2016 was an unusual year for me. It is strange to think that since 2008, I have had at least one composition premiered and that streak had ended in 2016.

At first, I thought this was a sign of my career starting to fall apart due to my studies as an arts administration major. In some ways, it had been. During most of this year, I have not composed as much as I have wanted to, although it was not because I had lost interest in writing. If anything, my desire to compose grew so much that I wondered why did I really go back to graduate school as something other than a composition student. I felt like an outsider in both worlds of administration and composition.

That was until May when I moved to Chicago, IL to work as an administrative intern for Eighth Blackbird, Third Coast Percussion, and Ensemble Dal Niente (more information on my responsibilities as their intern in this post. During the three months in Chicago, I finished my first composition of 2016, Why is This? for solo violin (will explain the meaning of the piece in another blog post). Shortly after finishing Why is This?, I took a brief break and explored Chicago’s beauty. From the Ravinia Festival to Hyde Park, I was enthralled by everything Chicago had to offer. I was also blown away by some of the greatest performances of new music I had ever witnessed. Not only in performance, but the approach and commitment that was displayed!

One evening, I sat on the edge of the lake fill across the Patrick G. & Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts and I had an epiphany. I realized that my music since 2011 was inspired by a common idea: transitions and connections. With the exception of A Quest for Tuba, all of my music from 2011 were based on events that had happened to me personally: Saxophone Concerto was inspired by my time applying for graduate school, The Two Siblings was somewhat based on my relationship with my brother Edward GoodmanCalm was indirectly based on my struggle handling the end of a seven year relationship (even though the text is supposed to be a parody covering the actual meaning), and now my current project Skyline is based on my experiences in Chicago.

Since then, I believe I have truly found my voice as a composer. I see myself as a composer for the people: a composer who not only composes with artistic merit, but one with the desire to build a “bridge” that connects audiences to art. While I realize many people might have not had the same experiences as me, I believe that to some capacity, they can relate to them from someone else’s perspective for better or for worse.

As I am typing this post, I am glad that it had been difficult for me to compose at the time. If this was not the case, I probably would not have had that epiphany.

May 2017 be in your favor.

As I am sitting in my chilly apartment in Tallahassee, Florida, I ran into an interesting thought. For the first time in three years, I am not applying to music festivals for composition, but instead I am applying for internships. It is a nice change for once to look into a field different from my previous one. Last year was a unique experience for me, because not only I was able to attend two music festivals in June, but the latter created a new interest for me. That interest was to one day establish a new music organization that created new opportunities for composers which currently do not exist. These include jobs, ensembles, performances, performance halls, collaborations, and educational organizations. Essentially a database for composers. This interest was confirmed by the Charlotte New Music Festival.

While the CNMF is fairly young at 5 years, it is a powerful underdog when compared to many music festivals. The festival comprises of three components:

  1. Max/MSP Workshop: Where composers work on their craft on Max/MSP and have the opportunity to perform in a laptop orchestra.
  2. Composers Workshop: The main portion of the festival. Composers will have the opportunity to study under some of the most recognized composers and professional musicians around. These include: Iktus Percussion, Bent Frequency, Joel Hoffman, Paula Matthusen, and Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon. (more information on the guest composers and guest musicians here.)
  3. Dance Co-Lab: Where a select number of composers will have the opportunity to collaborate with a choreographer for two weeks. They will work with Arlynn Zachary, Vincent Thomas (FSU alum. Go Noles!), and many more.

Last summer, I was assigned to collaborate with a small, but spontaneous and fantastic choreographer Breanne Horne. Throughout the festival, we created a six minute piece called Habitual Metamorphosis which was performed by The Great Noise Ensemble and six dancers.

Aside from the Dance Co-Lab, this would sound like an average music festival. Well, allow me to go even further.

Considering that the festival is entering its 5th season, that stat alone is impressive. In addition, this is one of the few music festivals that allows composers to have their music performed by professional musicians (many of the well-known festivals only use student performers.) There is also an opportunity for composers to truly collaborate with others, on and off the rehearsal. Some of the musicians will stay on the same floor with the composers which allows for further collaboration as well as knowing them personally.

The reason why I have dedicated a post about CNMF is because of the overwhelming experience that I had. I also had the chance to learn how difficult it was for artistic director Elizabeth Kowalski to start CNMF in a city that is well known for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Charlotte Bobcats, and the Carolina Panthers. I personally believe that this festival has the potential to become a powerhouse in its own field despite the interest of Charlotte. I am sure many of the CNMF alums can attest to what I have said and perhaps add on to it, so please comment if you have any additional thoughts!

The deadline for the Charlotte New Music Festival is this Friday, so please take the time to look over CNMF and have an experience that you will remember.

Composer Workshop and Dance Co-Lab Link!

Max/MSP Workshop Link!

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a great summer break.

I will say very quickly that my trip in Milna, Croatia was an amazing experience! From meeting composers with the same interest as me who are also quite talented, to exploring many parts of Brac was truly something that motivated me for the first time since last year. I would love to fly back there, but for now, we need to move on. I will talk more about Croatia later… but first check this out!

Recently, I formed a new music ensemble called Unanimous. Unanimous is a student/alumnus run organization that will spread the awareness of new music by known and emerging composers to the Lansing area and beyond. Although the group originated from four musicians, the committee, we have 12 musicians in the roster and growing. Like Michigan State University’s Musique 21, we work on a rotation cycle, so not everyone will be here.

Our schedule features many great opportunities that you won’t want to miss! Starting on October 17th, we début out first concert in Cook Hall at MSU which will feature pop-minimalist music from composers David Lang, Bill Ryan, Marc Mellits, Dan Becker and Louis Andriessen. Then between December 1st and December 3rd (still figuring out which date), we will feature a theatrical concert at the RCAH Theater on MSU’s campus. This particular concert will feature three compositions by myself, which relate thematically, and Natalie Moller’s Lepidoptera, which I highly recommend watching!

The second semester concert dates are unofficial, but one concert will feature a shared concert with Ann Arbor’s Willo-Collective, and another is a call-for-scores concert, which I will post the details later today.

My intentions for this ensemble is to make Unanimous a professional ensemble and not a one year deal like many ensembles before. Assuming that this season goes well, we will look into performing in festivals, and other parts of the U.S. to spread the word about Unanimous.

Today, I am here to give you an update on how my time as a freelance composer has been so far. I will also give some advice to those who are about to dive into the world outside of the comfortable academic circle.

I jumped out of the academic lifestyle last May when I graduated with a masters degree in music composition at Michigan State University. At the beginning, I managed to work on three composition projects: euphonium sonata with piano, clarinet/percussion duo, and a grade IV band piece (eventually adding a project for percussion trio in December). While this was all exciting and fun, life quickly became quite stressful and unsatisfying. Although I was no longer bound to the assignments/projects that was required in school, I had to find a way to manage my schedule so I could compose effectively while working for my Dad and teaching at Jackson College. This resulted in me being very exhausted, making my projects much slower in the composition process. I even had to postpone a project because of how overwhelmed I was. In addition, I was also applying for graduate school for DMA studies and summer festivals.

As time went on, things started to look up for me little by little. I have been able to write more and more music for some of my projects. I completed two composition interviews at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, which I felt quite content with, as well as feeling extremely excited about their composition program! I am teaching at Jackson College with a booming roster of 29 students (slightly more than double my class size last semester!) Throughout this school year, I have been able to travel around the country to meet some of the finest composers for advice on my portfolio as well as my path as a composer. More recently, I have been selected as 1 of 16 composers to study abroad in Croatia for two weeks. So while my experience so far has been mixed, I am truly enjoying my experience as a freelance composer!

Now, for the excited emerging composer/performer/theorist/whatever your “weapon of choice” is, I will give you some useful advice that I have used and learned from many people who have also experienced this moment. Credit for advice goes to Ricardo Lorenz, Carter Pann, David Maslanka, my Dad, and other articles that I have found online.

1. Always be driven to compose music. Many composers have made this suggestion to me and I will do the same for you. No matter what you have on your to-do list, always make sure you are creating music in some way, shape, or form. Even if there are no deadlines/goals, make a goal, make a deadline. It will help you push further and give you some excitement for more projects as well as maintaining the habit of writing.

2. Build and keep up connections/networking. This was a difficult step for me since I have always been a shy person. The key point is to think of everyone as equals. Every composer, from a Michael Goodman to a John Adams, is a human being. We might think highly of Adams, but to the public, he is nothing more than a person. As long as you have that type of mindset, you will have no problem approaching composers and performers unless they are trying to ignore you.

3. Collaborate through symbiotic collaboration. Ricardo Lorenz taught our composition seminar last spring about the process of symbiotic collaboration, which in my opinion should be the new standard of collaborations and commissions. Although I can not go on a large-scale explanation on the concept of symbiotic collaboration, I will say that through this process, you will not only write a piece, but you will learn a lot about a specific instrument/voice, the strengths/weaknesses of a particular musician and most importantly learn about each other. I composed Dialectics with Genevieve Beaulieu and we both loved the collaboration! Do this as much as possible! You will not regret it! (More information on symbiotic collaboration.) Link by Tom Childs.

4. Expect more failures than successes. This step has been and will always be an issue for me, since I consider myself to be a perfectionist. When it comes to jobs, competitions, commissions, graduate school, the chances of succeeding are lower than what we expect. When you are denied a job or a college, it is not an indicator that you are a horrible musician, but rather it either did not meet the panel’s interest or there was not enough room to add anymore people to a studio. Such a frustrating process. Instead of hiding in a corner and moping about your failures, take a look at the failed goal, look at it with glaring eyes and fight back. Failures will help you become determined since you will have something to prove to others the next time you apply.

5. Collaborate with music programs from the K-12 system. Although many composers, including myself, shun at the idea of writing music for the K-12 system, it is a great way to get your name out to the music world; especially if you want to make good money. Also, the public schools are always more than happy to work with composers.

6. Attend as many concerts as possible (specifically new music concerts or concerts with new music). Through this school year, I have been to more concerts and recitals than I ever been to through the six years at MSU. This is great for many reasons. As a composer, you will always learn new things through concerts. In addition, it is an excellent way of making connections with composers, performers, and others associated with the musical business. Two examples: I have been to Ann Arbor for many concerts within the past three months. Specifically the Midwest Composers Symposium and the Willo Collective. At the symposium, I met several composers from Michigan who had outstanding pieces as well as great personalities. I also learned about the overall musical language of each college. At the time, I was quite impressed by the originality each work, which made me challenge myself. I decided to challenge myself by breaking many boundaries to write anything possible. No apologies whatsoever! The Willo Collective Concert, which was at the Yellow Barn, gave me more reasons why I would love to write more works for percussion as well as experimenting with dance.

7. Work on other skills involving your career. These can include teaching, recording services, performing, publishing, conducting, music business, and other venues related to music.

8. Apply to graduate schools? It depends on what you are looking for. If you want to teach composition, then by all means, apply for a masters and a doctoral program. If you do not want to teach, it is not necessary to earn any graduate degrees. For the non-teachers, the only benefit of having a masters degree is that it will give you more time to learn more about writing. Personally, I’m applying for a doctoral program since when I do get a job, I will be able to use the said college as a vehicle to perform my pieces as often as possible while helping young eager composers become better communicators. In general, the goal for composers is to not be a teacher with a job. It’s too limited, too short, and it shows that composing is only a secondary chore and not your main focus. A realistic goal is to live life as a professional composer who inspires to become what he/she truly wants to be while maintaining a decent/fantastic financial lifestyle like teaching.

9. Publicize yourself with confidence. Musicians have to grow a strong skin when it comes to putting yourself out to the small but competitive musical world. It takes a lot of energy and patience, but there will be a moment when something will click. It was not until last year when I had about eleven interested musicians who wanted to play my music. (ten for The Two Siblings and one for Dialectics).

10. Take as much time as possible to reach your goals. What is the rush? Although many people have made this suggestion to me, Lorenz, Pann, and my Dad have emphasized this reason to me through their experiences while away from school (Pann took one year off from Michigan, while Lorenz took five years off before going to Chicago to study with Shulamit Ran). It is normal to feel jealous, angry, and stressed during the first year because everything is so much different from when you were in school. While some people want to get out of school, I feel the exact way when it comes to going back to school! The main thing to point out is that there is no rush whatsoever when it comes to education. Unless an apocalypse occurs, the degree will not go anywhere. Going to college is not a race and neither is art. Music in particular takes many hours to perfect and rushing things will ruin that concept. So enjoy yourself and do what feels right for you.

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.

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.

Hello! I would like to point out that in the previous post, the pianist who will be performing my Concert Etudes I is Tzu-Yi Chang, not Chia-Ying Huang. In a few weeks, I will post a link to the webcast of this performance!

Recently, Dr. Ricardo Lorenz sent an email to our studio about a problem with the undergraduate premieres concert. He stated that there is only one piece on the program (maybe I’m wrong about this since the last time I checked this was last weekend). The only solution is to merge the undergraduate premieres with the graduate premieres.

Here’s my advice for those who are MSU undergraduate composers: it happens! haha. I understand that a lot of freshman/new undergrads in the studio, I also understand that many of you may not have a substantial amount of recently completed works. For example: I never had a piece of mine performed until my sophomore year, even though I started composition lessons later than usual. So what I’m saying, is that it is very common to not première a piece right away, however you should première something very soon. Otherwise, you may fall into the habit of avoiding your pieces being performed (well that’s a bit of an over exaggeration, but you know what I mean!). I guarantee that here at MSU, many of the musicians are very talented and they are more than willing to look at or even perform your pieces, that is if you ask them ahead of time.