May 162016
 

My family and I recently visited our dear friend Jim Compton in Sterling, VA, though it was bittersweet not seeing Carol Turner-Compton, who recently passed away. Carol was one of my most beloved and influential piano teachers, with whom I studied from fifth to seventh grades.

Thanksgiving with Carol in 2008

Thanksgiving with Carol in 2008.

We have been visiting Falcons Landing for many years since Jim and Carol got married in 2009. Carol had stayed very active traveling and playing the piano for different events at Falcons Landing.  She brought so much joy to all that she came in touch with, especially through her music. Jim even showed us the zen garden he had built and dedicated to Carol, which overlooks the pool and exercise area for the enjoyment of all to see.

The zen garden dedicated to Carol Turner-Compton.

The zen garden dedicated to Carol Turner-Compton.

I even got to talk to some residents and played an impromptu recital of some classical repertoire and show tunes on a piano that Carol would frequently use to entertain.  Just as Carol led by example, I learned to cherish any opportunity to share music with the company of others.

Playing some tunes for Jim Compton!

Playing some tunes for Jim Compton!

I am excited to say that I will be returing to Falcons Landing again on August 21st to present a solo recital in honor of Carol and Jim. Please save the date!

A very fine afternoon with Jim.

A very fine afternoon with Jim.

 May 16, 2016  Posted by on May 16, 2016 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Apr 302016
 

When I think of a celebration, I think of good food, wonderful people, and great music!  This was definitely the case at the Pennsylvania Federation of Music Clubs (PFMC) Biennial Convention held from April 20-23, 2016 in Sayre, Pennsylvania.  I had the pleasure of attending the conference that also served as the Club’s 100th birthday celebration!  The Club certainly welcomed me – as well as one of my classmates who also attended – and it was great fun to participate in the conference and perform for such an appreciative group.

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William playing the featured recital on April 22.

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Paul (Eastman student and cellist) and William ended the performance with the Faure Sonata in g minor, Op. 117, an audience favorite.

I was invited to attend as the guest performer by Mrs. Barbara Murray, the presiding PFMC President.   We were thrilled to share our music with such an enthusiastic audience, and we even got to attend the convention meetings. The Board Members and National Federation of Music Clubs President, Mr. Michael Edwards, discussed how to increase efficiency and raise revenue, as well as how to bring in new members and gain exposure for the Federation. Paul and I also spoke about our experiences as aspiring musicians, playing in the community and working with music organizations like the Federation whose support and encouragement of young people pave the way for future opportunities.

I am more motivated than ever to continue developing my skills as a musician while seeking opportunities to perform and speak publicly.  I hope to share my views with a wide variety of individuals in the community, which also serves as a great educational and practical experience. Participating in events like this reminds me that our role as performers is predicated on the ability to connect with audiences and help individuals find meaning and enjoyment in classical music.

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Conference skit with William (gold hat), Sue Roy (NE District Chair), Barbara Murray (now PFMC Past President), and Michael Edwards (NFMC President).

 

I also performed some pieces by Ms. Natalia Raigorodsky, who is still actively composing not only for piano but for a multitude of instruments. In July 2016, I will be playing her set of six pieces from “My Redeemer Liveth.”

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William and composer, Ms. Natalia Raigorodsky.

 April 30, 2016  Posted by on April 30, 2016 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Mar 102016
 

I recently attended a lecture of Maestro JoAnn Falletta of the Virginia Symphony and Buffalo Philharmonic. She shared some great thoughts about classical music’s role in society and how performers can illuminate audiences-

Maestro Falletta addressed the attack on classical music by the modern entertainment field. In a time of overstimulation, children are viewing classical music as antiquated and too dull. Many music programs are being cut from schools all over the US, and the government provides very little financial support to other arts organizations. Moreover, music programs and symphonies have trouble attracting crowds large enough to fill concerts and provide revenue. The general public seems to be detached from the world of classical music. One problem is that when viewers come across a piece they deem too controversial, they generalize about other art and call it divisive or immoral. This judgment can take place even before attending music concerts, as many people shy away from a night at the symphony because they do not know what to expect in the genre, or they perceive the more formal dress as stuffy or even intimidating.

While much of the performance practice and repertoire remains traditional, there are plenty of artists and organizations that are trying to build bridges to audience members. As musician citizens, Maestro Falletta urged all of us to learn to communicate passionately with other people and have our ideas heard. If we find ways to help our audience learn to listen and tune in to the subtleties of classical music, we can help them find joy in the vast array of music out there. We need to advocate the arts as actually supporting diversity, not separation. Ultimately, if we make an honest effort to include the audience in our craft and excel in our abilities, our persona will naturally emerge and the audience will be able to join musicians in a place of safety and enchantment. This will allow music to adapt to our current time while preserving its timeless function of being a basic human need for our wellbeing.

I also recently performed two recitals in Colorado as part of the Grand County Concert Series.  I was inspired by Maestro Falletta’s ideas and arranged a movie medley to stress the elements of classical music that we still enjoy in everyday life. I played a variety of music and spoke about several composers to further emphasize this lineage that spans hundreds of years.  I wanted to stress that there is something that can enrich every unique listener, and as a performer it is my job to facilitate this connection.

A full house!

A full house!

A look inside the piano!

A look inside the piano!

 March 10, 2016  Posted by on March 10, 2016 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Dec 252015
 

Since I’ve been home on break, I’ve had the privilege of playing twice at “My Brother’s Table,” a program run by The Salvation Army to provide meals to people in our community.  It was such a treat to meet so many wonderful people and share in the joy of Christmas and Holiday music!

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Majors Alma and John Riley (Corps Officers) and their daughter Marissa

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 December 25, 2015  Posted by on December 25, 2015 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Nov 132015
 

I’ve been working a lot this past year on developing my practice and performance habits.  As each piece has its own unique elements and challenges, I noticed that a large part of effective practice is in the ability to store and internalize information.

I came across a great post from The Bulletproof Musician that discusses some general approaches to practicing and working up new music.  The main concept is a three stage approach including “scouting,” “problem-solving” and “finishing.” Click here to read.

Interestingly, I recently recorded myself working through a passage of a Faure chamber piece.  I have not done a lot of practice videos before, but I thought the strategies and ideas really tie into the article above. Click here to view the score. (pg. 14-15)

Additional Tips:
1. Have a bigger goal of what to improve to provide direction in a session, ex. pulse, basic layers/texture, finding melody/accompaniment, fingering/accuracy, tricky rhythms in section, etc.
2. Listen to the sound as you practice – helps keep ear engaged and making finer adjustments, aids good performance practice
3. Think creatively to overcome problem areas, i.e. how to perceive or feel a spot, or visualize/hear the phrase – works out mechanics without directly thinking about that. Leads to better problem solving and more interesting practice sessions.

 November 13, 2015  Posted by on November 13, 2015 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Oct 312015
 

The vision was to present a highly varied show that balances music and visuals, orchestra and choir, large ensembles and soloists, instrumental music and songs. Danny Elfman decided instead of just performing the music as originally created for the films, he would reconceive his music as concert works by arranging original orchestral suites created uniquely for this show. Tim Burton reached into his library of original art and film clips and assembled visual collages to complement those musical suites.” – Lincoln Center Festival 2015

What pops into your mind when someone says Tim Burton? I imagine striking characters and costuming, gothic influenced imagery, and of course the versatility of actor Johnny Depp.  However, one of the most defining aspects of Tim Burton’s work is his long time collaboration with composer and lyricist Danny Elfman. Their combined visual and musical personalities in films like Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Planet of the Apes, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, to name a few, pave the way for limitless storytelling opportunities to be shared with audiences throughout the world.

Rather than devise my own take on the creative collaboration between Burton and Elfman, I thought it would be prudent to share the sentiments of Mr. Depp:

Danny and Tim, without doubt, are the two greatest gifts this job ever gave me. I would be neither here, there, nor probably anywhere without them and their general magnificence.

Now, the world is fully aware of the individual genius to be found betwixt the two, but what is more important here is the way in which these unique talents combine and ultimately complement one another, allowing the other’s work to bloom in a way unforeseen independently.

Essentially, Danny’s darkly sonorous creations are the audio manifestations of Tim’s singularly shadowy visions. He is the Ralph Steadman to Tim’s Hunter S. Thompson. Together they breathe color into one another’s world from my initial experience, working alongside them both on Edward Scissorhands, throughout the many projects that constitute a relationship, which now spans some 20 years…and counting. His music, so warm and inviting, yet somehow unnerving, ultimately manages to sound both elegant and haunting, perfectly defining the character of that very first collaboration. Having then unearthed the precise mood of Tim’s film, within the divine notes of his celestial score, Danny soundtracked the tale’s soul deep into the hearts of millions.

Subsequently, their working relationship has never floundered. Time after time, their industry gives birth to new beings of wonder and weirdness, charged to delight and excite cinema goers the planet ‘round.

So, a match made in the stars, you might say. Tim and Danny, it was simply meant to be.” – Johnny Depp

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These remarks form the foreword in program notes for the Lincoln Center Festival 2015 – Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton. See the full program notes here.

While the show was part of the July 6-12th week in the festival, PBS aired the full performance on October 30th, 2015 for the Halloween season. See the archived stream here.

See this New York Times announcement to learn more about the life of Danny Elfman.

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http://www3.pictures.zimbio.com

I really appreciate how this show draws upon various mediums to capture the creative process of Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. As an audience member, I always find it helpful to see this kind of variety in a performance. Even a quick spoken introduction of a piece goes a long way and gives the listener some clues of what to look for.

One of the highlights in the lineup was works from The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), sung by Danny Elfman himself. Interestingly, with the use of stop-motion animation in this film, planning and production took several years. As such, Danny Elfman worked to develop the songs before filming even began, meeting with Tim Burton to look over storyboards and sketches. This timing allowed Elfman to compose and record the songs to be referred to in filming. His vocal performances for Jack Skellington’s songs were even used in the final cut! Watch this “Making Of” video to learn more!

Danny Elfman's Music From The Films Of Tim Burton

http://disneyexaminer.com

I can’t think of a more immersive storytelling experience than to have the composer and singing personality of a main character take center stage with the New York Philharmonic, in addition to viewing footage and artwork supplied by the film’s producer!

For me, Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton reminds us that just as hard work fuels passion, teamwork can transform great concepts into exceptional ones. The marriage of skills and ideas between Elfman and Burton provides this creative palette in which there is something for everyone to appreciate.

 October 31, 2015  Posted by on October 31, 2015 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Oct 102015
 

With the release of Star Wars: Episode VII approaching, I thought it was appropriate to share this announcement from the American Film Institute naming composer John Williams the recipient of the 44th AFI Life Achievement Award. Established in 1973, this prestigious award recognizes individuals in the film industry who have furthered the field and enriched American culture. Learn more here.

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Without a doubt, this is true of John Williams, whose music is so widely regarded in the general public and world of classical music. In fact, the Wind Orchestra here at Eastman is giving a performance this semester that includes a medley of cues from the original Star Wars trilogy. While most are familiar with this music from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the scores of other major films like Jurassic Park, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Schindler’s List, and Harry Potter, among many others, are a testament of John Williams’ passion for music making and decades of commitment to the craft.

 October 10, 2015  Posted by on October 10, 2015 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Oct 062015
 

Below is a brief project I completed for my film scoring class where we’ve discussed the various ways music can support visual drama and have even worked on creating our own original scores.  We were asked to study and describe a recent film score of our choice!

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The Martian (2015) – Directed by Ridley Scott, Music by Harry Gregson-Williams

Film Genre – Fantasy/Science Fiction

CLICK HERE to listen to the full score. (I’d recommend listening as you read!)

CLICK HERE to watch an exclusive interview with composer Harry Gregson-Williams.

The score’s concept is build upon human curiosity and perseverance. In general, the music characterizes Mars as a place of awe and majesty. This represents the thirst for exploration and knowledge as well as the acceptance of risk. While Watney faces overwhelming odds, he refuses to throw in the towel and instead continues the mission, recording and transmitting data and observations. Watney’s acceptance of his own mortality hints at his greater importance to the story. I feel Watney embodies the nature of humans to unite in times of uncertainty. The score follows this story arch by capturing one person’s isolation and soon the rallying masses.

The style is mostly dramatic science fiction with use of synthesized orchestra and percussion for rhythmic energy. There is even a documentary feel, as Watney narrates his plans and ideas to the camera. Harry Gregson-Williams employs underscoring tied with some disco source music to support Watney’s cheerful attitude.

The instrumentation is a mix of electronic and orchestral cues. There is use of light brass on important rising intervals. There are also several underscores of synthesized strings and electronic throbbing rhythms to provide a current of energy through Watney’s dialogue and actions. Much of the movie is a personal look into the life of this secluded astronaut and scientist. Therefore, as he experiments, the music elicits intrigue, but quickly retreats as things turn sour. This stresses the repetition in Watney’s life, as he faces one new obstacle after another. As his chances of rescue gradually increase, the score brings in live orchestra and even choir singing Roman philosophical text about space and time. This important development illustrates Watney’s innate connection with the rest of mankind.

I love that Harry Gregson-Williams creates a feeling of physical space and endlessness with light percussion, from bells to timpani, and an echoing effect throughout. This also captures how much time is passing as Watney begins every day alone on this planet.

Whether in the strings, brass, wind, synth, or even solo piano, the most important motif is the use of rising intervals like 4ths and 5ths. This comprises Watney’s main theme and reoccurs throughout the film. The theme is simple yet encouraging, for although Watney finds himself alone in a harsh new world, his positivity creates a forward-looking narrative, and not one fixated on suffering.

 October 6, 2015  Posted by on October 6, 2015 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Aug 272015
 

Music, like many careers, is an expensive pursuit, so it’s important to support organizations that give generously to up and coming artists. This past May I was contacted by the Harmonia Music Association of Lebanon, PA – one of six clubs active in the Pennsylvania Federation of Music Clubs and one of the 6,000 forming the National Federation of Music Clubs – about playing for a fundraising event.

Over the last couple years, the Federation support I have received from the state and national levels has been instrumental to my studies. It was a great privilege to give back to an organization so eager to aid passionate young musicians. The proceeds from my solo recital will help fund future student scholarships in the Lebanon area.

Harmonia Program

On a personal note, this summer has posed a variety of challenges not just limited to learning new recital repertoire. I’ve been working on my technique, continuing to write, speaking and performing at the YWCA, Salvation Army, and local nursing and retirement facilities, as well as recording. I’ve learned so much about my own playing in the process and most importantly continued to fuel my love for piano and music.

I sincerely hope the money raised from my recital will help next year’s high school seniors continue to excel and grow in their music programs.  I’ve included some performance excerpts below!

Warming up before the concert on this beautiful Steinway built in the 1890s!

Warming up before the concert on this beautiful Steinway built in the 1890s!

Some great post-concert discussion!

Some great post-concert discussion!

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A very enthusiastic audience!

With Ms. Nancy Hatz

With Ms. Nancy Hatz, a retired Susquehanna University music professor and a concert sponsor who recently celebrated her 100th birthday!

With Pat Walter

With Ms. Pat Walter, Harmonia Music Association Recording Secretary.

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With Mr. Peter Hewitt.

With Ms. Katherine Hoopes, President of Harmonia Music Association.

With Ms. Katherine Hoopes, President of Harmonia Music Association.

The beautiful venue – St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 6th & Chestnut Streets, Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

 

 August 27, 2015  Posted by on August 27, 2015 Personal Thoughts 2 Responses »
Aug 222015
 

I recently had the privilege of adjudicating a dozen or so pianists in the 2015 ENKOR International Music Competition.  The variety of repertoire and interpretations made for some exciting performances.  As a former 1st place winner and subsequent member of the International Academy of Performing Arts and Sciences (formerly ENKOR Jury Board), I was fortunate to provide feedback and scoring to these aspiring artists and learn more in the process!  

See the list of winners.

ENKOR provides winners with a plethora of scholarships and musical opportunities.  I would strongly recommend applying for the healthy competition, transparent adjudication system and future support of an international community devoted to classical music.

Learn more about ENKOR.

ENKOR Certificate!

ENKOR Certificate!

 August 22, 2015  Posted by on August 22, 2015 Personal Thoughts No Responses »