Thursday, September 19, 2013

Graduate School

   So its been a while, but I'm as you can probably guess from the picture, I selected CSU Fullerton for graduate studies in Choral Conducting. So I've picked up my life and moved all the way down to Southern California.

   So far there has been some shaky moments in both living and studying in Southern California, but the positives completely outweigh everything.

   I'm intimidated and look up to the rest of my colleagues who are in the choral graduate studies... all who seem to be stronger, faster, and more experienced in the field that I am. The situation is similar to my transfer to Sac State when I was able to enter the composition program - I had people to look up to and aim to keep up with. I'm frequently frustrated with my own development sometimes since it is difficult to remember that everyone is at a different point in their progress. So for now, I need to be patient and just work as hard as I can.

   This semester, I've been assigned to the Women's Chorus and I'm excited because it is all brand new material I will be learning. However, because I only had the privilege of teaching one on one, I'm incredibly lacking in a classroom setting. The experience is not nearly as intimidating as standing in front of an orchestra for the first time, but I don't exhibit much confidence or comfort. I think this will just take time. So far the group has been kind as I learn and adapt on the spot to help them get the music.

   I am in the University Singers at Fullerton and its proving to be very rewarding musically. The ensemble is easily one of the strongest (in terms of quality of voices and musicianship) I've had the pleasure of working with. SFSU's choral experience definitely prepared me for the environment in this group. This semester will also have the most music I think I have ever had to chew through.

   I'm in the process of ensemble to conduct to apply what I'm learning at school... but so far the church jobs I have applied for have been dead ends. I'm going to need this experience to help me move forward faster. Thankfully, I will be conducting a full concert of the Women's choir next semester, but I still want something to fill in the gap between now and then and beyond.

   As far as jobs, lots of people are looking for singers, but I'm still trying to find a conducting gig. It looks like I will soon become a Music Public Relations Student Assistant at school thanks to my teachers looking out for me. I've also been offered a gig to sing, but school prevents me from being able to secure that income.

   I've been trying to do some composition on the side, but I think after my performance in conducting seminar last week, I can't afford to spend time on things that are not contributing to my development as a conductor. So starting today, I'm hanging up my studies and work on composition till later.

   These may all sound negative in some way shape or form, but the environment is supportive and there is a lot of learning and growing for me. I'll see you guys on the other side and I'll post when I can.


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Friday, March 22, 2013


   So I thought I would give an update as to what I'm doing:

   - Currently singing again with the West Valley College Chamber Singers under the direction of Lou De La Rosa. I re-established my tenure and position as the bass section leader. Singing Bruckner's Te Deum this weekend with the Chamber Singers, WVC College Chorale, and the Winchester Orchestra.

   - Currently singing with the West Valley College Vocal Jazz ensemble under the direction of Michelle Hawkins. I'm singing as their bass. Quite a learning experience learning how to walk bass and supporting chords that I've never had as much exposure to. Singing with a mic is also an art that I haven't quite got down - it comes with its own set of frustrations and my own misunderstandings. Singing in a few competitions coming up in April so we'll see how we do.

   - Teaching a seminar at West Valley on Thursdays which I hope to use as study for music history and general knowledge of classical repertoire. I've done a general survey of Russian music and I'm working on a general history of vocal music. I have the most students in those seminars that I have ever had in previous semesters.

   - Graduate school:

  • I didn't get in for graduate studies for composition with University of  Southern California (USC). 
  • I got an audition with San Francisco Music Conservatory for graduate studies for composition and I was just informed that I was accepted into Elinor Armer's studio for studies in composition. I'm waiting to hear back from financial aid to figure out how much monetary assistance I have earned. 
  • I also applied to California State University Sacramento (CSUS) and San Jose State University (SJSU) for graduate studies in orchestral conducting with Leo Eylar and Michael DiGiancinto respectively. 
    • Gus Kambitez was gracious enough to allow me to conduct Chesnokov's Salvation is Created with the WVC Symphonic Band for my video audition
  • I was also convinced very recently to throw and application for graduate studies in choral conducting with Dr. Robert Istad and Dr. Christopher Peterson at California State University Fullerton (CSUF). I've been accepted for an audition and I'll be traveling Fullerton next week for that. 
    • Lou has been extremely supportive in allowing me to conduct Spencer's At the Round Earth's Imagined Corners with the WVC Chamber Singers for my video audition. Furthermore, he has allowed me some time to iron out what I'm working on for my audition at CSUF. 
   Very stressful in preparation, but very exciting that there are definite possibilities of establishing what I will be doing for the next two years.

   - Not tutoring as much music theory as I was last semester - mostly due to the fact my hours at work have changed.

   - Mostly finished with my work on the movie. Some occasional cues come in, but it is mostly a done work from my end.

Friday, February 8, 2013

How to Write Music - My Recommendations

   How to write music? - well isn't this an ambiguous question... How did I get to the point where I stand now? If musicians practice on their instrument to get better, what do composer practice to get better?

   The answer is not simple by any means. There is no pedagogy which accurately describes the process of appropriately developing the skills of a composer... and in many ways, I'm thankful there are not otherwise every composer's musical upbringing would potentially be similar and  I think as composers we strive for individuality through our own music. So what do composers need to do in order to develop our own skill sets.

  • Just write - write anything
    • Don't worry about trying to make the music sound good because not all music that is create is supposed to please the ear (i.e. atonal music). Some music has the purpose of trying a new concept - "I really want to write a piece exploring chromatic mediants" "I need to work on my melody writing" "I need to learn how to write for violin" "I want to write a piece in rondo form." My point is that some pieces are merely stepping stones in learning how to do a particular things better. As long as the piece achieves the purpose for which it is being written, then its a good piece.
  • Make realistic goals in writing
    • Richard Strauss made a point to write music every day, whether he felt like it or not. I'm not saying you have to do what Strauss did, but set realistic goals for composing (i.e. I will write 1 minute of music every week). If you make set a goal that you achieve every single time you can begin to push your limits further as you learn how your own writing process works - but you have to compose music consistently in order to send those gears in motion.
  • Listen to music
    • Listen to any kind of music. As a classical composer, I try to make a point to study and listen new piece of music that I have never heard each week. You never know what may set the gears in motion for inspiration so I also listen to a lot of things that I wouldn't normally listen to - heavy metal, hip hop, jazz, world/folk music, etc. For those of you interested in my process for listening to classical music with scores, click here.
  • Know the people who came before you
    • Study the greats in relation to your current projects. If you are writing for violin, you should go and listen to the major repertoire for violin. If you plan on writing a symphony, I would hope you would have at least gone through the composers apart of the German symphonic tradition. If you plan to write for brass quintet, you should listen to their repertoire. On top of understanding the pieces, understand the composer who wrote them and what was happening in the world at the time. In many cases, the composer's life and the world events that happened around them have some heavy bearing as to how the construct their music.
  • Understand the instrument(s) you are writing for
    • Get an orchestration book and read about the instrument(s) you will be working with. If you are studying music in an academic environment, see about going to a lesson of someone who plays the instrument you are writing for to learn more about the mechanics for that instrument. It may also be good to understand the skill level of the player who is going to playing the music you write (more for if you are in an academic setting) to ensure that what you write will be able to be performed and rehearsed by them.
  • Exercise your piano skills
    • Not all composers are avid pianists. Richard Wagner was a horrible pianist, but has written some of the most heartfelt music in his output. Hector Berlioz also didn't play much piano - favoring using his guitar to come up with his music. However, it is generally accepted that piano is one of the best medians for a composer to explore music on. So get cracking on the piano.
These are merely general guidelines and my general opinions, but I found these are the guidelines I would provide to a student of mine who is interested in writing music.


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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Stillman & Debussy - Syrinx Journey

   So I came across this project when reading through a recent blog post by music critic, Alex Ross. The project is the "Syrinx Journey" and is being done by concert flutist, Mimi Stillman (pictured to the left. Stillman's website is also located here).

   The project started in Aug. 22, 2012 on Debussy's 150th birthday. I would write out the description and details to Stillman's project, but I think it is best described in the first video she posted on youtube which initiated the process:

Today, August 22, 2012, is the 150th birthday of Claude Debussy (1862-1918) - creator of masterpieces, innovator of a unique musical voice, and an inspiration for generations of artists who followed him. Debussy's music has always held a significant place in my life. As a flutist, I cherish his solo, chamber, and orchestral contributions to my repertoire. I arranged several of his songs for flute and piano in a book published by Theodore Presser, "Nuits d'étoiles: 8 Early Songs Arranged for Flute and Piano." As a historian, I have studied and researched Debussy's life and work, having written my Master's thesis and several articles about him. As Artistic Director of Dolce Suono Ensemble, I am pleased to be devoting our 2012-2013 season to the theme "Debussy in Our Midst: A Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Claude Debussy."

I also have the desire to honor Debussy's birthday year in a very personal way, with my project "Syrinx Journey." I will make a video recording of his "Syrinx for Solo Flute" every day for one year, starting today on his birthday. "Syrinx" is one of the most important works ever written for solo flute. Composed in 1913 as instrumental music for Gabriel Mourey's play "Psyché," this 2 1/2 minute jewel highlights Debussy's ability to create a universe of moods and timbres in microcosm, to invoke the soul of the instrument for which he writes, and to spark the imaginations of performers and listeners alike. Originally titled "La Flûte de Pan," the work was performed from the wings during Pan's death scene, giving rise to the current performance practice of performing Syrinx in a darkened room. The eminent flutist Louis Fleury gave the premiere performances and subsequently included the piece in his recitals.

I am challenging myself to delve deeply into "Syrinx" through my commitment to daily performances for a whole year. I am sure that the piece will take on new meanings for me every day as I experience it in a range of venues from traditional concert halls to natural settings

  I'm slowly listening to catch up to her 165th day of posting a video. Some of the locations she has played piece certainly change the way you listen or view the piece. I'd compare the experience similar to that of going through the series of paintings in "Haystacks" by Claude Monet.

   For those who may be interested in viewing Stillman's project, the youtube channel with all of the current videos can be found here. Here is the day one video where the description I stole comes from. She first performs in a Roman theatr in Israel.

   Happy listening!

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Movie I'm Working on...

   I've been given the go ahead to publicize the movie that I am working on as orchestrator and copyist. The title of the movie is Contest. The movie is due to come out in summer of this year. The theme of the movie essentially tackles the topic of bullying.

   Links and trailer are provided below for your reading.

IMDB Link 

Hollywood Reporter Link Link

Contest the Movie Facebook Page

- JP

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