This past school year was a large step forward in many aspects. It was my first year back to school after leaving the cesspool that was my previous choice (see a few posts below), I was diving back into a Performance Masters after taking over eight months off of the horn (yikes!), and I was relocating to eastern New Jersey - just an hour train ride from Manhattan.
BUT two weeks into the year I had to get a wisdom tooth emergency-extracted. "If you don't get it pulled soon the swelling will come out the other side of your face" - Doctor #1. Yikes indeed. So, after yet another week off the horn I was back in action.
Montclair State University's music school is not perfect - no music school is - but the opportunities and faculty here are top-notch and greatly outweigh the downfalls. I owe a lot to my private teacher, Derek Fenstermacher, tubist of the New Jersey Symphony Ochestra (NJSO), whose commitment to his students and the music they're preparing is unparalleled. I've seen him solo at four different performances throughout the year and each one confirms his skill and preparation. With his help I went from barely playing to taking on the Bourgeois Concerto and five other heavy-hitters on my solo recital this March. I even advanced to both the NERTEC Mock Band Audition Finals and the Leonard Falcone International Tuba-Euphonium Festival Euphonium Artist Semi-Finals. The process to becoming the performer l want to be is still ongoing - I look forward to the challenges the summer will bring.
On the composition front my Euphonium Concerto is being recorded by euphonist Aaron K. Campbell on his debut CD For Those That Wander to be released this fall. It'll be the first time my work will be professionally recorded and it's featured on a CD of all-new music for euphonium - a must for any euphonist! Other composers on this CD include James Grant, Mike Forbes, and Tyler Kline. You can find out more about this project here: www.gofundme.com/AKCEuph
But that's not the only composition news - this was a productive school year for me. The first piece I wrote was Where Are You? for Voice and Piano, a glimpse into the life of a lover who knows their partner's love is fading. This was completed in October. Next, in December, was my Concerto for Horn and Orchestra - a massive four-movement work that explores and exploits the horn's most notable repertoire. In February came Hypnos, a piece for multiple woodwind quintet that "wrestles with the unimaginable hopes and horrors of the mind". It takes it's inspiration from the H.P. Lovecraft of the same name and other themes prevalent in his writing. Look for the premiere of this work in Fall 2017. After this I completed the first two movements of my Concerto for Flute and String Orchestra as well as the first two movements of my Suite for Band. The Suite for Band got a preliminary reading a few weeks ago by the wind symphony and I was moved by hearing it live. It was almost a year to the day I had begun writing it and I couldn't be more thankful to its conductor, Dr. Thomas McCauley, and the group. This year also gave me the opportunity to meet guest composers Bruce Yurko, William Bolcolm, and Tom Davoren.
I was also selected as Runner-Up in the Mid-America Freedom Band's Call for Proposals. It was an exciting contest and one that I'll be entering again when it comes around! Yet another advance on the composition front was having four works performed within a week of each other:
1). Nicholas Phillips gave a performance of Constance for Bari Sax and Piano, which he commissioned and premiered in 2014
2). Brian Burwell performed Beacons for Euphonium Quartet on his recital with his group The Quarter Size Tuba Quartet
3). The BBQ Brass Boys (which I play with at MSU) premiered one of my own arrangements on a recital
4). Robby Sparks's film Writer's Block (which I scored in 2015) premiered at yet another film festival - I believe the fourth festival and state to have it shown.
So, all very exciting stuff! If you told me this time last year I'd be where I am now I would have told you you're full of it. I was in-between jobs and doubting the way my life was going. I had just started the Suite for Band and the Flute Concerto and continuing my degree felt impossibly far off. I'm glad to have turned my life back to where it needs to be and to have the family, friends, and instructors supportive of it.
There'll be more to come this summer - stay tuned!