Landscapes Recording

Landscapes recording is up! I’m very proud of this work that I was able to bring to life with a group of incredible musicians. You can find it here:

Program Notes and Ensemble:

Landscapes (2017)

Landscapes is in part a summation of my experience here at Northwestern and in part a love letter to the world of wind ensemble music, both of which have contributed largely to my persona and have nurtured me in times of need. Each movement was titled after a location that has inspired or resonated with me in some way. Each location was chosen to represent a certain aspect of my time at Northwestern.

I. Route 13 (Streetlights Highway at Night)
The titular highway is one that runs through my home town of Ithaca NY. It traverses from the heights of uptown, where I spent most of my formative years, to downtown, where my high school lies. This highway sits directly on the East side of the valley and is flanked by the beautiful Cayuga Lake. Its steepness allows for some beautiful views of the lights of Ithaca at night. However, the scene that mesmerized me the most is not the glittering lights of the city itself, but rather the regular and rhythmic visual created by the streetlights as I remember them during my thoughtful drives just before coming to Northwestern. This movement represents the beginnings of my college experiences. I tried to capture the excitement and wide-eyed optimism that I felt during my first year as I explored the newfound opportunities and freedoms. Quotes of the Ithaca High School Alma Mater can be heard in snippets, composed by friend and colleague Michael Stern.

II. The Mountains
My first trips to the west coast can be directly attributed to my involvement with the band program here at Northwestern. The majesty and awe of witnessing true desert mountains up close for the first time was a powerful experience. With this movement I hope to convey the strength and resilience of the friendships and other interpersonal connections I have cultivated throughout my time at Northwestern, which I hope will keep as steady as those very mountains. I dedicate this movement to the brothers of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and their unyielding support.

III. The Cold, Dark Lake
For all its opportunities and vitality, the Northwestern campus can sometimes become a difficult and stressful place. Many students struggle with academic and social pressures that can often become overwhelming. It is a side of college not frequently discussed, yet extremely important to viewing the experience as a whole. This movement is my attempt at depicting some of my own struggles in this area. It is largely inspired by Lake Michigan, which during the day, can appear so calm and beautiful, yet become a cold and dangerous vastness at night.

IV. Stargazing from Skyscrapers
This movement is inspired by “The First Poem in the Imaginary Book” by Sarah Kay and “The Old Astronomer” by Sarah Williams, and is dedicated to Lauren Barmore. It is a recomposition of my previous piece “Stars of the Old Astronomer.”

V. Interlude
This movement serves as a short interlude, referencing much of the material from the first movement. This movement serves as my connection to the musical aspects of this university, by quoting melodies from The Waa-Mu Show and the university Alma Mater.

VI. The City of Lights
There is an image that is perhaps the most strikingly poignant visual that I have witnessed in the past four years, which has seared itself into my memory. When driving Southwest on Illinois I-55 just after crossing the Des Plains River, most signs of civilization disappear almost as far as they eye can see. At night, this portion of the drive is surrounded by complete darkness, with the resounding exception of an incredibly beautiful array of glistening lights situated to the East of the highway. The large complex of yellow and orange lights and illuminated pipes on the backdrop of hazy smoke and pitch darkness resembled a city, alive and filled with hope. I remember being transfixed at the sight through the window of the back seat. I later learned that this was an oil field – the juxtaposition of the industrial and gritty reality of the place during the day against the majesty of the sight at night only added to the striking nature of that memory.

With this final movement I hope to capture the hopeful yet uncertain feeling that I have towards my future after Northwestern, and all of the complex emotions that accompanied my fourth year.

Joon Park

Jane Carpenter
Julia Clipper
Christine Kim
Nate Pham

Jasper Igusa
Dallas Turner

Haley Kost
Victoria Lynn
Emily Manheimer
Jose Martinez
Theo Mavrakis
Jazmin Yuen

Bass Clarinet
Jintae Park

Katie Muñoz
Danielle Pindar

Leo Aguilar
Janos Csontos
Steven Liu
Aidan Manaligod
Karen Zhang

Joe Brozek
Jennifer Hepp
Sean Whitworth

Scott Beck
John Girotto
Ian Shaw
Helen Wargelin

Kenton Campbell
Sean Holly
Aneesh Kumar
Lena Piazza-Leman

Matthew Kundler

Sander Schierer

Haley De Boom

Tarun Bellur
Austin Busch
Issac Frank
Thomas Wolff

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!

The Dual Degree Journey

Now, when I graduate from Northwestern University four (that’s right: four, not three) years from now, I’ll have two pieces of paper to frame, not one.

This means that not only will I have to pay an absurdly large sum of money for an extra year, but I’ll also have to spend twice as much money on diploma frames than most of my fellow graduates.

As you may have figured out by now, I was accepted into the dual degree program in Music Composition and Physics. This means I’ll be receiving a BM in Composition and BA in Physics when I graduate. And as pretentious and cynical as I may have sounded, I am truly grateful for the opportunity that this dual degree program gives me. In fact, grateful is an understatement; the magnitude of it all hasn’t hit me yet. I still wake up in the morning and have trouble believing I’m a “music major.”

And the quotes matter. Not so long ago, being a “music major” was something that I thought would instill some great change inside my very soul and would make me feel like a musician to the core. But nothing has changed. Does that mean I’ve been a “real musician” all this time? Next year, I’ll be taking all the courses that every single “real music major” doing their BM would take. Now, this field of study is no longer something that I revered in high school as an untouchable honor. Back then, I was certain I couldn’t be a music major. To be one you had to be able to push yourself to practice every day. You had to be disciplined, you had to manage your time well, and you had to have musical skills that left your peers in the dirt. I didn’t qualify for any of that. The words “music major” didn’t even sit in the same shelf with words like “physics” or “engineering” or “business.” Those two words, even though I didn’t quite realize it at the time, were being crowned and given their own throne in some corner of my brain.

But here I am, now a real music major. There aren’t any quotes around that phrase, nor are there any myths about not being good enough or it being something that’s not for me. I am a music major, and apparently, some qualified and experienced faculty in one of the most prestigious musical institutions in the world think I’ve got at least half a shot at being a decent composer.

You bet your firstborn child that I’ll put forth every inch of effort I have within me to not let them down.

Leaps and Bounds (Stories from Northwestern, Part 5)

It seems my thirst for musical growth cannot be quenched.

I began the year as an excited freshman student, eager to take in all the knowledge that this prestigious institution had to offer. By the end of my first fall quarter, I had declared a physics major and a music composition minor.

But it turned out to be that a minor simply didn’t cut it. I wasn’t getting the rigorous musical education that I had hoped I would get alongside my physics education. In particular, the music theory , keyboard, and aural skills classes were out of my reach, which I knew would be crucial to improving my compositions. So I applied for the BA in Music with a concentration in composition.

With the help of the wonderful Undergraduate Assistant Dean of Music, I sent in a portfolio to be reviewed by the composition faculty. The portfolio was accepted and I was happy to be able to start taking music major courses in the Bienen School of Music.

That didn’t last long either. I guess I saw this coming a long ways off, just as you know you have to do your laundry at some point as you watch your laundry hamper fill up. What tipped me over the edge, however, was a short conversation at work with a friend of mine who is a sophomore Composition major. I asked him a few questions about the BM degree and from his answers, I decided that it was doable if I planned to follow the five-year dual degree track. I realized that this was something I’ve wanted all along, I’ve just been denying to myself the reality of having a chance at achieving it, just as I too often do to myself.

So now, as the spring quarter overwhelms me with its workload, I’m tackling the task of building yet another portfolio. But this one’s special. I’m putting in more care and more effort than I ever have to any application or portfolio previously. I think this just naturally stems from how much I want to be accepted into this program.

All I can do now is put my best foot forward and see what happens.

Stories from Northwestern (Part 4)

Did you know that our School of Communiation has a great RTVF (Ratio, TV, and Film) department? Did you know that our students write, direct, and produce many productions each quarter?

I’m proud and excited to announce that I’ll be composing for a student film being produced this spring quarter called Shambles! More to come on this later, but it’s going to be a fun project, especially as I’m excited to see what I can do to expand my horizons in the film composing area.

Stories from Northwestern (Part 2)

As previously described, NUMB has been a huge part of my Northwestern experience during my first quarter. But there are a lot of different experiences involved with NUMB, from band camp to spirit sessions to gamedays. The most powerful experience of them all, however, was undoubtedly homecoming gameday. This year’s homecoming game could not possibly have been more hyped. Everyone on campus knew it was going to be huge, as it was our first conference game of the season and our opponent was none other than the Ohio State University. Then, ESPN Gameday announced that it was coming to our campus to highlight the game. During the entire week, you could smell the Wildcat pride in the air. The days leading up to the game were filled with events. The band was called out at 5AM (can you believe it? 5AM call time! The things I do for NUMB…) on Friday morning to play for ESPN’s radio show, Mike & Mike (which is admittedly worth waking up at 5AM for). Despite the early broadcast time, the band, the spirit squad, the team’s D-line, and coach Fitz were all present to talk about the monumental game to come. It was great to see coach Fitz talk about the team and their preparation for the big game with Mike Greenberg, one of the hosts of the show and a Northwestern alum, and the band got a lot of good coverage on the network. That night was the homecoming parade, and what homecoming parade would be complete without the band leading it? As a freshmen barely a month into his university experience, being a part of that parade and seeing all the students lined up along Sheridan road to cheer us on was bigger and better than any high school homecoming. As the hour grew late, the band gathered once more for the great tradition of Drumline Serenade, which essentially involves the band following the drumline across campus as we shout our drum cheers as loud as we possibly can. If there’s something closer to pure fun than Drumline Serenade, I can’t imagine what it would be. Then came gameday. Since the band had the opportunity to play at College Gameday, we came bright and early to the shore of lake michigan and played on national TV with a beautiful sunrise in the background. A short lunch break followed, then we were off to Ryan Field to face the Buckeyes.

Despite the game being slightly delayed in its start due to the rain, the spirits ran high. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric. Never in recent history had the ‘Cats played a more important game. I’ll never forget the moment when our director’s whistle blew and we marched onto the field for our pregame. The wave of purple in our student section, already pumped up and cheering, was a sight to see. When the band concluded our fight song, “Push On,” with our ubiquitous shouting of “Go ‘Cats,” the stadium echoed the words. The wall of sound that hit me at that moment almost physically knocked me back. I’m certain that I’ll remember that moment for many years to come.

Even though the outcome of the football game was not the one we wanted, the ‘Cats fought hard and we the band were there to cheer them on until the very last second. Regardless of what the score is, who the winner is, or even if college gameday is on campus or not, NUMB fights through the rain, wind, fatigue, and unfavorable game predictions (thanks, Lee Corso) to always stand by the team. I’m extremely proud of our Pride and Guts, and I’m extremely proud to be a part of NUMB.

Go ‘Cats, and thanks for creating the most unforgettable memory in my college experience.

Stories from Northwestern (Part 1)

The “Stories from Northwestern” posts are where we’ll be playing catch-up for the time that my blog wasn’t up and running due to the website renovation. And the first post is about… that’s right, band camp.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m going through my second quarter of my freshman year here at Northwestern University. Looking back to my very first experiences here at Northwestern, all that comes to mind is the Northwestern University “Wildcat” Marching Band, or more affectionately known as NUMB. Because, you see, Northwestern is a Big Ten school, and that means our nationally televised Division I football is kind of a big deal. Which, in turn, makes our marching band also kind of a big deal. Because of the high level of excellence for which Big Ten Bands strive, most Big Ten Bands ask their members to come in a few weeks before the start of the school year for band camp, where everyone learns (or refreshes) the basics and do nothing but band-related things for every waking hour of every day.

And when I say nothing but band, I really mean it. Everyone, including the freshmen, move into the temporary housing on the very first day. It’s like any other college move-in day, but only much smaller in scale and for only band geeks. You say goodbye to your family and make new friends, and you don’t know it then and there, but that moment is the beginning of some very long-lasting friendships (and in some cases, romances). You wake up every morning thereafter, eat breakfast, report to rehearsal by 8:30am. Then you practice until 9:30pm, save for lunch and dinner breaks. And you do this with the same 180 other student musicians for two weeks. That’s band camp.

As you can imagine, as the days grow longer and the legs get sorer, the friendships get tighter and the bonds become stronger. Going through band camp with someone is an experience that will forever change how you view them.

Despite the physically taxing schedule, NUMB keeps the spirit high throughout band camp and onto the rest of the season. Spirit, after all, is what we’re all about. And for me, that’s what NUMB is all about. Sure, NUMB wouldn’t be what it is without the music or band camp or numerous other things that all contribute to the experience. But when it comes down to it, our spirit is what keeps us united. Our spirit keeps us shouting our drum cheers after long days of rehearsal, our spirit keeps us doing the traditions from generations before. Our spirit, the spirit of NUMB, is what I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Whitacre Coming to Northwestern

February 4th I’ll be giving a Q&A/workshop at Northwestern University, free and open to the public!

I saw these words on Eric Whitacre‘s Facebook page as I walked out of composition class this afternoon and I just about dropped my phone and screamed. Whitacre is undoubtedly my single greatest inspiration as a composer, and has been somewhat of a “hero” figure to me ever since I played his piece October in band. Hearing that he’ll be coming to give a free Q&A session at my university instantly turned me into a small child who’d been given everything he ever wanted.

One of the main reasons I chose to come to Northwestern is its prestigious Bienen School of Music. I knew that the musical opportunities that would be available on this campus would greatly aid in my growth as a composer, and it seems that I’ve made the right choice.

Feburary 4th couldn’t come any slower!

It’s Good to be Back

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

– T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

A blog can serve you well when you’re in high school and nobody really listens to the music you write. But as I move on to bigger and better things here at Northwestern University, I thought it was time that I took things up a notch. So I bid farewell to Musical Creativity for a few months and spent the time upgrading.

Welcome to, which will now act as the center of my musical presence online. This will be the place where you can check out my latest works or continue to browse the blog that I’ve brought over from Musical Creativity. Check back soon for posts about my musical adventures here at NU. There’s a lot to catch up on!

A side note: I will keep Musical Creativity running, so that the links on the posts still lead you to the relevant page. Just bear in mind that you’ll see the page from my old blog.