3 or more is a streak

You'd think there'd be continuity between the titles of my posts that are a series. but, no, i just don't do that. lol

Now we enter the more interesting point in my life: How i got into grad school.

There are tons of questions i'm sure people are DYING to know: what happened during my "lost" year, where did i apply, how did i choose where to apply, how i got into Brooklyn College (i may not have an answer for that one.), and why i chose Brooklyn College, in the end.

First off, I had applied to grad schools during my senior year at DPU. However, i was in and out of my mind, addled, stressed out, and basically going a more than a little crazy. So, i missed 2 deadlines of schools because i had them written down as the wrong deadlines. Yep, i swapped the dates for Brooklyn College and Bowling Green. Now, there was only a 2 week difference, but at the time, Bowling Green was higher on my list. could get an assitanceship, get things paid for, has a new music festival. seemed like a happening place. But, alas, it was due the 1st, Brooklyn the 15th. about the 4th i realized i had the wrong date for BG. But i thought that BG AND Brooklyn were the first. wrong again...see, brain addled

The other school was SUNY Stony Brook. They lost all my "supporting" materials. They had been signed for. I read the name of the person to the lady on the phone. She asked that i resend them (this was a month after the due date, of course.) I answered "Sorry, i don't have enough money to reprint, rebind, and resend all my scores overnight. Unless you want to cut me a check for your mistake, i can't do it. Also, i refuse to attend a school that looses my paperwork. I have dealt with this for 4 years, i will not continue to deal with it."

I was a dick. I admit it. And i don't care one little bit.

For the record, the three schools i looked at the most were Brooklyn College, Bowling Green, and SUNY Stony Brook. Brooklyn College came highly recommended by several people. Carlos thought it was a great school and wanted me to go study with Tania Leon. I met Kevin James (the composer/trombonist, not the comedian) who had also gotten his MM at Brooklyn College and highly recommended it. Two somewhat pivotal guys in my deciding to composer, telling me to go to BC? yeah, i'll put it on the list.

Bowling Green interested me because it was somewhat close to many of my friends, has a good reputation for new music, and seemed like a good program. the doctorate interested me more with its emphasis on contemporary music only. Still, it seemed like an interesting school. and the allure of a possible assistanceship was nice.

SUNY Stony Brook also came recommended by Carlos. I checked it out and listened to some music done by the faculty. Daniel Weymouth's music somewhat blew my mind, even though all i heard was Rare Events for Bass Clarinet and Tape. Still, after the debacle my senior year, i definitely was not going to apply again.

So, after not getting into grad school, mostly my own fault, i was going to drift for a year. I knew it was going to happen, and accepted it. My girlfriend at the time suggested we move to South Jersey and live at the beach. Well, i didn't have anything else going on and i had other skill sets i could try. I had previously worked as a lube tech and mechanics helper, i had done retail, and knew a thing or two about the production business and audio recording. Still, my (ex)girlfriend found a job months before me. LOL. just goes to show, ya just never know what'll happen.

I hooked up with a production company doing live events. I was a technician/driver. My job: Prep the order, load the order, drive it to the location, set it up, run it, tear it down, load it, unload it, check it. Seriously, i did everything except take the order. And, considering how much revising those orders went through I might as well have. the business did not have any sort of "inventory tracking." So, when we were out of something, i had to go upstairs, tell them, they had to call the client, and then figure out a substitute. yes, i'm serious...

Anyway, i cut my teeth doing lighting, sound, and video. I worked in a warehouse that had no AC and only had a few heated portions. I knew i wanted to go grad school.

So, i did research, looked at schools. I decided since i didn't do an undergrad in comp, the big names were out. Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Stanford were crossed off immediately. Brooklyn College was on the list with Bowling Green. I figured i should look for more options

That's when i found out Columbia College of Chicago was starting up a film scoring MFA. sounded AWESOME! i love film scores, love the whole process, and had been learning more about video and film the past year. I knew of Columbia because my oldest bro had gone there for a few years for a degree in audio recording.

I printed, bound, and sent off my meager portfolio to Columbia and Brooklyn College. I spaced on Bowling Green, as seemed to be a normal thing for me. My portfolio was...pathetic.

1) a piece for trombone and piano, incredibly tonal, a little rhythmic interest, i guess...Not bad for my second real piece, i guess. The piano writing had some amazing moments for sure

2) Aegean Straight Down for trombone, string orchestra, and timpani. It is...well...a fun little piece, i guess. I wrote it for the DPU Chamber Symphony's 2006 tour. The conductor felt bad because he had chosen a Haydn symphony as the large piece...so, for 25 minutes, i sat backstage and snored. He had suggested i learn an unaccompanied solo, like Mippy II or something, but Carlos suggested i write something. The conductor, Orcenith Smith, agreed, as long as it was relatively easy for the strings (we only had 2 weeks to put it together, after all.) It is...The basses hold an F

for 5 minutes


3) Two Gray Songs- two art songs with poetry by Kelsie Gray. It was my first foray into art song. I presented them in a masterclass with Jake Heggie. he hated them. i felt discouraged. Carlos loved them. I felt better. And, now i write for voice quite often. and i bet Jake Heggie would hate all my pieces. LOL

4) Things That Go Bump in the Night. It sounds like the title. seriously. I don't remember the instrumentation at all...

It wasn't much. looking back over, in retrospect, it wasn't bad. After meeting people from UMKC finishing their BM in Comp, i am surprised i got in ANYWHERE, but i met some amazing composers here. I went back over them over the summer, just as nostalgia, from the trombone quartet through my masters, and some of it wasn't bad at all. different from what i do now, but i can see it starting, in the piano parts to the piece for Trombone, and in Two Gray Songs...and some of the trombone licks in Aegean. Anyway, i digress...

That's what i sent out. Three pieces, all three were midi-realizations. i had no recordings, even though two had been performed. What i got back from Columbia College was "We like your music. We think you'll be a great composer. but you didn't submit any film music. do you have film skills at all? You're one of the strongest candidates musically, but think you're not a good fit for the program."

Yeah, they were right. lol. still, i was disheartened. But, somehow...

I got into Brooklyn College. I don't know how really. The faculty said it was my originality. They could tell i was willing to take giant leaps, try new things, go outside the box, even if the base skills weren't all there. I got the same answer from the folks at UMKC as well, actually. I always felt i just needed time, and i'd get better.

So, here are the nuggets to gleam out and some real advice

1) start planning early and be willing to take time off to find out where to go. There are millions of schools.

2) ask people in the know. This means your current professors, other students, friends, professional contacts, anyone anywhere. try and get some information!

3) GO VISIT! i didn't do this. I should have. if they know your face and know who you are, it'll go better. E-mail is great, phone calls are nice, but nothing beats showing up and shaking a hand!

the above three are very important. Many schools have a particular style. some teachers exist to create replicants of themselves stylistically. This can work if you want to write in that style. Get to know the programs. some are a lot more open and want varied backgrounds and interests (such as BC and UMKC). Others just want people "that fit." I am not judging either style, but obviously, one of them works much better for me as a student.

4) apply to multiple places, but don't have "fall-back schools." If you don't want to go there, DON'T GO THERE!

5) if you can, get a sample lesson with a teacher. don't go to a school "just because you like the teacher's music." Seriously. You can learn a great deal from people who have completely different styles and approaches than you. In fact, you may learn more. I hold to this. Some of the greatest advice I've gotten from composers whose music i don't particularly like.

6) be willing to move. it's nice staying in your safety zone, but, sometimes, there's just nothing there. take Indiana. There isn't a program in Indiana that suits me for composition. The closest is Bowling Green, really. Even the Chicago schools might not fit well, especially since Augusta Read Thomas is no longer at Northwestern.

7) don't give up. ever. If it's what you really want to do, DO IT! if you don't have the drive and determination to fight through a couple rejection letters than, well, you may not have the drive to make it all the way through.

being an artist, any type of artist, is not easy. It's not all sunshine and lollipops. Be prepared for that.

I loved the process. I switched production companies in Jersey right before my MM started, but i stayed with them for those 2 years doing audio for some amazing bands. I wrote a great deal of music at BC. I learned electronic music. I had known the software, done recording and editing before, knew live sound, but never used it for music. It was pretty awesome to go that direction.

but BC years are for later. for now, I am off! byebye


Sage advice from a fool, pt 2

The beginning of undergrad.

I will lump my undegrad into one short entry. there is some wisdom here, i think...

I entered college. I had a major, was declared from the get-go. Was gun-ho. I even practiced every once in a while I spent more time getting acclimated to the climate than i did studying.

Everything was going quite smoothly, actually. I was getting good grades, made Dean's list a few times. I enjoyed my classes, most of all my education classes. really felt like i had found my calling. It wasn't until half-way through my sophomore year things started to change.

It started with trombone. I hadn't practiced much, and it showed. There was no challenge to the music. I played Morceau Symphonique, some piece i've completely forgotten, and a couple sonatas by Galliard (originally for bassoon.). I hated them all. Got into a fight with my professor, Jim Beckel, about how i was playing "lame music" and i didn't practice "because i didn't need to." Yeah, i wasn't playing them to their fullest, but i was invested, so 80% was good enough.

He challenged me, said bring in a piece i worked up ON MY OWN, to prove i could handle harder literature. I worked my ass off on Concerto for Trombone by Launy Grohndal. I proved myself to my teacher. We started to get along much better after that. It was a big experience for me, and definitely in the relationship we shared. I didn't feel like he respected me as a performer. I know he didn't. and he didn't have any reason to. I didn't practice, didn't try. But i'm the type that NEEDS something to try. I don't always do things just because it's right. like practicing. i know i SHOULD all the time, but i don't.

Junior year, i was having doubts about my major. I was studying conducting more seriously and found out i had a knack for it. I was also writing music a little more seriously on the side. I hadn't ever done anything other than mess around, but for a final theory project, we had to write a piece. I wrote a trombone quartet. Beckel, after our butting heads and now new found understanding, programmed it. Yes, my true opus 1 was a trombone quartet written for a theory assignment. wanna fight about it? lol

People liked it. Genuinely liked it. So, i thought i could write on the side, work on my conducting...January, Junior year...

At DePauw they run a 4-1-4. during the "winter term" as they call it, there are fun classes on campus. i had previously taken a class over the Ring Cycle and one for performance and wellness. Now, i approached Prof Beckel, who is also a good composer, about doing a winter term with him. I would churn out a 5 minute piece for full orchestra.

I knew nothing, formally, of writing music beyond theory. That's...not much to go on. He drilled me hard. I learned about all sorts of forms of development, about counterpoint, fugue, orchestration. in 4 weeks. i wrote a 5 minute piece for orchestra.

It is now buried.

And my life changed forever.

I was urged to take composition...with some guy named Carlos Carrillo. at the same time i was taking 20th century history and theory. my mind was blown. I took in everything "new" i could find. I was voracious, listening to Strauss and Debussy to Schoenberg to John Cage to Morton Feldman to Bang on a Can. I had previously gone to talks by living composers. DePauw does a "composer's of the 21st century" series (though, sometimes the composers are really 21st century. Sorry Samuel Adler, but your time has definitely passed.)

It was all downhill from their. Carlos opened my world up. I grew more and more doubting of wanting to teach MS or HS band. I wanted to be a conductor. I wanted to be a composer. I wanted...

to go to grad school.

It all came to a head my senior year, with Elementary Methods, Materials, and Curriculums. It made me a chain smoker. I worked with kindergarten and 4th graders. it was hell. i snapped.

the last week i could, i quit my major. i had been having arguments about missing time to go to grad school audition days. Seems you can't miss more than a few days and pass student teaching. I pulled out. I got a general music degree. i wrote a piece for trombone and orchestra that went on a west coast tour with the DePauw Chamber Symphony.

I visited U Washington. I wanted to go get my MM in conducting. I met with the conductors and the grad students.

I changed my mind. It was nearly impossible. they expect you to have already been conducting to get in. Most people come in with 2-3 years of public school conducting. i didn't WANT TO CONDUCT HS! no one seemed to understand that. i wanted to be Daniel Baremboim, or Pierre Boulez, or Eugene Ormandy, or Michael Tilson Thomas...not a HS band director, and then hopefully get into conducting a college wind band. i wanted something BIG!

I applied to schools in composition. I either got rejected or had my materials lost...

but i knew what i wanted to do.

I still curse Carlos to this day. LOL. no, i thank him, continuously. He opened my eyes to such a wider world of music, beyond DePauw, beyond Indiana. he showed me the universe of sounds, introduced me to composers i never would have known otherwise. Feldman, Takemitsu, Lutoslowski, Fernyhough, Tania Leon. he had me reading books by Joseph Straus, Morton Feldman, John Cage. my eyes opened to this world. I studied the art, got into Robert Rauschenberg and Lichtenstein. I learned about Laurie Anderson, Yoko Ono (not the "Beatles" but her performance art) and other performance artists.

We all have that moment i think. The moment when, click, we know what it is we're meant to do. I never had that moment before. It was always a "well, i could stand to do this, i guess, if i have to choose." It clicked for me, my senior year, as i sat there on the porch drinking Mike's Hard Lemonade, chain smoking clove cigarettes, reading James Joyce. i wanted to be a creator. I wanted to teach, but not little kids, not high schoolers, but the world.

It was the pivotal moment. Then came the hard part- how to make it happen

Next time? how did i get into Brooklyn College, and what happened to my mind?


how'd i get here?

I have been inspired by 2 recent things to write a series on "how i got here." The first was the reminder that it's definitely the time of year people are sending off doctoral apps. We have a prospective doctoral student dropping by UMKC this week. Also, Speak Coffee has started a retrospective of her journey through the MFA process, starting with the application process. I don't have nearly the reader's she does (composers don't seem to keep as many active blogs...at least, none of my friends in the biz do.) but i figure i could offer a little wisdom.

Speak Coffee starts at her MFA process. I'm going to start with undergrad. why? because explaining my MM or DMA process to date wouldn't make sense without it. Most of you know this story, some of you may not. Dunno who reads this blog. lol.

I didn't come into this world knowing i was going to major in music. I played piano starting at a very young age, took lessons, hardly practiced. In late elementary school, i joined band, played trombone, because i accidently checked trombone instead of tuba. My family wasn't poor at the time, but we didn't have extra money floating around so i was supposed to play a "school" instrument. Alas, i checked the wrong box. heh

High school was a bore. I went to a small rural public school in Indiana. it didn't have all the fancy advantageous of bigger schools, or richer schools. The main form of music was the competitive marching band. In my time from 7th grade till 12th grade, i had 4 directors, and an assistant director. One director was a bit more influential than the rest. He had charisma oozing out of every pore. We all wanted to be music majors after hanging out with him.

At the same time, i did a lot of work for a community theater. It's a moderately successful group, the musicals tend to sell out a 500 seat auditorium at least one night of the run. not bad for a theater situated in a town of 6000 or so. It wasn't quite the draw then, but i still landed a major singing lead at 15 (Edward Rutledge in 1776. Yes, at 15 I sang "Molasses to Rum to Slaves." the archival camera, which patched audio directly from the board, actually shook when i hit the final high note. talk about clipping...). I was a theater brat. my mom has her BFA in theater design/acting/directing (yes, triple major. and almost a music minor, but didn't take theory.)

So, yeah, i didn't know what to do. I knew HS sucked, so i started looking forward to college. During my sophomore year i started planning. I was getting materials sent to me from all over the country. I clearly remember some of the schools i considered before i even nailed down a major: Claremont-McKenna, University of Miami (Fl.), John Hopkins/Peabody Conservatory, DePaul, DePauw, Lawrence University, Case Western Reserve, Carnegie Mellon, Tulane. Obviously, i had no idea what kind of school i wanted to attend or what i wanted to major in. That runs the gamut, i'd say. the only thing was a push away from major state schools and toward private schools. The question to most seniors at my school was "Purdue or IU?" i ran away...

After much soul searching, i decided upon Music over Chemistry. i still miss the feeling i got doing all those experiments, but i've replaced it with other types of experiments now. I narrowed down the schools even more- DePaul, DePauw, Lawrence, Peabody, U Miami. I sent applications to DePaul, DePauw, and Lawrence. Peabody's sat finished, waiting for me to do a recording. U Miami cost more than i was willing to spend (it was, at the time, $110 application fee.)

I didn't understand liberal arts education. I wanted my degree to be more specialized, actually learn SOMETHING rather than a little of everything. I never dreamed of going to grad school- to me a bachelors seemed terminal. I had no idea the difference between a conservatory and school of music and just a music department (my mom tried to explain that a conservatory is usually more hardcore.)

I auditioned at DePauw and Lawrence. my decision at the time was 100% based on money.

What did i learn from this?
1) Start looking at schools early even if you don't know what you want to major in. There are thousands of choices, and, depending where you are, your guidance counselors will be no help. this is especially true in music. The only people who can help are the ensemble directors/music teachers in your school, and they may not know that many programs. I know, i wouldn't have been able to tell students jack after i finished my undergrad degree.

2) Look based somewhat on where you want to live. Close to home? far far away from home? i can tell you, it's nice to have your mom be able to drive down for a concert, but have it be far enough away that it's a special trip. Gave me lots of freedom, but if i needed to get home for some reason, i could. not true anymore.

3) visit the schools. don't send a tape. go audition. do an overnight. talk to current students at ALL levels. find out as much info as possible

4) check your mail...it was in Decemeber, 2002, after i started at DePauw that i found the letter from DePaul. they had offered me a large sum of academic scholarship and wanted me to come audition. i don't regret my decision, but i do wonder a bit what would have happened at the other schools.

Thus shows my pre-undergrad years. It was a lot of indecision and fumbling around, wondering where to go and what i needed to do. There wasn't much help at my school, other than my band director giving me a few suggestions (of course, his alma mater first. lol).



It isn't often that i'm proud of a piece of art that i produce. It really isn't. I hold myself to very high standards, and there have only been a few times the product matched my vision well enough to consider it a success. "It Was Raining" goes does as a definite success. "Cake" is up there too.

today, i matched those guys with a technological marvel...

well, for me anyway.

I created a piece of hyperart. We all know hyperfiction, right? that wonderful thing my friend Jacob does that I am so jealous of. Hyperart is the use of the web specifically for artistic means.

That's not normally something i do. I use the internets to transmit info (such as this blog, or my website). I use it to watch videos, and keep in touch with friends. even to listen to music. Not to create pieces of art that can really only exist in a forum such as this...

It all stems from interactivity. I'm all about interactivity in art. In music, composers use tools like Max/MSP and Pd to write complicated pieces of electronics that interact with performers. Some composers even create patches (as the programs are called in Max and Pd) that are meant to be interacted with by anyone, not just a performer. But, it cannot reach the masses.

There are plenty of flash games bent around music. But, it's about the game, mostly. I think of something like Auditorium, which is really awesome (check it out here) but, yeah, it's about the game...not about the music. the player doesnt CREATE the music, just enables it to play. I like something more interactive, where, given some basic sounds, you can create your own piece.

I do not know flash. I find it quite useless. it's pretty, and good for games, but for webdesign, it's a nightmare. it's incredibly hard to update. html and java is bad enough (CMS is the way to go. basically, all these blogs are based on CMS...i digress). so, i went about building an interactive using only my know-how...which in web-design, isn't much. at all. but i did it...it works...

It's something anyone can play. multiple people can play at once, everyone can get a hold of and just click away. I'm proud of that. is it the most perfect design? no. but the concept is good, and the execution (considering the time-table) is decent. I'm happy with it.

You can write me and ask for the link. I haven't made it public yet. may never. But it made me happy, made me proud. I created something that anyone with internet access can interact with and create some (quite esoteric) music in a game like setting. Yeah, it's not as cool as what i saw some people working on in NYC, but it makes me happy.

and i made it look like a 5 y/o did it, which really makes me happy :)



when i hear Brahms, i sometimes wonder why we still listen to his music. Same with any number of composers. is it actually "timeless" or just kept alive by caretakers. Is music meant to be permanent or transient?

I've believed for the last few times in the impermanence of art, most specifically temporal arts such as music, theater, cinema, and dance. These arts happen through time (the argument for, say, literature, is that exists somewhat out of time. however, the following argument still pertains, in my opinion.) All art exists only in its performance/observance. That is to a say, music is not the score, but the performance, theater is not the book, but the performance. for those of more lasting quality without change; cinema, literature, poetry, visual art (though there is a sense of performance to poetry, it can exist without it, unlike music); it is in the moment of observance. In other words, the artwork may exist all the time, but it is not a work of art until viewed. It seems like an archaic view, something not existing till you see it, but there's a lot of philosophers going in this direction now. The world only exists through observation and since we make our own realities from this observation, then something cannot truly exist until we experience it. A bit of a funky theory, but i like.

this is always a good discussion point, the "what is art?" question and all the little bits that go into defining it. But what of the main question? Why do we still listen to Brahms, as, specifically, more than just a "historical" listening?

This all seems to lead back to another burning question: is my degree nothing more than a specialized history degree? is anything i do, including writing "new" music, nothing more than keeping past traditions alive? Am i the same as someone doing a civil war reenactment?

I'd like to think that we listen to Brahms because of some deep emotional attachment. But then, this leads into a whole new can of worms: the issue of emotion and music. I'm not going to touch that one with a ten foot laser pole. Still, is there a lasting quality that makes Brahms still somewhat "popular" with a segment of our society, even outside the music clique?

Is it the sweeping melodies? is it the sense of invention? i doubt it's his orchestration. his chamber works are much stronger to me. wait, hold on, coffee time...

mmm, there is something sublime about drinking coffee out of a mug you threw yourself...anyway

I've done this music thing for a while. historically i understand Brahms relevancy. At this point i would like to point out that you could insert ANY composer/musician/art form that is currently active for Brahms.

What is it about past traditions that we must keep alive? I'd like to think of it not as just "tradition." I'm a bit of a...well...the word escapes me, but i don't buy into tradition. My traditions are made in my own time (like composition and coffee at Muddy's) and are thrown out as i adapt (such as homework and cigarettes at China Buffet in Greencastle). I eat turkey at Thanksgiving, not so much out of tradition, but because i LOVE TURKEY and i can usually get a free one during that time due to spending enough money on groceries. And i'll have the time off to actually prepare it. Trust me, if i could roast an entire turkey (at least a breast) even faster (say, 30 minutes to an hour) and they were available year round (fresh ones. the frozen guys just don't do it for me.) i would eat turkey more often. I LOVE TURKEY

anyway, enough about my turkey gripes. Perhaps the answer to this is simple: Some people do feel some sort of attachment to this music. It doesn't take many. Some people actually enjoy listening to his symphonies. Do we need a deeper reason? well, if you MUST have more of a reason, then toss in the historical significance, a bit of "educating the masses to the Western heritage," maybe some "it improves cognitive function," or some other pseudo-science reason.

All this logic and philosophy leads to the first, simple answer. I'm not even sure i'm going to post this now, since i ran a circle, ended up with the easy answer, and am calling it a day.

Someone, multiple someones, like Brahms. Like him enough to buy a CD, go to the symphony, and clap and yell "Bravo!" that's enough to make it timeless, right? we may only truly experience art in the moment, but the memory is also strong. We can remember, reproduce in our minds, that big climax to Variations on a theme by Haydn, hear the massive doublings and hear the strings cascading, then rising again to end the piece.

There is no deep reason to me. I dont like Brahms symphonies, so i question the relevancy. But Brahms doesn't exist just for me. The music exists for everyone. at least Brahms wrote music people continue to like 110 years after his death.