Film Scores

Thought I should give a quick update – as the school year wraps here at Northwestern, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to compose for two films this year. One, a Studio 22 Productions film called Lottery Lad! and the other, a feature length film called Trust (and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves to Sleep at Night). Both were composed with the assistance of good friend and guitarist Ethan Roubenoff, who was invaluable in the completion of both scores.

Trust was an especially formative experience to my film composing as it was my very first feature length film. The time crunch, the sheer amount of music I had to write, the recording of live musicians, the mixing and producing, and the list goes on… But all in all it was a fantastic learning experience, and a rewarding one at that.

Keep an eye out for more updates on both films in the near future!

Atlas Quintet

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of performing a piece of music I really enjoy as a part of the Atlas Quintet – a group composed of me and some very close friends. With so many other things going on in my college life, especially as a composer, I had forgotten what it feels like to be a performer. Looking back to the recent weeks of all the rehearsals, it’s good to be back at it again. I’ll miss playing with this group in the Spring!


This one’s a labor of love.

Oh, and Vienna Teng is one my great role models – she got a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Stanford, worked in the industry, then decided she wanted to do this for a living so she just up and did it! Incredible. I have so much respect for her.

Chaos and Chorale, Recorded by the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble

The Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble is an ensemble of incredible caliber. This comes as no surprise to anyone at Northwestern who is familiar with the ensemble, but here’s basically what happened this past Wednesday:

During their regularly scheduled rehearsal, they rehearsed my new work for concert band, Chaos and Chorale, for about 10 minutes. Conducted by the wonderful graduate assistant Dominic Talanka, they touched some difficult spots and transitions. Then, we recorded the piece from top to bottom – that was the first time this piece was played from start to end. Ever. By anyone. And that’s the recording you can hear here. Go ahead, check it out – can you believe that recording is an ensemble that’s reading the piece for the first time? It sounds crazy, even still to me, who watched it happen right there. It just goes to show the caliber of the musicians in the ensemble.

I learned a lot of good things by having my piece played by SWE, as they are lovingly called in the Bienen school of music. It would not have been possible without my composition professor, Juan Campoverde, and Dr. Mallory Thompson, director of bands. Of course, a huge thank you to Dominic Talanka who rehearsed and conducted the piece. It was very clear from his preparation that he cared very much about the presentation of my work, and that means the world to me.

I think I’m hooked on this wind ensemble thing. Here’s to more pieces for wind ensembles and concert bands!

Chaos and Chorale (for Concert Band)

I wrote my first band piece!

I say ‘first’ even though I’ve technically written works for band (and even had the unusually lucky opportunity of having them read) because this is the first work for concert band I have finished with a working knowledge of music theory. To think of it, I don’t even know how I managed to write pieces for band without even knowing things like correct voice leading for resolving cadences..

The Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble, holds a score reading for new student works every spring, and I am hoping that my piece will be one of those that are chosen to be read this year. It would be an incredible opportunity to have my new work performed by one of the most incredible performing groups in the country.

Some things I learned from finishing this piece:

  • Without deadlines, I would never finish a piece of this size
  • If writing for a quintet is like driving a sedan, writing for a full band is like driving an 18 wheeler. There are so many more decision to make, so much more to wrestle with. It was physically more taxing.
  • It’s so true that you are a culmination of all those who have influenced you, especially considering the fact that I was raised in the band world and its (modern and not) core works are what I’m most familiar with. It really shows in this work.
  • Formatting, typesetting, removing collisions, improving legibility, the list goes on… These are all things that don’t really have anything to do with the actual composition process, but I still have to do all of them to make the score look presentable. It’s so crazy how much time that takes – I wish I had enough money to hire someone.

If SWE ends up recording the piece I’ll be sure to put it up online. I’m very anxiously waiting to hear back from the conductor. Hopefully it’ll happen within the next week!


Last night, I had the pleasure of leading the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Iota Chapter Choir and the Sigma Alpha Iota Beta Chapter Choir in my piece for SSAATTBB choir: Dusk. It’s not often that a student composer gets to have their full choir piece performed, nor is it often that they get to rehearse and conduct it, but both opportunities were gifted to me, thanks to the music director of Phi Mu Alpha and the conductor of Sigma Alpha Iota. The experience of being able to rehearse almost a hundred of my peers in something I created with all my heart and soul was an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience. With my conducting mentor, DaJuan Brooks, guiding me along the way, to say I learned a lot would be an understatement.

The special part about Dusk was that I wrote this piece towards the end of my senior year in high school, dedicating it to three of my close friends who have stuck through it with me no matter the hard times. They’ve seen me through thick and thin, all the way from the days of bonding during the stressful college application season, and we still keep in touch regularly. It was such an honor to be able to finally deliver the recording of the piece to them after all these years.

I want to give a huge thanks to Charles Schurman and Lauren Barmore, the music director of Phi Mu Alpha and the conductor of Sigma Alpha Iota for giving me this opportunity to (as cliche as it sounds) fulfill my dreams and to Angela Yang for making sure the recital ran smoothly! I’d also like to thank all of the brothers of Phi Mu Alpha and the sisters of SIgma Alpha Iota for devoting their time and energy in making this piece into a reality.

The feeling I got when I heard the piece sung by the full choir for the first time was a moment I’ll never forget for a very long time. The reason and emotions of why I wrote this piece and what it means to be all came rushing back – as I’ve said again and again, there’s nothing quite like hearing your own music sung or played by other musicians. It’s what keeps me coming back to the drawing board every week.

A Newfound Appreciation

Take a look! The Bienen School of Music has a brand new music building and it’s called the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts. Situated in the Northwestern Arts Circle, it is flanked by the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, the Block Art Museum, and the Theater Interpretation building. Surrounded by the various artistic endeavors that occur every day here at Northwestern, the new building offers not only gorgeous views of the lake, but a view of the Chicago skyline itself, which can actually be seen through one of the recital hall’s amazing full glass walls:recital638

My fellow school of music students and I have had the fortune to have class in this magnificent structure starting last spring, but the finishing touches were just finished at the end of this past summer. Now, the building is fully open and hard working musicians fill the space every day.

If you also happen to be on the tech staff for what was formerly known as the Pick-Staiger Concert Management Office (like me), it means that this new building is also now your new workplace! As a stage manager and recording technician, I will be managing and helping out with concerts in many of the performance spaces in Ryan Center. I just had my first training shift today and after having seen the ins and outs of the new performance venues, I can confidently say we have one of the greatest performing arts centers in the world.

Here’s to three more years of unforgettable memories here at Ryan Center, Bienen, and Northwestern.


Roadside Score is Done!

Another year, another film score! I’ve finished working on my latest project: the score to the film Roadside, written and directed by Noa Wiener. This film is funded by one of the ten grants given out by Studio 22, the student run film production group on campus. From the two film scores I worked on last year, I learned that composing to picture is something I really enjoy doing. I knew I wanted to continue working student films, but I had no idea I would get such a perfect opportunity.

I petitioned to be the composer for Roadside since the premise was post-apocalyptic and I absolutely love post-apocalyptic stories. Turns out the atmosphere that they were going for in the film really suits a more electronic, synth-heavy score, or at least that’s what the direct and I agreed on. I was able to take her vision on the soundscape and put my own stamp on it, resulting in a unique yet dangerous and visceral sound. Looking back, not only am I very proud of the mood that I helped create in the film, but I’m also very happy with the thematic manipulation and timbre choices that I made. My composition teacher was very happy with the film’s score as well, which made me feel even better about it.

Most of all, I was glad to have an opportunity to compose a score that was extremely different than the scores I composed last year. I’ve always been wanting to produce something with more electronics and It’s great to know that I now have something of that sound world to show for in a potential portfolio!

Claire Chase Flute Concert

IMG_20150416_205218Over the past few months, I’ve been working with two flute players from the flute studio here at the Bienen School of Music to collaborate on writing a new work for solo flute. This part of an initiative begun by Claire Chase in order to create more new works for flute, in the hopes that one (or more) of them will become the next great addition to the flute repertoire. Over the course of her three residencies here, I got a chance to have my piece coached by Claire Chase herself. Her incredible positivity and enthusiasm was infectious and very encouraging. Once again, I had to stop and marvel at the opportunities presented to the students of Northwestern University.


That’s a picture of the amazing flute player JingPing who played my piece. She wasn’t just a player, she was firmly a collaborator in writing the piece. Not only did her suggestions make the piece better, but she helped me learn what I needed to improve on as a composer.

There were moments during the past quarter where I knew I had too much work on my hands and wanted to give up on finishing the piece. Looking back now, I’m incredibly glad I didn’t make that decision, as the reward of having my piece performed that night was absolutely worth all the work I put into it.