim to help out with a charity at least once (preferably more) this year by giving back some time.
My last part of this goal is to treat at least one person to lunch and/ or coffee per month.
BIG GOAL: Participate in at least 3 speaking, conducting or solo performance opportunities
As someone who wants to do this for a living, I need to get out of the Toastmaster’s training grounds and start putting these skills to use in the outside world. This is the bare minimum and I will do my bet to list them in next year’s follow up post.
Mini Goal: Participate in at least 1 Collaboration
Assuming that participation in Film Score Fest works out, this goal should be no problem.
Mini Goal: Finish all Current Works in progress and don’t add any new ones if you are over 3.
As of now, I’m finishing up the last Painless Parker’s Giant Bucket of Teeth (for Concert band), the electronic piece that my Composition Mentor has me learning with, and this year’s Minneapolis Trombone Choir Concert Piece.
Once one of these is finished, I’ll begin work on a Project that I cannot talk about….yet, and brass band piece.
BONUS: As this is a special year being the beginning of a decade, I thought I’d list a few things I want to accomplish in this upcoming decade that are music related. These may have to change, but for now I can dream and begin aiming. At the very least, I have this list to refer back to when making future goal posts.
Go to Grad school- FOR MUSIC-and not go into debt to do so
Pay off All Debt
Attend some composer retreats and workshops
Teach at a high profile event or music camp
Be able to travel a few times a year for my Ideal music “job”
Write my first symphony and compose at least one Big piece a year (with premiers and commissions of course)
Be able to make my living composing, teaching, and performing/ occasionally conducting by the end of this decade
Every once in awhile, it is good to get out and try something new. In this case, it’s a challenge.
This summer, I am trying the 21 days of VGM Challenge in order to get back in the habit of writing every day.
As posting takes some time and realistically, I do not have time to write a blog post every single day this month ( July tends to be a heavy performance month) AND finish my writing goal, I can and WILL make time to write something for this challenge every day. That being said, you can expect a post about once every 3 or so days with new pieces attached from now until the end of the challenge.
Additionally, The Challenge officially started July 1st. I have been writing by hand every day in keeping with the challenge’s intent to compose every day. However, realistically , I do not have enough time to input my ideas into the computer as well most days, except for the weekend so today (Sunday) is the first day I have audio available. Just to prove that I have not been cheating though, here is a selfie with my notebook.
I did the Thing!
If you want to know what this is about (and possibly join now or in the future) please follow the link for more information, but in short, I will be following writing prompts that are sent to my inbox in order to write these pieces.
Here are the First 3:
P.S. Speaking of trying new things , here is a picture of me Jamming, on stage, in front of strangers, and with people that I mostly don’t know for the first time ever. It was fun, just like I hope this challenge will be.
Not this one Either- though he will be important soon!
I am working on not one, but two big projects.
The First that I am excited to tell you about is a BRAND NEW Horn Solo. This one is going to be very special when it is done as it is being written in remembrance of a very special individual who made a positive difference at the Dana School for several people and was loved by many, as he loved all of his students: Mr. Bill Slocum. Bill Richter commissioned me to write a horn piece for his Master’s Degree Recital (where he is doing something fantastic and commissioning and premiering several new works from composers). This was the perfect opportunity to write this piece and pay my respects to this beautiful soul and gregarious spirit. There are other reasons why this is going to be an extra special piece and I promise to post more about it at a later date. For now, here is a preview video of the first bit as I’ m working on it.
Next, I am participating in the MnKino Film Fest again this year. It is this fantastic event (that I missed last year thanks to Snowmageddon) where composers are paired with independent film makers and you make a film together. The added bonus is that live musicians play the score to the film at the premier.
Fortunately, I was paired with the infamous Jason Schumaker and he is kindly allowing me to bask in his awesomeness (seriously though, he is a very humble and kind individual in addition to being extremely talented). I encourage you to check out some of his films on his website (LINK)
At this point, we don’t know if our film will get chosen to be screened, but, I can tell you that there’s going to be a Birthday party, Human Fire, a giant cat (yes the one in the above picture) and some crazy 12 tone music action (and other music filled awesomeness). Heck, we don’t even know what it’s going to be exactly, except for AWESOMESAUCE of course!