Oklahoma!

I trudged in through my front door and dragged my tired limbs to my room. I propped open my laptop for a routine check of my email as I do after every game. Expecting nothing but the usual wash of unimportant emails, I was all but ready to jump into the shower. But one email had been prioritized by my inbox as important and came from a name I was not familiar with. Hm.
To my delight, this email was an invitation to play with the pit orchestra of the local theater company called Running to Places. They needed a bassoonist for their production of Oklahoma! Needless to say, I was stoked. Anything to keep me playing rigorously through the summer.

This was last Friday, and today is Monday. From Sunday to Sunday there were five rehearsals and three shows (the first rehearsal was eight hours long!). The week was a lot of fun; I got to play with some old friends and makes some new ones. The conductor/pianist was absolutely delightful and it was nothing but fantastic to work with him. Although by the last performance I had started getting bored of watching the same show over and over again, the music was challenging enough to keep me occupied. For a week’s worth of rehearsals, I’d have to say the performances went quite well.

Props to all the cast and crew that were involved in the production, and hats off to the members of the pit orchestra, who never get enough attention for what they do in theater. 

Choir Piece

For some strange reason, it feels as if I’ve put in a tremendous amount of effort into this one piece, almost enough to say that this was my most laborious achievement. But that’s not exactly true, I’ve certainly spent more time on some of my other band pieces, and this piece wasn’t even the most challenging one to write. Perhaps it’s the fact that I learned a tremendous amount while writing this piece, or maybe it’s the fact that this piece went through massive revisions, the likes of which I had never previously taken the time to complete. It could even be the fact that I worked on it almost weekly with my composition teacher, giving me a regular checkpoint so that I would never quite feel too far detached from the piece. It’s most likely all of those things combined.

That said, the piece is now done and ready for performance. Considering that this is the second choir piece I have ever written, this is in no way a masterpiece. However, I do believe that it is a beautiful piece of music with some great sonorities. My main inspiration was Eric Whitacre’s Sleep. Just like Sleep, the piece is not rhythmically complex, but rather aims to amaze with its chords. The interplay of dissonance and consonance makes or breaks these types of pieces.

Now the challenge is finding singers who can perform the work. I could wait until school comes around and ask the choir to perform it, but I’m quite impatient and also a little hesitant to ask the choir, for various reasons. Another option is to find some singer friends and ask for their help, but I would need at least two singers for each voice part, and that may be a difficulty.

More to come on the status of the performance and the details of the piece.

SoundCloud

I’ve previously uploaded all my own music to YouTube, but it seems more and more people are using SoundCloud. I’ve used the service to listen to my friends’ original music, and I’m liking it more and more. Perhaps I’ll start to use SoundCloud for my own music as well. Thoughts?

New Speakers

I got some new speakers. Yes I did. They used to be a home theater system for our neighbors, but they were moving and they decided to give these to me. How cool! It’s really, really nice having an actual subwoofer. As soon as I lugged the equipment home, I hooked them up to the amp and turned on a song by my friends’ brass band that started with the sousaphone. It was fantastic; I could hear him so much more clearly.

I’m hoping that these new speakers will make my home studio experience much more enjoyable.

Oh, and I also got a harmonica. That’s pretty cool too (I’ve always wanted one).

Quality Work

I just spent the past hour and a half working on… what, four measures? Five, if you count the unfinished cadence? Sometimes there’s just so much music you want to pack into such little space.

Hopefully, with all this work that I’m putting into re-working a large portion of my choir piece, it’ll turn out to be a good one.

B♭ Is the Key to Jam

Old friends, new friends, and best friends. Oh, and the oxford comma, too.

Yesterday night, my buddy and I were visited by an old friend who had moved out of town way back in 6th grade. He brought along a friend of his own, and the four of us, all being musicians, immediately started playing some tunes. Drums, keyboard, sax, and guitar: we had quite a bit of fun rocking out to Chameleon (hence the title of this post), Viva la Vida, and more. We got to know each other better through talking about our own high school, especially the bands, and shared a few funk/jazz tunes that we loved.

After the jam session, we walked outside and made a nice little campfire and had a good chat. The night was great: a lot of fun and a lot of music. Seeing an old friend is always good, and making new ones is always exciting, but doing both at the same time with your best buddy, through music, is… well, it couldn’t get much better than that.

Website

I’ve spent many hours during the past few days building a website for our school’s concert band. My friend and I have done everything from buying a domain and hosting the files to installing wordpress and tinkering with the theme. Now all that awaits the website is actual content. Hopefully as we near the start of the school year we’ll have more information to put up on the website.

Oh, and I should probably mention it: I’m the co-president of our school band for my Senior year. And at this point I guess I could call myself the webmaster as well.

Summer

Yay! Summer vacation is just around the corner. School is officially over and my exams are almost all finished. This could only mean one thing: more time for composing.

With a newly acquired drum set for the summer, I’ll be trying out new musical things that I never thought I would. Hopefully some of the things I learn will be of use sometime in my future.

And with that, back to re-voicing my choir piece.

The End Is Where We Start From

For many people out there, retirement means being old, tired, and at the end of “a good run.” It means that the passion and effort for the job has been replaced by lethargic disinterest. I certainly thought this was the case for all retiring staff… until this past month.

After learning that our orchestra director would be retiring at the end of the year, I was at first more surprised than anything else. I had only known him for three years, and he always seemed to be such a lively and passionate man. Why would he be retiring? Is he getting tired of the job? So I took time during my school day to go to his office and have a chat with him. I’m very glad that I did.
He told me about his life, and the life of his son. He told me about how and why he had taken this job, and what the orchestra meant to him. He told me about how he feels about leaving, and most importantly, he told me the reason why he chose to leave.
The reason was unexpected, but strangely understandable, in the same way that breakups are sometimes unexpected yet understandable. And it did not have anything to do with being tired of his job, getting too old, or even losing passion. In fact, his attitude towards the orchestra is still the same smiling face, exuding friendliness and love for all his students. Every rehearsal since the announcement of his retirement has been merit to his continuing, unfaltering dedication. The reason for his retirement, in fact, did not have anything to do with his job as the director of our orchestra. He simply wanted to try something new in his life.
Remarkably, he has no idea what he will end up doing. He simply knows that he wants to pursue something new, whether it be music arrangement or computer science. I can’t imagine how it feels to be so free, to be able to follow whatever paths life gives you, without fear or unhealthy attachment. There is, of course, difficulty for him in leaving this orchestra that he loves so much. You couldn’t sit through a rehearsal without him not only telling us, but showing us how much he loves us. It must have been immensely difficult, to wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to be leaving this orchestra.” But I admire him more for his willingness to take another step in a new direction, no matter how foggy or cloudy that new road may be.
Which brings me to the events of tonight: our very last concert with our director, riddled by speeches recognizing him and his work. Between the Duke Elington Medley, Copland, and Dvořák, students and staff made time to thank him for the legacy that he will be leaving. And while many will walk away, so gently humming the melody of Nimrod, from his final performance of the orchestra, I will savor the memory as the night that began a new chapter in his life.
To our amazing director and the orchestra, I leave you with these words from T. S. Eliot: “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”