I am excited to announce that I will be teaching some courses for a Summer Music Camp offered by Maestoso Music Studio. The best news is, that it is online so YOU- and/ or, your students/ children, can participate in real time, without having to leave your front door. There are lots of other quality courses to choose from, but these happen to be the three that I am excited to teach.
Session 1- June 8th- 30th
THE COMPOSER IS ALIVE!
This will be a listening and discussion based course where I will expose the participants to music they may or may not have heard before by LIVING COMPOSERS, written within the last 30 years, give or take, in several genres spanning from wind band and orchestra to jazz, and video game music. The purpose of this course is to open up the ears of the participants, expand their minds to musical possibilities and show them that composers are indeed real people who are alive and creating as we speak. We will discuss the pieces, how to find new music, and the class will conclude with a creative project
This class may include a meet and greet with a living composer- who is not me by the way- but you’ll have to participate to find out!
Age Range- 8th Grade – Young adult (though adults are welcome too)
When-Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2-3
Session 2 July
I will be teaching a bare bones introduction to music theory suitable for those who are curious about the world of theory and how to use it. I will also be sprinkling in some examples and instruction of how to use theory to improve your sight reading ability and learn parts of that solo on your own.
Some knowledge of theory is recommended but is not necessary for this course.
Age range- 8th Grade- Adult
When-Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2-3
Session 3 August
COMPOSE FOR YOU!
This will be a course for those looking to get their feet wet in the world of music composition and arranging. One class will be spent introducing the free software MUSE SCORE – though if you prefer to use another Music Notation Software, that is ok too. At the end of the course, each student will have composed a short solo for their instrument and a duet.
Some theory knowledge is necessary for this course. Might I recommend taking my Practical Theory course?
Age Range- 8th Grade- Adult
When-Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2-3
If you are interested in signing up for this course or any of the other courses in the Creativity Club Music Camp please follow this link.
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.
It’s that time of year again. The mid winter shuffle of Fellow Female identifying Brass Players to the once a year event we like to call, Brass Chix.
The theme this year was Women’s Health as it pertains to brass playing. This year was a bit different for me as well because I got to help plan it!
Before I yammer on about the event, if you are wondering what the heck Brass Chix is and why the fish would woman Brass players gather for this seemingly “girls only” club, please refer to last years blog Post , where I explain it all.
When Sarah Schmalenberger and I met to begin planning this a few months prior, we realized that there were many facets to women’s health that go beyond just the obvious physical aspects. We could include spiritual health, emotional well being, instrument health, and go well beyond the usual advice of exercise, eat and sleep well.
The day started out with a Mindful Start, led by Sarah where we focused on breathing together without a conductor and thinking about our awareness as musicians. She led us in another mindfulness exercise where we assembled into two circles and were instructed to face one another. Upon the resonant cue of Tibetan singing bowls, we were to introduce ourselves on one tone, and silently looked each other in the eyes for a brief moment, before rotating the circle to introduce yourself to the next person on the next tone. It was an effective way to make each other aware of the other’s energy and existence as well as help break the ice among these multi generational women.
We then broke into our usual instrumental groups. The low brass session was led by my Colleague, Lara Dietrich. She led the low brass in some warm-ups, talked about preventing injury, and thoughtfully ended with a reminder that, for emotional well being, it is ok to say NO to things.
After concluding the session, we scuttled down to the presentation room where Sarah shared a fascinating lecture which featured her and Dr. Patricia Maddox’s research on Women’s Health and brass playing- The Brass Bodies Study. She and all of us had a candid discussion about how our bodies at different stages of life- down to years weeks, and days, can and do effect our brass playing due to our unique physiology. Rather than complain that “the men just don’t understand”, she opened up the discussion to encourage women to help each other and shed light on the realities that exist. An article featuring her research can be found here and is well worth the read regardless of how you identify.
Lunch was a fun bit of show and tell.
(a bit of backstory……During our planning session, we came up with an idea to showcase both Brass chix Business owners, who run their own repair shops on opposite sides of the cities; Laurel Chapman and Melanie Ditter. In order to do this, the suggestion came up to make a video that they could also use beyond this and would give them a chance to show off their shops, skills, and teach the Brass Chix how to better care for their instruments. Thanks to my coordination skills (learned in Toastmasters), my friend and talented Filmmaker Jason Shumacher’s assistance (ok, he shot and edited the whole thing 🙂 ), and the amicable agreement of Laurel and Melanie to allow us into their shops and interview them, two videos were produced and shown at lunch. ) People now know about the crud that lies in their instruments if you don’t clean them regularly or eat a hamburger before playing- tee hee.
The after lunch session was a split of two types of networking events. We had the younger (high-school and college aged) group, talk about healthy networking -led by Emily Green and the “Mature/ Experienced” group speed dating activity where we mentioned what we needed and what we could offer. It was fairly helpful and I even met a fellow SAI sister.
The penultimate event was a talk led by a panel of Women- who also had a part in planning this event, and of which I was invited to be a part of as well. This consisted of Me, Lara Dietrich, Allysin Partin, and Tina Cavitt, and each of us talked about an aspect of life that we overcame – or at least learned how to better manage. The subject that I was requested to speak about was…being different. I will admit, while I was humbled yet excited to be asked in the first place, the topic left me initially taken aback. After all, other than being a composer, how am I different enough to justify speaking about this?
My approach was to talk about how I, like everyone else, took my own path, and how due to my circumstances and personality which does not quite fit in with the norm of my chosen field (I’ve always been a paradoxical free spirited introvert, too humble for their own good at times), I had to find other ways to get to where I am today and learn to accept myself just the way I am. I tried to help my audience realize that everyone has things that make them unique which is a beautiful thing in and of itself, and that they should love themselves just the way they are, akin to what Mr. Rogers tried to teach in his lifetime. It must have worked because several of the young (high school aged) girls surprisingly opened up after this. This was the highlight of my day.
Lastly, we ended the day with a good ol’ session of brass choir experience and the Brass chix salute. Overall, it was a good year and I feel that a lot of good will be carried out beyond this day.
If you are a fellow brass Chick , I hope to see you next year where we meet at Schmitt Music in Brooklyn center to focus on……..Gear!
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
A few weeks ago I wrote a preview post of what I was currently working on and now have some news to accompany one of the projects.
In it, I mentioned that I was working on a film score that included 12 tone craziness among other things. Well, I’m proud to say that the film that Jason Schumacher and I have been working on the past few months was selected for the MnKino Film Score Fest.
This means that it will be screened with a LIVE ORCHESTRA playing the score simultaneously!! As a bonus: there is a theremin in the orchestra this year ( and yes I utilized it in the score)!!
The Event takes place at the Science Museum in St Paul MN on July 20th at 7:00 PM.
Additionally, there is a pre-screening at 4:30 of the films that did not quite make the cut for the live orchestra to play. They are the product of months of hard work by talented collaborating artists of differing disciplines and deserving of viewing as well.
If you can’t make it because MN is a bit too far away, or have another reason (i.e. work and family obligations, or you couldn’t get tickets) I have even better news for you.
This event is live Streamed!!! Please make sure that you follow the Facebook page and click the “interested” button in order to get reminded of the event and receive a link to view it.
Additionally, if you got the Futurama reference in this post, we can be friends.
This is a short blog post where I wanted to share an experience from a few days ago.
Did you know that if you take the time to listen, you can sometimes hear music in the space around you?
A few days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Minneapolis Sculpture garden (the one with the famous cherry spoon and now blue cock) for the first time.
There, among one of the most eclectic collections of sculptures I have ever seen, they have an air sculpture in the trees comprised of dozens of wind chimes. The tones on the chimes were chosen from a John Cage chance music piece titled Dream (1948).
Standing a good distance away from the tree, it sounds like you might expect a typical cacophony of chimes to sound. When we arrived beneath the tree though, I could not help but notice a few low and mid range frequencies that appeared and produced a soothing yet eerie vibration. As these tones shuffled between each other, I could not help but feel the music that was being produced by only the wind and these suspended pieces of metal vibrating in my bones. The sound was beautiful. and not unlike Tibetan singing bowls in tone color. It was as if there were an invisible ensemble perhaps of faeries, improvising, creating this piece just for those patient enough to listen.
Though my phone did not do justice in capturing all of the colors, here is a video of the phenomenon to give you an idea.
A few minutes later, my friends and I took the opportunity to lay in the grass near the giant swing sculpture as it was a gorgeous day. It was there that I experienced a miniature symphony in the air. As the clock struck 6, the bells from multiple churches began to ring one by one and add melody to the gentle accompaniment created by the invisible faerie band in the wind-chime laden tree behind me.
Here is the video of this experience (and yes I shushed my very verbose S.O. so I could capture this magical moment of air music- ha!).
Though you may or may not not agree with me calling this music, I hope that you enjoy these sounds. Perhaps they will inspire you to create your own music in some way.
I have been attending this amazing shindig since 2016 (having moved here in March of 2015) and have had the opportunity to see it grow. This year was easily the best program that I’ve attended.
So, What is Brass Chix?
It is a once a year event where woman brass players of all abilities from High School age all the way to Seniors come together to learn from presentations by professionals in the field, and by talking to each other about issues ranging from performance on their particular instrument of choice, to the social aspects of being a woman in what traditionally has been a male dominated area.
Why do we, a group of Women from multiple generations who just happen to play brass instruments, gather for this event every year?
Sarah Schmalenberger puts it best when she says that what makes us unique is that “We as women, never have a straight path”. Because of how most of us are conditioned by society , we are more prone to sacrifice for others before our own needs and desires, and are expected to take a back seat instead of fighting for what we want, whether that be to stay home and take care of the family, or back down and compromise in order to keep peace when faced with conflict.
Men (in general) tend to plow through obstacles hard nosed while women, tend to go around these obstacles. It takes a bit longer for most of us to get where we are aiming to go as a result.
It helps to have this event to discuss these issues and remind ourselves that we handle things differently and are all very capable and powerful in our own ways. Empowerment builds confidence to work towards success. Also, there is just something very special and healing about getting together with others TO MAKE MUSIC!
My own journey has been a roundabout way of getting to where I am and continues to be this way- but that is a topic for a future blog post or possibly a book someday. For now though LETS GET TO THE BLOG ENTRY OF THE DAY OF BRASS CHIX 2019!!
The day started at St Thomas Student center where I Got to help at the check in table with Sue ( a trumpet player) and noticed a few new faces. When someone asked Where the Horns were rehearsing, without a beat, Sue Responded, “OUTSIDE!!”- the lol moment of the day. (Note: remember, this was in the middle of MN winter, where the temperature outside is easily below zero).
We soon gathered in our respective brass subgroups; Horns, Trumpets, and Low Brass (aka the coolest chix who play Trombone and tuba respectively*).
*This is my opinion that may be a more than a little bit biased
Becky Haines, trombone superstar, led us in a warmup and reading session, providing excellent advice on breathing exercises and focus techniques.
Lunch was filed with more conversations and LEGOS, meant to be a part of the improvisation theme.( Or maybe a ploy for advertising the then new Lego Movie ha ha). Some lunch conversations ranged from trying to figure out how Legos fit into the music theme to how our every day lives tend to be improvised, especially when trying to fit our passion of music into everything else that goes on around us. Our path around life obstacles tends to be improvised after all.
After LEGO LUNCH, we gathered in a group and were treated to a Masterclass workshop on practical improvisation advice, led by Local Brass Superstars .
We talked about how jazz improvisation actually works, ways to do it effectively, and learned a little about Judy Gaunt’s (trumpet) experience going through University among some crazy analytical, genius jazz cats. When the presentation was over, several volunteers attempted to do a group improvisation with Oh when the Saints Go Marching In- with some live coaching of course.
After this we separated into our respective subgroups to put this advice into practice. Lauren Husting led the low brass session and introduced us to easy backing tracks with chord changes on YouTube.
ALL of us tried our hand at improvisation and by the end we were all sounding fairly competent. I even managed to “improv” Smoke on the Water when it was my turn during the Dorian chord changes. Thankfully, this got a laugh.
Then it was picture time for our annual group photo. Heidi, Laurel, and I shared a special moment when we reprised the Oh When the Saints improv. exercise while riding on the elevator on the way down to this part of the shindig.
Our Grand Finale of every year is where we play pieces in a massive brass choir, and share the experience of Making this Music Together. This happened once again, but with the most amount of vigor I’d heard coming from this group since first attending. We always break from the day by reaffirming our bond as Musicians and Women, by doing the Brass Chix Salute.
Next year, the topic of focus will be….WOMEN’S HEALTH as it relates to brass playing. If you are or know a Woman who plays a brass instrument, please spread the word about this event. We learn something new every year, it’s a ton of Fun, and we have a great time experiencing it together. I Hope to see you in 2020!
Hello, Fellow Music Fans. It’s time for Show and Tell!
A while ago, I participated in the MNkino Film Score Fest 2017 and had the opportunity to work with a wonderful Individual, Beth Peloff of Green Jeans Media. After the successful premiere of “Blobs Adventure” in July, we spent a lot of time trying to get together to celebrate this fact.
Fast forward to December.: After a bit of a creative rut on my end, and lots of reasons involving life happening, Beth and I finally reunited. When I discussed my problem with her, she offered to send me a short film she had worked on to give me a worthwhile (and fun) project to focus on.
The answer may not be explainable with one definite answer. Some believe that everything that we encounter in music has a subconscious effect on our own compositions, whether we realize it or not. Similarly, our own out of music experiences can impact our choice as to what we decide to write on the page or what ways we organize sound. Ego is thought to play a role in that there is an innately selfish desire to express oneself for payment or conversely, a desire to share the love of music through our own creations. It is no different from the intent of a poet or a director who wishes to show the world (whichever one this may be, inner or outer) what they have to offer.
I believe that music is the poetry of the soul through the medium of sound. It can also be an aural document of our inner psychoses : a physical reflection and manifestation of our innermost desires. If one wishes for structure and control or to freely emote, it will surface in one way or another in the music. Composing is a result of the desire to express oneself through the medium of music and is a consequence of an amalgamation of experiences, tragic or joyful, acquired information,and the desire for monetary or personal gain. In short, we write because we need to and can.
What shapes our musical voice?
Again, I credit experiences and exposure to different sounds. I believe that your musical voice as a composer will constantly evolve the more that you work at it. From personal experience, when I began writing, I would imitate the music that I was exposed to on a daily basis, most notably Nintendo soundtracks and Band music.I began to improvise new melodies around the songs, though I did not know that this was what I was doing at the time. When I got older, and a bit better at piano (though not much better at reading it), and learned what it felt like to experience the emotions evoked by varieties of pain, making up melodies became my escape and the flavor changed (albeit that these songs were elementary in nature as compared to the present). In high school, I was exposed Classic and Progressive Rock and Jazz through jamming with my brother and the Rock Band I was a part of, which brought out a brief songwriter phase.
As I’ve grown as a person and musician, my style has become more sophisticated, though I have had several occasions where others have heard the video game music influence to this day. Also, my reasons for writing certain pieces have varied as well as I continue to try new approaches and styles in order find my niche in the world of composition. Sometimes it is for a grade or specific commission and sometimes it’s because of an innate desire to spontaneously create and experiment with an idea.
First and foremost , I strive to write for the musicians that will play my pieces. I would like to share the same enjoyment that I have writing the music as I hope that they will playing it. Perhaps It is my own selfish desire to share the human condition and help the world become a better place through imposing my notes, and my hope to give the opportunity to the musician to be creative through their own interpretation of my melodies.
If you have any comments to add to this discussion, please reply below as I am curious as to what others’ thoughts are on this subject and am open to any viewpoint or related stories.
DISCLAIMER* this is a past post from 2014 that failed to get published until now for various reasons. I am sharing this now because it was an awesome experience and goes tho show that you don’t necessarily need to go to a large school to do a project like this. Sometimes it just takes a little extra persistence and creativity.
For this blog Post I have invited fellow YSU Alum, professional Sound Engineer and now Film Composer, Ryan Cunningham to co author. Last January (2014), Ryan was looking for people to play for this awesome Sr. project Idea that, to my knowledge, had not been attempted at Dana until he had done it this past November. He and his brother, Barry Cunningham, had produced an independent film and he (Ryan) had written the music. Ryan was using the opportunity to combine all of his skills that he had learned as an Undergrad by having us perform the score live (as if we were at a professional scoring session), record it and balance it, then set it to the film for all to watch in the second half of the recital.
Now I will let Ryan Take the stage and Tell us a little bit about the process in creating this Project and all of the work that went into it.
Well, the capstone for the recording program at YSU is called the “Senior Project”.The only requirements that the instructor, Jack Ciarnello, puts forth for it is that it 1.) It be something that has not been done in the last 5 years or more and 2.) Be something that you’re extremely passionate about. The school of music requires that it pool all your knowledge of recording from your coursework and that it be presented in a recital setting.
Film, TV, and game music is something that I’m extremely passionate about. More than two-thirds of my iTunes library consist of score music from all 3 genres. I decided that I wanted to do something related to that because Music Recording and Sound Engineering aren’t that too far displaced from Screen Scoring. But, I had nothing original to score to. My brother Barry is a graduate assistant at the University of New Orleans and I decided we should film a short film to give us both experience and an addition to our work reel in our respective fields. Over the course of November and December 2013 we filmed a short film in the Youngstown area. It’s called “Fading Into Shadows”.
After Barry finally got done editing it, I wrote the score in about two to three weeks. During that time I listened to tracks from various TV, film, and video game sources to try and draw inspiration for the music. I didn’t want it to sound like those sources but, hey, it was my first scoring project and I needed to start somewhere. I also posted flyers and contacted people about playing in the ensemble. I would have liked to have a full chamber orchestra ensemble but sadly, that was not to be. Finally, when the music was completed and everyone recruited, the ensemble began having rehearsals in the spring ’14 semester.
We had to push the performance to November ’14 because of an oversight in scheduling for the recital. We lost some members due to this but we gained new members as eager to participate in such a rare and exciting project. the one thing i was excruciatingly frustrated by was how few string players volunteered for the project. That’s not to make any insinuations about the instrument or anything, but everyone seemed to busy or not willing to take a “gratis” gig. I obviously couldn’t pay them but was more than willing to offer my services as a recording engineer for any recitals they might want/need recorded. It was also extremely difficult to try and get some members to show up to rehearsal. I suppose I could’ve sent out reminder texts to remind people to show up. They’re not getting paid to play so it should have been on me to be responsible. At any of given time i could have just threw it all out the window and say “screw it” but I didn’t. I kept going because I am confidant that is what i want to do for the rest of my professional life.
I’ll admit that it was hard on my ego and my confidence. I wasn’t exactly happy when I had to put it off for a semester and replace some members. All kinds of thoughts were going through my head about it.:
“I have to do this over again. I’m gunna lose more people cuz they’ll see me as a schmuck that can’t hack it. I’m never gunna graduate. Why do I SUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKK?! ”
But I persevered.
In the recital, I conducted the music for the scenes, pieced some together with the audio/video, and played it for the audience (after the intermission). Two months later, the video has been successfully completed and uploaded to YouTube.
All in all, it’s one of my fondest and proudest musical achievements. It proves to me that when the going gets tough and you feel like life’s beating you to your knees, that isn’t when you give up. It’s when you rise up and get the job done that you can finally see whether or not it was really worth it.
At this point I will take over and tell you a little bit about what it was like from the performance standpoint.:
Performing on this recital was a completely new experience for most of us involved. We received sheet music for cues.It was similar to the way that music is in musical pits in that you may have pieces with a long tacit and maybe a hit every once in awhile. However, instead of accompanying actors on a stage, you were accompanying actors on a screen and, being prerecorded, there was less flexibility for tempo fluctuations. We began the whole process by watching the film sans live cues to get a picture of the final project. . Ryan conducted the cues wearing headphones and we took several takes to get it just right, being that this was such a new experience for all of us.
My first reaction to the music itself was that of amazement and intrigue. This was my first experience really hearing Ryan’s music and loved the darkness and neo-tonal aspects of his score. It was not quite what I expected given his mellow yet fun personality, but I nonetheless enjoyed it and felt that it accompanied Barry’s film quite well. I was also impressed at how well the film and project were put together, despite the few difficulties that Ryan discussed prior.Also, it was awesome how the recital was similar to demoing a live recording session for a film to the public, as we played the cues (which were recorded on site) and Ryan then mixed them into the film. After the Intermission, we watched the final result of the project.
I hope that reading about this project might inspire other composers to team with other musicians and people from other disciplines and think outside the box to come up with new types of projects. Overall, it was a great experience for all involved and one I won’t soon forget.
EDIT as of 11/2016: Ryan would like to note that he will be re-scoring the film in the future. A few years have passed since this project wrapped up and he has improved as a composer and feels, along with Barry, that the score could fit the film a bit better (especially since there is no longer a looming graduation deadline).
Additionally, If you are interested in seeing the film in its current incarnation, you can view it here.