Illumination – Performed by the Contemporary Music Ensemble

The Contemporary Music Ensemble at Northwestern played a piece I wrote!

The concert was on May 5th, almost a month ago, so this post is a little late, but I definitely wanted to discuss the experience. I knew that I would be writing for this ensemble since around this time last year, but of course like a true college student I didn’t start working on the piece until about a month before the deadline. Turned out not to be the greatest plan since my spring was loaded with other music that I had to write for my senior recital and a reading for the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, but I managed to finish the piece and submit it in time.

The rehearsals were a great experience, as they always are, and I learned a lot – I say that for every rehearsal of my music, but it’s true! This one was a bit different, I must say, since it was the first time a major Bienen ensemble put on a work of mine at a concert. Moving up in the world! It was an absolute delight to work with conductor and friend Taichi, who shaped my piece wonderfully.

The main takeaways from the experience was not, however, during the rehearsal process. It occurred after the concert, when everyone was still milling about the concert hall. Out of nowhere, someone I had never met before came up to me and told me she “absolutely loved” the piece. As a composition student who studies in a school of music, constantly surrounded by friends, it had been a very long time since a complete stranger had told me they loved my music. It felt great, and reaffirmed the feeling that hey, maybe I can do this.

A bit afterwards, as I was congratulating Taichi, I had to fortune of finally being introduced to Maestro Yampolsky – the director of orchestras at Northwestern. He’s quite a notorious figure in the world of Bienen, and I hadn’t expected to meet him in this context, so I was quite intimidated at first (what if he hated my music?). But as it turns out, he really liked it! That was just such a nice unexpected addition to the night that once again helped lift my spirits.

Overall, I’m extremely glad I had the opportunity to write for such a great group of musicians. Here’s hoping that I get another chance next year!

Inspiration for Us All

Unfortunately for those of you who don’t have Facebook won’t be able to view this, but here is a post that I made on Eric Whitacre’s wall a while back.

Exciting stuff! Although strangely enough, having my own piece called “gorgeous” by my hero wasn’t the most moving experience I took away. Rather, it was all the comments from other musicians who I’ve never met, yet loved my piece. Their kind words are what push me to keep composing.

You Are Not Special

In the midst of Senior year schoolwork and college application season, I’ve been doing all that I can to make time for composing. The most recent inspiration came from a rather unlikely text: a high school commencement speech. But perhaps after listening to the speech, you’ll agree that it’s some inspiring stuff.

Check out the full text of the speech here.

Music as a Language

When my friend first linked this video to me, I was excited because it was a TED Talk involving Victor Wooten, but then I was sad to see that it was only five minutes long. But the video captured me right from the start and I sat entranced, for what felt like hours. All musicians should watch this video at least once in their lifetime. Although, my friend recommends that you watch it twice: once for the message, and the second time for the music. 

Finding Your Voice

To a young composer, arguably the most important thing to do is to find his or her own voice. It’s a search for a goal that still eludes me. But yesterday, as I was reading a book on writing college essays, I discovered an inspiring quote by Pablo Picasso:

“You should constantly try to paint like someone else. But the thing is, you can’t! You would like to. You try. But it turns out to be a botch…. And it’s at the very moment you make a botch of it that you’re yourself.”

Whether it’s painting, writing college essays, or composition, it’s very relevant. Especially because I often try to emulate my favorite composers in my music, but it never turns out quite the same. Now I know that that doesn’t mean I’m lacking in skill; it just means that I’m that much closer to finding my own voice.