Meet in the Middle: When You Want to Improvise, but it’s Not Entirely Jazz

I grew up playing classical music and longing to be in jazz band.

Granted, it didn’t take long for that to come to fruition—by eighth grade I was taking solos and groaning at lead parts like I’d done it all my life—but with jazz comes an often-stifling series of mistreatments. I don’t have to tell you that; I haven’t touched the art form in over a year, and while I still miss the music, I’m waiting for the opportunity to get back into it on my own terms with people who won’t shut me down at every turn. The thing I loved most about jazz, though, was simultaneously what I hated: the improvisation.

Continue reading Meet in the Middle: When You Want to Improvise, but it’s Not Entirely Jazz

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CalArts Brass and the Pursuit of What’s Missing

Honestly, performers can have a really hard time choosing grad schools.

I say that as a composer and composer-performer who’s always had way too many things to think about when it came to school choices. During my undergrad auditions, I managed to piss off an interviewer at a school that will remain unnamed because I insisted on continuing to play my instrument as I continued my composing. (They didn’t accept me. This was not a surprise.) Yet as I’m starting to look toward the final semester of my MFA, it stymies me that so many teachers request or insist that their students focus on one thing and one thing only. I was incredibly lucky at Arizona State to have not one but four composition teachers who supported my performative endeavors, and that streak has continued at CalArts. But as my performance-major friends look at grad schools and doctoral programs, often they’re only focused on one thing: the teacher.

Continue reading CalArts Brass and the Pursuit of What’s Missing

Sing Until I Can Fly: Cilience Releases Debut EP ‘Fetters and Feathers’

Fetter (n.): 1. a chain or shackle for the feet. 2. something that confines.

Some of my favorite hooks in the world are the kind where you can tell something’s being revealed or turned on its head, but you won’t figure it out without a little research (or an extensive vocabulary). And man, Ian Stahl sure knows how to write one.

The line in question comes at the end of the chorus of “Fetters and Feathers,” the title track of Cilience’s debut EP. Backed by intrinsically satisfying syncopation, frontman Stahl sings, “Waiting for something better/Until fetters are feathers, I’ll sing until I can fly.” It’s the kind of music you’d want to listen to during a sunny drive up the Ventura coast­—which, for a song intended to highlight racial inequality, is impressive. Its parent record, Fetters and Feathers, is a conceptually quirky but idiomatically sound ride through a host of styles and existential quandaries that invites listeners to explore as far as they want to go.

Continue reading Sing Until I Can Fly: Cilience Releases Debut EP ‘Fetters and Feathers’

A CalArts Year in Review: Part Two

Over the past year, CalArts has allowed me to learn at my own pace while providing countless opportunities I wouldn’t get elsewhere. That said, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Like every school, CalArts has serious downsides it needs to address. I can’t speak as much to programs and events outside the music school, but even within HASOM (the Herb Alpert School of Music), there are significant issues that require more management than students or faculty are capable of providing individually. And sometimes, the administration’s what’s causing the problems. So buckle in, everyone. This one’s long.

♦♦♦

Let’s start with my favorite part of every school: the Title IX office.

Continue reading A CalArts Year in Review: Part Two

A CalArts Year in Review: Part One

This time a year ago, I was a newly-minted college graduate, enjoying a verylong summer and preparing for the rigor and adventure of a master’s program. I’d already made my choice – CalArts won for a number of reasons – but like most students approaching an arts school with an absurd reputation, I didn’t quite know what I was getting into. I came in prepared to work hard and hoping for an academic culture better than the one I’d found (and struggled with) at ASU. And while life spent a large part of the last year throwing me for a loop, I’ve had some time to reflect on what CalArts has given me and what I wish I’d gotten out of my first year. I’m going to present my findings in two posts; this first one will focus on the positives.

Continue reading A CalArts Year in Review: Part One

Choosing Music (and/or Money)

I distinctly remember when I started telling people I planned to go into music.

It wasn’t some grand announcement—I mean, I was a junior in high school—but the way people reacted, you would’ve thought I’d just proclaimed I was going to major in winning the presidency.

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YOUR MOUSE GOD iS DEAD (and other new works): presenting the program

Hello again, friends and readers! (I know it’s been awhile. Life gets in the way sometimes. I’ll be back on the blog more in the coming months.)

As we round the corner into March, I’m well into my second semester at CalArts, and that means it’s recital time again! In addition to appearing on a slew of other concerts this semester, I’ll be presenting my own recital, YOUR MOUSE GOD iS DEAD, this Saturday, March 3, at 5PM PST in the Wild Beast. Because I’m in the Performer-Composer program, the show will be a mash-up of my own work and efforts from friends and colleagues around the world. The program is as follows:

Continue reading YOUR MOUSE GOD iS DEAD (and other new works): presenting the program

Here We Go Again: Phantom’s Winter 2018 Call for Scores

Phantom Brass is pleased to announce its winter 2018 call for scores. Formed by John Pisaro, Darren Dvoracek, Megan DeJarnett, and Evan Wendell, Phantom is a brass quartet dedicated to the understanding and expansion of brass chamber music repertoire. We hope to cultivate a diverse collection of works by living composers.

Submissions should be composed within the last five years and written for two trumpets, trombone, and tuba (modified brass quartet) or any subset of these instruments. Trumpets available are B-flat, C, and flugelhorn; trombones available are tenor and alto. Works of multiple movements are welcome, but no work should exceed ten minutes. There is no minimum duration. Limit one submission per composer. Prior winners may not resubmit for one year (fall 2017 winners may submit in fall 2018, etc). We welcome works from all composers regardless of age, gender identity, sexual orientation, or nationality.

To submit, please email a PDF of your score and an audio rendering (MIDI mock-up is fine) to phantombrass4@gmail.com no later than March 15, 2018 at 11:59PM Pacific Daylight Time. The subject line should include Winter Call for Scores and your name. In your email, please include your contact information, a brief bio, your website, and a performance history of the piece. Ten to fifteen composers will move on to the final round of adjudication; these finalists will be notified by April 15. We will contact winners no later than May 1. Composers will receive a performance of their work and a recording of the live performance. Additional performances may occur but cannot be guaranteed at this time.

We look forward to hearing your submissions!

Remain in Your Seats: When Sexual Respect Training Goes Wrong

Dear CalArts,

This is not how I wanted to start my journey with you. You championed yourself as a bastion of diversity, a place where the disenfranchised can be heard, an environment in which people look out for each other.

Your staff didn’t look out for us tonight.

Continue reading Remain in Your Seats: When Sexual Respect Training Goes Wrong

Who I Am and Who I’ve Been (I Won’t Apologize For Either)

Four years ago, I was a very different person.

If you’d seen me at my college orientation, you would have encountered a girl feeling the keen edge of homesickness, shielding herself with a smile and throwing herself into social life in an effort to find some friends – any friends – to fill the gap between her and those she’d left behind. You would have met a girl who had a lot to say to the right people but who found that there weren’t many of those individuals cloistered within the walls of her fancy new dorm. So she remained quiet, because that was what she could do with who she had.

That girl didn’t last long; though she made the occasional reappearance, the woman she became found it far easier present the world with honesty and attitude in the hope of inciting genuine responses. And to a degree, that’s worked pretty well.

Continue reading Who I Am and Who I’ve Been (I Won’t Apologize For Either)