Spring Cleaning Show and Tell !!!

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!


What Makes it “Bad”?

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.

3) Pieces that are not  really MY style. I.E. pieces written to please the professor you are studying with

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.

You know what? I guess some of these things do “spark joy” after all. Maybe I’ll keep em!

A Well Traveled Rhapsody

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!

Mr. Slocum with his Students at the YSU Horn Studio Pumpkin Party circa 2008

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.

2011 Mr Slocum and his last horn studio class before retiring.

My 2020 Music Goals

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 up the store and 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.

  1. Go to Grad school- FOR MUSIC-and not go into debt to do so
  2. Pay off All Debt
  3. Attend some composer retreats and workshops
  4. Teach at a high profile event or music camp
  5. Be able to travel a few times a year for my Ideal music “job”
  6. Write my first symphony and compose at least one Big piece a year (with premiers and commissions of course)
  7. Be able to make my living composing, teaching, and performing/ occasionally conducting by the end of this decade

Thanks for reading!!!

#21 Days of VGM Days 4-6

Hello Friends and Fellow Music Fans,

Here are the next Three Pieces from this challenge for your enjoyment. Please feel free to comment if the inspiration strikes you.

Composed 7/4/2019
Today, I started with an uncommon interval to start with- a Major 7th. This is what became of it.
Composed 7/5/2019
I reached Level 2! Woo Hoo!
This was the Name game. I took my full name, only took the letters that were in the musical alphabet, and created a bass line Motive that the piece builds around. While composing I thought in layers, before putting this into the computer. There are several types of bells used for the accompaniment and Crystal Glass for the melody. It could probably be used around a shrine, oracle dwelling, or religious site in a game.
Composed 7/6/2019
I wrote a very short, loopable blues tune.
It is 7 bars long because I like messing with form sometimes.






Here’s My ” I Didn’t Cheat” Proof! đŸ˜€

21 Days of VGM Days 1-3

Hello Fellow friends and Music fans.

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:

Composed 7/1/2019
Today, I just came up with an 8 bar Melodic Idea
Composed 7/2/2019
For Day 2, I took the Write Something in Minor Prompt and expanded on yesterday’s Melodic Idea
Composed 7/3/2019
Day 3’s chosen prompt was Compose in a Compound meter. I chose 5/8 but did a time displacement in the baseline as well. It is what I would envision would play while talking to a giant owl or Fantasy creature (Griffin, Chimera, etc) in a game.

Enjoy!

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.

Image may contain: one or more people, people on stage and people playing musical instruments
Me with the Rogue Jammers, June 29th, 2019
Photo credit Robyn Barziza Chargo

Composer Kitchen News May 2019- letting the cats out of the bag

Hello Friends and Fellow Music fans,

It’s time to let the cat out of the bag.

Couch Potato kitty!

No- Not this one!

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!

Shot of the cast and crew of this film in progress.
I am not in this picture because my car died on the day of filming, but I hope it inspires you to go to the film fest on July 20th.

Till Next time,

Happy Musicing!