Thursday, July 28, 2016

Summer Circuit

Professional musicians and academics share a similar yearly cycle. Most musical groups work within a season that begins in the fall and ends in the late spring/early summer. For those musicians – and in my case, composers – who work within the academy, there is a similar yearly schedule. Given this fall/spring season, many tend to assume (if they even think about artists and teachers at all) that musicians and academics simply “take the summer off” lounging at the pool and binging on Netflix for three months. How often I have heard the sentiment “wow…I wish I had my whole summer off…” by friends and family.

Truth is – there is very little time off during the summer months. For academics, this very short time-span is the single best period to further research that affects chances for promotion and tenure. For composers in the professional world (Mahler famously comes to mind) the brief summer months may simply be the only time to compose.

The Athens Saxophone Quartet in concert -
May 7, 2016 • Nicosia, CYPRUS
Yet, for many professional musicians (in or out of academia), summer does not actually afford the opportunity to recharge after the considerable demands of a performance season. Most of the time, summer is a time to continue performing at music festivals. Throughout the summer months, music festivals (large and prestigious as well as small and energetic) dot the landscape of our country as well as around the globe. Many of these festivals tend to mimic programming found in established ensemble seasons – meaning there is often a disparity between presenting older more “established repertoire” as compared to featuring contemporary music. However, there are still many festivals and conferences during the summer where a composer may find opportunities for performances of newer pieces.

I am grateful to be included among many other composers during the summer of 2016 who have received performances of pieces during the “off season.” For me, three particular events come to mind. First, I had the great fortune of having my work for saxophone quartet, Wandering Into Myth, performed at the International Conference: Wind Orchestras in Cyprus and Greece (May 7, 2016 in Nicosia, Cyprus). Sadly, I could not make the trek to Cyprus but having heard previous performances by the group that commissioned the work (the fabulous Athens Saxophone Quartet) I have no doubt of the quality of its presentation.

My "Two Tapestries for Brass Quintet" performance at the New
Music On The Bayou Summer Festival - June 3, 2016
Next, I was pleased to attend the inaugural New Music On the Bayou Summer Festival (June 1 – 4, 2016, Monroe, Louisiana) where my Two Tapestries for Brass Quintet received a really wonderful performance. In addition to the thrill of hearing my music performed at a very high level, the festival provided me with the opportunity to meet many new composers and performers from not only around the country but from around the world as well! I was amazed that talented composers from as far away as Italy and Mexico attended this festival. (This made me feel a little guilty for not making more of an effort to hear my work in Cyprus earlier!)

Lara Saville Dahl (oboe), Tania Maxwell Clements (viola)
and Tatiana Musanova (piano) performing my "Suite for
Oboe, Viola & Piano" at the 2016 IDRS Conference.
Later in the month of June, I was in the audience when my Suite for Oboe, Viola and Piano was performed at the 2016 International Double Reed Society Conference in Columbus, Georgia (June 28). I was doubly honored to have my music presented at this event not only because the piece itself was selected but also because my wonderful colleague, oboist Lara Saville Dahl, made the work part of her proposal for performance at the conference. I am forever grateful to the wonderful friends and colleagues in my life who regard my music high enough to include on their respective programs.

Finally, while not strictly speaking a performance at a summer festival, I was nevertheless just as thrilled to learn that the new recording on ABLAZE Records, New Choral Voices, Vol. 1, featuring my SATB a cappella work Every Good & Perfect Gift, was released in the late spring of 2016 both in physical and digital formats.

After a busy first half of the summer, I have settled into my more rigorous writing routine that has seen the completion of one new chamber work and the start of new work for symphonic wind ensemble commissioned by the Gwinnett Symphony Wind Orchestra. This routine, however, will be very short indeed as the new academic school year is barreling towards me like a runaway train. Wait…summer is nearly over already…?

One last mention – in case any reader may (rightly) feel that a good portion of this blog post was a thinly disguised self-promotional newsletter – I write this article as a form of therapy after receiving FOUR rejection letters for opportunities I really desired this past week (two yesterday alone). So there’s that.

From feeling unconquerable one moment to regarding myself as the worst composer ever in the next moment, I never cease to be reminded of the constant ebb and flow of an artistic life.