Monday, August 22, 2011

Why I'm making such a fuss about this.

A little background and why this project is so important for me. 

I grew up in an incredibly small town in upstate NY.  I was extremely into playing the trumpet and piano.  Because it was such small town, there was not much opportunity to be in bands and projects outside of school.  From there I went to Bard College in 1999.

At Bard I met a teacher named Erica Lindsay - an incredible saxophonist/composer who became my mentor, teacher, and friend.  Under her direction I started to compose.  I had also studied a bit with Joan Tower a very famous contemporary composer, but she criticized my rhythm, and I wasn’t fitting into the parameters of that world.  With Erica I felt free to explore different kinds of composition, but she would always pull me back when something just wasn’t working. 

In 2003, for my senior concert I dove full force into jazz composition to write 13 pieces for different sized ensembles: big band, duos, octets, string groups, and others.  It was extremely satisfying and quite a production.  I left Bard with goals of continuing to compose. 

I moved to Seattle later that same year after meeting musicians out here that I immediately clicked with.  Six months after coming here I joined Reptet.  Reptet went through multiple configurations of instrumentation, but in a few years it became set as four horns, bass, and drums. 

Reptet has been a dream for me as a composer because I am able to try compositional ideas out on these five incredible musicians who have come to know my music.  We spend hours working things out, coming up with drum parts, changing solo sections, etc.  We also tour around the country bringing the music to venues ranging from rock clubs to kindergartens.

Since moving to Seattle I have also been incredibly busy playing and writing horn lines (with woodwind player Izaak Mills) in Picoso (original salsa music) and Publish The Quest (original world-pop music).  I have also played with a multitude of other bands including; Balkan brass bands (Orkestra Zirkonium), reggae bands, jazz big bands, free jazz, klezmer, indie rock, funk, etc.  There is an incredible wealth of music being made in this city.  The Gemini in me has been inclined to take any gig offered that I could do.

This B'shnorkestra is a huge step for me.  After my senior year in college I knew it would be a long time before I had the courage or strength to create a big event based around my compositions.  But ultimately I find myself the most satisfied if I am able to write a lot.  The only way to do that is to have a group that is solely yours - then there are no parameters to the amount of material you can bring in. 

I have always dreamed of writing for strings.  Considering I’ve spent eight years and counting focusing on horns and rhythm section, an orchestral ensemble felt like an exciting contrast yet similar choice.  In many ways the writing for The B’shnorkestra has really felt like an extension of what I’ve done with Reptet because it’s still using multiple voices to outline chords, rather then a chordal instrument (ie: piano or guitar).

The B’shnorkestra also developed naturally because I met two fantastic string players that became close friends and working partners: Paris Hurley and Jherek Bischoff.  There were many other people too that I really wanted to hear play my music, drawing them together from different music worlds. 

I don’t think people know how frustrating the process of creating a group can be, mostly due to the fact that it is very hard to nail down good musicians to rehearse and perform your music.  That’s just a fact.  Eight years after moving here I felt like I could do it.  I knew a lot of awesome musicians that I knew would want to work with me.  I then set about applying for funding.  I have been incredibly lucky to have received three grants so far for this project.  Meet The composer, 4culture, and Seattle Mayor’s office of Arts and Cultural Affairs have made this dream possible.   

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