I had a very busy week in the Champaign-Urbana region! Here’s what I was up to:
Nov. 14 & 15: Illinois State University
I had a wonderful two-day residence at Illinois State University. Activities included three workshops (one for freshman music majors, another for a music business class, and a third on my own music), four 1-on-1 composition lessons with ISU’s graduate students, and a two-hour master class with ISU’s saxophone studio.
For the saxophone studio master class (pictured below), Dr. Paul Nolen, the saxophone professor, came up with a fantastic idea: he and three students divided up the movements of my Pieces of Sanity, so that each movement was performed by a different saxophonist (one student played two movements). This allowed me to work with more of the students and provide feedback on their performing. Lu Witzig served as our intrepid pianist for the whole piece. Everyone was very prepared and played their hearts out; we had a wonderful session!
Nov. 16: University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana
Last month, I spent a day at the university in which I taught two composition lessons and gave a seminar for composition majors that covered both the basics of the business of music for composers, as well as my own music. This time, I worked with Dr. Debra Richtmeyer’s saxophone studio. One of her student groups, the Anabru Saxophone Quartet (notice how the first word is “Urbana” spelled backwards!), performed the 2nd movement of my Flight of Icarus. The Quartet performed this dissonant movement with great gusto, and we had a very productive session in fine-tuning various spots. Then, I answered a few questions that the saxophonists had emailed me in advance (see my previous blog for what questions were asked). It was a fantastic experience!
After a quick lunch at the Espresso Royale next to the Music School, I taught two composition lessons. In one lesson, the undergraduate student brought in an opera she’s working on; in the other, the doctoral student and I spent the majority of the time discussing steps to take before and after graduating from college.
Nov. 17: Champaign Central High School
What do you do when you have 170 marching band students for one hour? You help them learn the basics of composing and then make music! We started by making a list of musical parameters on the board, taking inspiration from some of the pieces they’re currently playing (hat tip to Holst’s The Planets). Then we tried drawing some simple shapes a piece of music can take and applying some musical parameters to the shapes. Everyone took part in bringing our short pieces to life with lots of singing, shouting, whooping, and hollering. I ended the session by playing the wind ensemble version of my Pandora Undone, which we then analyzed together.
I’ll be back in February 2018 to work alongside CUSO brass players, who will be performing movements of my Legends of Olympus at Urbana Middle School, Westview Elementary School, and Stratton Elementary School. I’ll also be meeting with people about programs we’ll be running in the next year of my residence. Until then, happy holidays, everyone!