Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Commission!

I'm very proud to announce that I'm working on a new commission!  Every once in a while, someone contacts me and asks me to write something special for them.  In this case, that someone is the Charlotte, North Carolina chapter of the MENC (Music Educators' National Conference). They've asked me to write the sight-reading selections for their Spring Contest!

I get quite a few international visitors, so I'll explain: Here in the States, many school orchestras participate in  "contest" in the Spring, where they perform a short program and get criticism from a panel of judges. The judges then award ratings and it's a source of pride (and stress) for many music programs.  Along with prepared selections, orchestras are also judged on their ability to read a short selection of never-before-seen music.  That's where I come in.

The Charlotte MENC has asked me to write a short piece for each of four ability levels. They even provided a list of what keys, meters, rhythms, bowings, articulations, and techniques that each level of orchestra should be able to sight-read.

Obviously, I can't give any specific details here about how my pieces will look or sound, but I can reveal that they're all around 30 measures.  I'm sure judges get bored hearing the same pieces over and over all day long, so I want to make them all as different as possible.

I really can't sell 30-measure pieces for publication, and because they are all written for different ability levels, they won't hang together as a suite.  So the plan is to take each one later, spin them into full-scale pieces and submit them to my publisher.

This is turning out to be a really fun project!  I've already finished the Grade I and II pieces, I'm about halfway done with the Grade III piece, and I hope to finish Grade IV by the end of the year.  Then I'll submit them to my contact in Charlotte and we'll work together to make adjustments and corrections so they comply with the criteria in each grade level.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Online Concert

I thought I'd program a short online concert of some of my more popular selections today. 

Up first is the Cleveland School of Arts Orchestra performing Gauntlet.  They do a lot of tuning and warming up (and it certainly pays off), but if you're interested in getting to the good stuff, skip ahead to the 1:45 mark.

 Nice job! I especially like what they did with the "hard part" (mm. 56 - 80).

Up next is the Shaw Middle School Orchestra performing Zydeco Two-Step:

Excellent!  The keyboard player did a great job.

Our final group is the Traverse City Symphony Strings - a civic orchestra - performing the heck out of Agincourt.

"Out of This World" is certainly an apt description of this group!  They're a small ensemble, but they play with all the ferocity and musicianship of a group three times their size.  I was also blown away by the production of this video - the multiple angles and great editing do the ensemble justice.  Here's my favorite shot:

"Energy" at the end! A well-marked part is a joy for a composer to see.