Performance Restrictions, Ethics, and Calls for Scores

It’s been a busy semester of teaching and grading, rehearsals and more grading, and I’ve found myself composing a little less. This isn’t entirely a surprise—it’s my first full year out of grad school, and I’m trying to commit to not writing on absurd deadlines anymore—but it’s been an interesting change of pace. While I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to sit back and really think about what I’m putting on the page, I’ve also learned a lot from watching competitions and calls for scores go by.

The side of me that cares very much about ethics isn’t super impressed with those right now.

Before we get too far into it, I’ll freely admit this is colored by my preexisting dislike for most competitions. Some are fine, but anything that costs money to submit to and doesn’t provide transparency about what that money is used for grinds my gears. (My rule of thumb: for existing ensembles, if there isn’t a cash prize involved, regardless of performance opportunities, competitions and calls for scores should be free to submit to.) Further, the motivation behind competitions specifically has always been a little odd to me. How are any of us realistically going to identify the best composer?

Okay. Time to get back on topic. Otherwise, this is going to get unfocused fast. I’m not the biggest fan of competitions, but I’ve run my share of calls for scores, and for the most part, I don’t mind them. They’re a great opportunity for composers and performers to swap scores for recordings (and performances!) without either party losing a lot of money. They’re especially awesome for composers who have scores sitting around and ensembles who wouldn’t have a lot of access to new music otherwise.

That said, I tend to shy away from calls for scores that are billed as “new works” recitals, and tonight, I want to talk about why.

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Commissions 2020: Expanding My Horizons (and maybe yours, too)

My dear readers, friends, colleagues, and peers,

I’ve had the time of my life in 2019 working with a series of commissioners on new works and bringing many of my 2018 pieces to the stage for the first time. By my best count, I’ve written almost an hour of music this year, and I’ve begun to explore new artistic directions that really excite and challenge me. As we move toward 2020 (and onward!), I’m looking forward to continuing to build on my current practice and dive deeper into my own voice.

Over the last several years, it’s become increasingly clear that the work I love creating the most doesn’t fall under standard “contemporary classical” boundaries. Realistically, most of it falls somewhere under the New Music umbrella, which does save space for classical- and jazz-adjacent things but allows me to pick and choose which pieces of tradition or time-traveling sonic nonsense I want to include alongside the modern developments that make my heart sing 24/7. For people who know me well, this isn’t a huge surprise, but the wonderful folks who commission me aren’t even always people I’ve met. (Which, for the record, is amazing.) I love working with new collaborators just as much as I enjoy reconnecting with folks from years past, and my catalog is starting to reflect that in some really exciting ways.

That said, my compositional voice today doesn’t sound like it did two or three or five years ago, and as I continue trying to move toward the artist I want to be, I need to point that out. Those of you who knew me (and my writing) in undergrad might not know how I sound now (unless you’ve been keeping up with me online, in which case, you’re awesome). While there are still pieces in my back catalog I love dearly and plenty more I’m still proud of, it’s worth pointing out that I’m not necessarily writing that way all the time anymore. I’m playing with noises and soundscapes and text instructions and concert-theater-aligned ideas, and while some of that does still involve regular notes and rhythms, it isn’t always in the way you’d think. (Exhibit A: People Talk.)

And as my commission calendars start to organize themselves for 2020 and 2021, I’m making an effort to continually work toward making the art at the top of my wish list whenever possible (or, at least, art that’s consistent with my current voice). And while some of that is work for me or John or some of the long-term collaborators I work with, I’m hoping some of that will be for all of you, too. These might not be pieces you can turn around in a month and a half for a recital (or they might be, but not for the reasons you think). These might be pieces that require you to search as deeply within yourself and your own practice as I’m searching in mine. They might not be instantly-consumable, you-can-throw-this-together-in-a-couple-rehearsals bites of music and sound—and if they are, they’ll probably be utilizing different skill sets and making different requests of your musicianship.

Continue reading Commissions 2020: Expanding My Horizons (and maybe yours, too)

2019’s Large Ensemble Giveaway: Here Be Dragons and People Talk

Folks, it’s back-to-school time again, and I know many of my ensemble director friends are knee-deep in planning their seasons. Last fall, I had a great experience with the giveaway process for strength in all things, so this year, I’m going to do it again—but this time, you can take home two pieces if you’d like. Like last year, the idea’s the same: you can take home the pieces for free if you program one (or both) of them in 2019 or 2020. (A personal suggestion? If you’ve got the performers for it, an election year would be a great time to program People Talk.)

Continue reading 2019’s Large Ensemble Giveaway: Here Be Dragons and People Talk

We Now Return to our Regularly Scheduled Performances

Man, what a semester it’s been! I premiered five new works (Don’t TellLiar, LiarTipping PointStorm Warning, and Flatline); I gave my senior recital; I visited Michigan, Canada, and Los Angeles; I spent quality time with family and friends; and I made big decisions about my future. After all that, it’s been nice to get back into the routine over the last couple weeks. I thought I’d take a moment to outline where I’ll be playing, attending, and presenting work for the rest of the semester, for those of you who are interested:

Continue reading We Now Return to our Regularly Scheduled Performances

You Can’t Cry While Drinking (Coffee)

Sometimes a project sucks you in so fast you don’t even realize it’s happened.

My roommate’s capstone is one of these projects. Written by Tess Galbiati and serving as both her final creative project and her honors thesis, the production follows Stacia, an art major with big plans for the future, as she struggles with her own wellness during a rough relationship and a fatal illness within her family. Relationships of all kinds are tested. It’s a fascinating dissection of the nuanced conversations and friendships that today’s young adults make.

Continue reading You Can’t Cry While Drinking (Coffee)

Bells Premiering at Knights of Pythias Lodge

With a new school year comes new premieres! I’m proud to announce my piece, Bells (for soprano and piano), will be performed for the first time at the Knights of Pythias Lodge in Tempe on October 21st at 7:30pm.

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Horizon Line Premiering at the Phoenix Art Museum

I’m excited to announce that my newest string quartet, Horizon Line, will be premiered at the Phoenix Art Museum on Saturday, April 23rd at 1:00 pm. The concert is part of an annual collaboration between the ASU Composition Studio, the Phoenix Art Museum, and ASU’s String Project.

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Earthquake City Premiering at NTC 2016

Megan with the Grand Valley Trumpets and director Alex Wilson at NTC 2016
Left to right: Justin Schreier, Ethan Lonsway, Denton Grant, Erin Ray, Willis Dotson, Luke Buckingham, Megan DeJarnett, Brenden Hoekstra, Ryan Gilbert, and Alex Wilson.

The eight-member Grand Valley State University Trumpet Ensemble, under the direction of Alex Wilson, premiered my new piece Earthquake City at the Large Ensemble Semifinals of the 2016 National Trumpet Competition. This year, NTC was held at Columbus State University in Columbus, GA on March 10th-12th. Earthquake City was commissioned by the GVSU trumpet studio in the fall of 2015.

I was also in attendance at NTC for the premiere, thanks to a grant from the ASU School of Music. I had a great time networking within the national trumpet community! ♦