For those of you who are attending school, or teaching, I hope you are having a nice summer break/nice time with summer classes… As for everyone else, I hope you are all well.

Well, ladies and gentleman, as of last month, I have graduated from Michigan State University with a master’s degree in Music Composition. It has truly been an honor that my six years in college were all well spent with some of the finest musicians one could find as well as the many opportunities and memories.

During my second year as a graduate student, I was able to première three new compositions: Piano, Test Drive, and Dialectics. Piano was the first song cycle I’ve composed using the text from Floyd Skloot, Patrick Phillips, and Dick Allen. Sung by Peter Boylan, under the direction of Philip Obado. Test Drive was the piece that won the Honors Competition during the spring semester of 2012, which had its premiere last February. Performed by Musique 21 also under the direction of Philip Obado. Last but certainly not least was Dialectics, an unaccompanied bassoon solo which was written in collaboration with Genevieve Beaulieu as part of MUS 881: Composition Seminar Symbiosis. All three compositions were performed at a level that I have not seen before in my work which I appreciate! Through every premiere/performance/collaboration, I not only learn a lot from what works and what does not work in my music, but I learn even more about my musicians/friends when working on the material. Though the following piece is not a première, The Two Siblings is the first original composition that had its first performance outside of MSU. It was performed at my brother’s saxophone recital in Stamps Auditorium at the University of Michigan campus. Please do not judge, for those of you who are from MSU and Ohio State.

I also had the opportunity to complete and defend my thesis Life Circle. Although I am thrilled with the overall result of the final product, the process was quite frustrating; more so than Fantonium and the Saxophone Concerto. Being that this post only pertains to a “brief” summary, I will only mention a concise statement of the process. This was the first composition that involved not only a real event, but also an event that was a huge contribution to my memories from the past. I will eventually write a post on Life Circle.

As for festivals, I was accepted to soundSCAPE, in Maccagno, Italy. As for the rest of the festivals, I was placed on the waiting list for the second consecutive year for Brevard, and I was denied by FUBIS, June in Buffalo, and Nebraska.

So now that I have graduated from college and I’m not going straight into doctoral school, what’s next?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not an easy one to explain. I am now in the process of applying for many jobs ranging from teaching at a community college, to possibly working with a large music publishing company as a music engraver/producer. I have not heard from anyone yet, but then again, something will come up. I am also more than willing to learn more skills as well.

I am also trying to form a new music ensemble as a way to not only give myself in outlet of my music but an extra opportunity for composers, conductors, and performers to work on something like Musique 21, Neo-Collective, or Alarm Will Sound. The current name of the proposed ensemble is After the Beep, taken from “Please leave a message after the beep…BEEP!!”

This is it for now. As I mentioned earlier, I will talk about Life Circle in the next post as well as my new projects: particularly Elements for clarinet (Sarah Manasreh) and percussion (Kelsey Tamayo).

As we are closing 2012 behind us, I wanted to take a moment to recap the year 2012 with the good and the bad.

Like 2011, 2012 was also quite an interesting year. Here are a few moments that happened to me this year:

  • Won the Michigan State University Honors Competition with Test Drive (Chamber Ensemble Category).
  • Was placed on the waiting list for the Brevard music festival.
  • Premiered “The Two Siblings” with my brother Eddie. 4/17/2012
  • Began working on my thesis “Life Circle” for orchestra during the summer break.
  • Earned an assistant ship in the Music Theory Department as a staff member of the Theory Tutoring Center.
  • Two of my students received division one ratings at Solo and Ensemble. Current record is 4-0-0 (Division 1 ratings – Division 2 ratings – Other ratings).
  • Premiered “Piano” Song cycle for baritone voice and Pierrot Ensemble 11/7/2012.
  • Commissioned to compose two works; one for brass choir and the other for tuba and boom whacker ensemble.

In general, 2012 was a great year for me. Since this is the second time that I have written a recap on the year, I thought it would be interesting to compare my goals for 2012 with my 2012 recap. Here are the goals that did NOT happen this year:

  • Get accepted into the Nebraska Institute of Music for this summer. Result – denied.
  • Have a few pieces performed out-of-state.

Not bad really. So for 2013, I will keep pushing myself while maintaining my ambitiousness, determination, and motivation. Here are my goals:

  • Finish Life Circle before mid-March
  • Have a college/professional orchestra perform Life Circle.
  • Have Test Drive performed by Musique 21 (not really a goal since it will be performed).
  • Have a piece performed outside of Michigan State.
  • Get accepted to at least one summer institution.
  • Get a piece in a SCI conference/any conference.
  • Write a piece for Brass Band.
  • …and look for many opportunities that I can.
  • OH! and post more often!

These goals may not be as easy as I wrote them, but I am more than willing to work towards those goals. Here’s to 2013.

It has been awhile since I made my last post, though I need to start writing on here more often; like once a week.

Let me begin this post by saying congratulations to my friends who have been able to find jobs in music! In my opinion, music is a difficult area to find a great job especially in Michigan. (Then again, I have no idea how the music job market in Michigan is). For those of you who have not landed a job yet, I am sure you’ll find a job soon, and hopefully it will be a big job!

Now, this school year is a huge year for me. Two years ago, I mentioned how my senior year was the big year. Well, this school year is much bigger than 2010-2011 for many reasons. I will be a G.A. for the first time ever working in the Theory Tutoring Center, I have a composition that will be performed by Kevin Noe or Kevin Sedatole and Musique 21 on February 27th at 7:30pm in the RCAH Theatre, I will apply to numerous summer institutions (not DMA schools), I will be working on a thesis for full orchestra that will also be a competitor for the MSU Honors Competition, reading sessions, and hopefully look for internships in music publishing.

So essentially, this year is more of a “make it or break it”, because I want to make a great impression to those who I’m working for.

Some of you are wondering “Why is Michael not applying to D.M.A. schools for the 2013-2014 school year?” The truth is that I honestly do not feel confident with my portfolio. By taking one year off from school, I will have more time polishing up my portfolio, I will be able to add more to my portfolio, and I want to get into the best DMA school as possible. In addition, it be a neat experience to work at a music publishing company during the year, since I tend to be paranoid when it comes to formatting music. Sometimes, when I’m score studying a piece that was written 5-10 years ago by John Corigliano, Steven Bryant, or Michael Tillson Thomas, I leave the score wondering, “Why in the world would you do that to a dynamic, or a measure, or etc.?”

So far, this summer has been quite relaxing, and enjoyable…for the most part.

About a month ago in my hometown; Mason, MI, the music program in the middle school and high school have once again been placed on the list of things that will be cut by the so-called Board of Education. To say the least, Mason’s band program is still active, despite the changes that the Board has made (I can not go into any further detail on this subject since this is all I know).

You’re probably asking yourselves, “How does that relate to the subject of this blog?” Before I answer that question directly to you, let me talk about a very interesting and motivating interview that has helped me think of how to reach opportunities as well as landing on your dream job.

Recently, I have listened to a few interviews conducted by Sirius Radio’s shock jock Howard Stern. Despite being notorious for being outspoken, controversial, and uncensored material, Stern’s interviews with many of the celebrities are priceless; they’re extremely informative. One interview in particular completely changed my view on jobs and one person: Lady Gaga (of all the people right?). From the 75 minute interview, the most interesting section was when Gaga explains the struggles and hardship she went through to go from Stephanie to Gaga. They relate to some of our struggles and hardships, though none of my music education graduate friends never dropped out of college, haha. For instance: Gaga attended Tisch of the Arts in NYU for one semester studying musical theatre, dropped out due to the “biased education” she was receiving, she moves into an apartment in NY, worked as a waitress and as an employee at a music publisher company, none of her parents helped her with money, and Gaga was on drugs. It wasn’t until one year later, Gaga was able to get a contract deal from Def Jam.

Stern later asked her what advice would you give to an artist who’s great but struggling to get to the top. The concise answer from Gaga: RISK. That’s the answer.

In order to be successful in music, business, show business, math, science, teaching, in general, you need to take risks to stand out from the rest of the crowd. If you’re too preserved and have a résumé that is typical for a recent graduate, then chances are, it’ll be harder for you to find the right job. If you are outgoing, versatile, a leader, and confident, along with an experienced resume that could wow the employer, then your chances of getting a job are higher than the average Joe. I’m not trying to scare you about job hunting: it’s a fact. I take risk all the time, since my degree, music composition, is a competitive degree to find a job since only doctorate graduates and talented master graduates can get, and those jobs are quite limited. Who knows, I could work at a university as a teacher in music composition, but instead I might work for a music publisher like G. Schirmer, or be a manager of a music store, or become a sales representative of a product.

What I’m trying to say, and I bet you have heard of this all the time, is that you need to take risks, patience, work your tail off, and when in doubt, always have a backup plan.

This post is dedicated to my music education friends who graduated from the College of Music at Michigan State University last month. Class of 2012!

Last week, I completed 50% of my journey as a Masters student in Music Composition at Michigan State University. If there is one thing that I have learned from this school year, it’s that a Masters program flies by quickly!

In my previous post, I was under a lot of pressure with deadlines, competitions, and institutes. I am glad to say that I won in the new music category of the MSU Honors Competition! With that said, my piece, Test Drive, will be performed by the new music ensemble, Musique 21 during the following school year. I will keep you posted on the performance soon.

With Brevard, I had no idea where I would land, since of all the institutions in the United States, Brevard is considered as one of the best institutes for composers. I was placed on their waiting list. This is great, since now I’m on their radar…meaning that they’ve noticed my potential and hopefully when next year arrives, I’ll have a better chance of getting accepted.

UNL Chamber Music Institute on the other hand, denied. To be honest, I was quite shocked with the denial, since I was on Brevard’s waiting list, but Nebraska, which is great for chamber music with very good composition (not like Brevard), denied. I guess this could be due to a small number of chamber ensembles that applied to the program. Whatever the reason was, I can’t complain too much with how successful my first year as a Masters student was.

For this summer, I have a lot of projects on my plate. For starters, I’ve been working on a song cycle for baritone voice, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano (similar to the Pierrot Lunaire ensemble “Eighth Blackbird“). Silent Music is comprised of three songs based on poems from three poets: Ana Bozicevic, Patrick Phillips, and Floyd Skloot. I’ve been able to communicate with all three of them and they were thrilled that I was interested in using their work into a song format. Hoping to have this piece finished by the end of the summer.

Then, the big granddaddy of the two: my thesis! Kind of scary really. I’m planning to compose my thesis for full orchestra, and my goal is to complete it by the end of my first semester in order to use this piece for the Honors Competition in the Orchestra division, along with other institutions.

Hopefully, I can give you more updates on the progress of these works as well as giving you some heads-up on what’s going on.

Wow! It has been almost 2 months since I posted a new blog post. I have been very busy for the good and bad.

Since December, I had worked on movements II. and III. in “Test Drive” for the honors competition. The deadline was yesterday (2/15), the same day as the Nebraska deadline. The good news is that I submitted the materials for both events, but at a bitter cost…Two weeks ago, I finished the second movement of Test Drive, however I did not have anything going for the third movement. Normally, I would think “I have two movements down, one more to go” right? WRONG! It turned out that on February 7th, I have a brief outline sketched in pencil and 10 measures that my professor rejected during my lesson. To top it off, I had 8 days until the deadline!!

This was scary because I was very busy with Wind Symphony, which is going through a hectic schedule this month, along with other projects for school. Between the 7th and the 15th, I had lost sleep for four days, composed all day for the week while barely working on homework (and forgetting to assign new etudes to my students) and I injured my right elbow from falling on the sidewalk arm/knee first on the day BEFORE the deadline! Luckily, I was able to turn in my materials for the MSU competition early this morning.

So after the intense week and a half, I am quite tired, though I have one more application to send: Brevard.

My goal for my Masters degree is to build my résumé as strong as possible to study at a high-caliber college for my D.M.A. that is similar or better to MSU, but with a better composition studio to find a promising job (not that I’m saying MSU is bad, but I have been here for five years going on six. No need to stay for an extra three-four years).

By applying to Brevard (and hopefully get accepted to Brevard), I will have the opportunity to make my résumé stronger than ever imagined, as I will learn to write five big projects per week, have my pieces performed AND recorded, and study from a superior level of composers (one of whom won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Composition on the American Opera “Elmer Gantry” this year)! I know that Brevard is quite competitive when it comes to applications, however I am willing to work and edit as much as possible to make this goal a possibility.

The best case scenario would be to win the competition and get accepted to both Nebraska and Brevard. If one of these does not happen, then I will still be happy with whatever the outcomes turns out.

So far, I’m having a relaxing but amazing birthday today; cruising on my new Macbook Pro that I got 2 days ago. (side note: I just want to say that Macs are THE computer to go to…especially if you are looking into a career that involves media!)

2011 was a very interesting year for me. To keep this part of the post concise, I will only point out a few moments that happened to me this year.

  • Accepted to Michigan State and Ohio State for masters in music comp.; enrolled at MSU.
  • Runner-up in the MSU Composition Honors Competition.
  • The première of the Saxophone Concerto which people/critics show that the Concerto is “the best piece written since Fantonium (2009)” and “the piece that raised the bar in the MSU comp. studio throughout” (quotation references are not mentioned from me unless you ask).
  • First performance of a transcription performed by the Jackson Symphony Orchestra (Jackson, MI).
  • Premiere of Concert Etudes I 11/1/2011
  • Premiere of Four Days: I. Andante for tuba/euph trio arrangement. 11/16/2011
  • Test Drive was born.
  • Currently managing my tuba/euph studio.

…maybe that was more than a few moments, but as you can see, this was a great year for me. For 2012, I will push myself like I never have before and will attempt to meet high goals. My composition goals for 2012 are as follows:

  • Win the MSU Honors Composition Competition (chamber ensemble).
  • Get accepted into the Nebraska Institute of Music for this summer.
  • Perform “The Two Siblings”, “Test Drive”, and others TBA.
  • Compose for voice.
  • Have a few pieces performed out-of-state.
  • Have many of my pieces re-recorded for doctoral programs.
  • Begin my thesis which is now TBA.
  • Have a composition student.

Although many of these goals are not easy, I am more than willing to strive for perfection and reach these goals with no fear. I’m ready, 2012. Are you?


Hi everyone,

Two weeks after the premiere of Concert Etudes I, the piece is now on youtube. Please note that movements I, III, and VI, were performed due to the timing of the recital. I hope to have this piece performed in it entirety very soon.

For now, enjoy!!

Last semester, spring of 2011, I competed in Michigan State’s Composition Competition. The judge for this competition was none other than David Maslanka. We received an email of Maslanka’s comment about our pieces, and one of the comments that he said to all of us was the following: “I want to say to take everybody’s computer away and make them write by hand. [In other words], Learn to hear internally and at the piano without [the] benefit of computer playback” – Maslanka, email.

I did not actually experiment with this method until two months ago when I began writing the third movement of The Two Siblings (sax/euph duet). At first I thought, “This is taking forever!” But shortly, I realized that this was easier for me to compose than using Finale from start to finish. Before I go on, I’m not here to say those who exclusively compose by Finale or Sibelius are wrong, but I’m comparing the pros and cons between the two methods.

Compose by Finale/Sibelius

One of the benefits of using music notation software are the large assessment of tools that a composer can use. They are quite accessible and easy to use. In addition, they are a great way to make music scores look professional (as long as you know what you are doing). You can also change the size of the paper, score, everything in the music with a couple clicks. In addition, you can erase and edit in a short amount of time (even though it still takes forever to edit). Now for the cons. The main problem with music notation software is the playback. I can imagine that many of you reading this are thinking “But that’s the best part of Finale!! I do not need to play any instruments. I don’t need to listen to a band. I don’t even need to think! I just sit back and enjoy the sweet sounds of video game music right in my ears!!” I can not emphasis this fact any more: the playback will disorient the natural sounds and capabilities of the instrument, therefore the composer will assume that if the particular motive sounds good on the computer, then it will sound amazing in person. In other words, it’s not real! In addition, MIDI playback is absolutely HORRIBLE!! (really!) MIDI, along with other sound libraries, can deceive your ears by making music sound either disturbing, or somewhat decent. The point is that these sound libraries, such as GOP4 and COMB2, try to recreate real sound to help the user on how his/her music will sound in person, yet even if they sound exactly like an authentic Saxophone, it will never match a live instrument. Another problem are the tools used in these programs. I might be contradicting myself here, but the available tools on Finale/Sibelius are amazing: convenient and easy, but it is very easy for someone to get distracted by these tools and not pay attention to the realistic results to the real musicians. That is why so many young composers’ sounds so fragmented. You have so many options to work with, along with playback, that when you hear a motive that sounds so EPIC, you will use that motive REGARDLESS OF WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON IN THE PIECE!

Though I bashed this category quite a bit, I still use Finale, but only when I’m “publishing”/editing my pieces, and/or arranging music.

Compose by Hand (Old School)

There are many benefits to composing by hand. One of them is flexibility. Although you can not control how your staves look, you can add any marking just the way you want it, such as adding aleatoric boxes, customizing time signatures, omitting barlines…anything really! In addition, Sibelius/Finale contain a lot of tools that you can use to write music. One benefit, in my opinion, to composing by hand is the lack of distractions to writing. Finale is amazing in so many levels, but there’s too many options for me to choose, and sometimes they make composing much more complicated than it should. By hand, I can focus a lot more on only the ACTUAL composing part of the process. As far as how to hear your music, you can either play your music on a piano, play it on your instrument (if possible), or you can give it to a musician who would be willing to check your music out. One of the cons for this method is the editing process. Since you write in pencil, you will be erasing literally all the time. In fact, time is a big problem when writing by hand. When comparing finale to hand, it could take about 10 minutes or less to write 10 measures on finale where it could take about 20 minutes, or more to write 10 measures by hand.

I highly recommend writing by hand, however I would also consider using Finale/Sibelius for editing purposes. Everyone has their own preferences about which method is better. The only way to find which method is the right one for you, is to try both methods out.

BTW: the recordings from the Premieres Concert are here, so I will post Concert Etudes I on Youtube tomorrow!

This Tuesday on November 1st is the first Premieres Concert of the 2011-2012 school year! Originally, the first Premieres Concert would have been October 18th, but due to a lack of pieces, the concert was cancelled.

I am very excited for this premieres concert in particular, because this is the first time that my music is in a concert along with six graduate colleagues of mine! In addition, this premieres concert has a variety of chamber ensembles: from a piano solo to a piece that requires 5-10 TVs and DVD players!! I will be premiering Concert Etudes I which I started to write earlier in February. With Sangmi Lim playing my music for the THIRD time (personal record!!), I know that this piece will go well. (side note: I asked Sangmi yesterday to play this piece, because the pianist before had a fever, and still does.)

Unfortunately, since all of the students who operated on the webcast of many premieres concert are not at Michigan State any more, there is not a webcast for this concert (if it does, I’ll let you know), so what I’ll do is that once the CD is complete, I’ll post the piece on Youtube and on this site. For those that live in the Mid-Michigan area, I hope you can attend this concert; it is a concert that you will NOT want to miss! Hart Recital Hall, East Lansing, MI. Michigan State University.