Composer Residency at Reinhardt University

I recently spent 2 days in residence at beautiful Reinhardt University in Georgia, where Magnolia trees were blooming and tulips were happily opening (unlike at home here in Rochester, NY!).

It was a great trip, and I had the opportunity to work with the Wind Ensemble, composition students, and be part of a panel discussion on music careers.

The Wind Ensemble, directed by Daniel Kirk, performed “Into the Silent Land” on a concert that was part of the Reinhardt Contemporary Arts Festival. My plane landed just in time to speak with the ensemble and provide some feedback during their rehearsal the day prior to the concert. I also had the chance to interact with students in the ensemble, sharing meals with them and hearing about their backgrounds and aspirations.

The second day, I gave a presentation on my music, talking about my background and discussing two works: Into the Silent Land, and Alcott Songs. I also had the chance to present a masterclass with 4 composition students, which was wonderful. The students each spoke about a piece of theirs, we listened to it, discussed it, and I provided some comments (which I hope were helpful…!) The pieces were all very creative and it was a pleasure to work with these young composers.

Before the concert that evening, I was part of a panel discussion on music careers. Each panelist talked about their unique career and then answered student questions, providing some insight and advice regarding pursuing a career in music in the 21st century.

The final event was the Wind Ensemble concert, a well-attended, creatively programmed concert that included my work “Into the Silent Land” along with a wealth of other contemporary composers. The concert featured works with electronics, as well as lighting design, which made for a very entertaining event.

Reinhardt faculty member Cody Brookshire led the planning of the Contemporary Arts Festival and was instrumental in all of my events as well. Thanks to Cody and Daniel Kirk for a wonderful visit to Reinhardt University! I hope to return soon!

GREEN DIAMOND, the sequel to MAGNOLIA STAR, now available!

Green Diamond is a brand new 6 minute, grade 4.5/5 piece for wind band that is inspired by the blues scale and the American Railroad.

In my middle school jazz band, my director started every rehearsal with a blues scale exercise, which has stuck with me to this day. In 2012, I had the idea to write a concert band piece based on the blues scale, and Magnolia Star was born.

Last year, I began envisioning a sequel – a piece that builds on Magnolia Star, uses new harmonic and melodic material, and includes a few other surprises, like an off-stage alto sax soloist.

It’s a fast and fun ride that incorporates the blues scale, the minor/major chord, and even the Dies Irae! 

Check out this trailer for a behind-the-scenes look at Green Diamond:

Green Diamond is the second piece in the Magnolia Star Trilogy, a group of pieces inspired by the blues scale and the American railroad. Magnolia Star, the first in the series, was written in 2012.

Green Diamond uses the blues scale as a key influence, but it also includes a new element: the minor/major chord (C-Eb-G-B-D). These two sound worlds (the blues scale and the minor/major chord) generate harmonic and melodic material that alternate, combine, and compete throughout the piece.

Like Magnolia Star, the influence of the American railroad provides inspiration for sounds that are fast, driving, and energetic. Green Diamond also features an off-stage alto saxophonist who provides somewhat distant, jazzy reminders of the blues scale, offering an answer to Green Diamond’s preoccupation with the minor/major chord.

Green Diamond, like Magnolia Star, was the name of a train that ran in the early 20th century as part of the Illinois Central Railroad.



Winter Releases: New Music for Band, Orchestra, Choir, and Brass Quintet

Winter releases: new music

When you live in Rochester, NY, you tend to stay inside during the winter months and hunker down.

The result: new music!

Here are some of my newest pieces - something for wind band, orchestra, choir, and brass quintet.

P.S. I’m wrapping up work on two other pieces as we speak: Green Diamond for Grade 5 Wind Band and Vocalise for singing marimba player. Look for more information on these pieces soon!


Into the Silent Land for Wind Band

Into the Silent Land

(Grade 4 Orchestra or Wind Band, 9 minutes)

This piece is a reflection on the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Read more about the piece, listen, and order at the following links:

Orchestra | Wind Band

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Benediction

SATB Choir, unaccompanied
1 min 40 sec

This anthem is perfect for a vow renewal, wedding ceremony, or the close of a worship service. 

Now available through Sheet Music Plus!

An Hour of Hallowed Peace for Wind Band

An Hour of Hallowed Peace

Grade 3 Wind Band
5 minutes

Just last week I delivered the score and parts for this piece to the commissioning ensemble, the Kiski Area High School (PA) Band. The work will be premiered in May 2019.

Originally written for SATB Choir, this lush setting combines an original pastoral melody with the Irish hymn tune, St. Columbia. The resulting work is a moving, lyrical tribute that includes a number of short solos for flute and clarinet, and incorporates ensemble singing on “oo” at the end of the work.

Listen and pre-order the piece here.

Two Easter Hymn Settings for Brass Quintet

Two Easter Hymn Settings for Brass Quintet

Brass Quintet (with opt. Congregation)
2 minutes

Just in time for Easter, here are new brass arrangements of two well-known Easter hymns: Jesus Shall Reign (I Know That My Redeemer Lives) and The Strife is O'er. This collection includes two different settings (A and B) of each hymn tune, to be played as prelude or service music or to accompany congregational singing.

See inside the score and listen to sample recordings here (my wife Ashley’s website).


Hope to see you soon as I come out of hibernation!

-Steve

NOW AVAILABLE! Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor: What You Won't Learn At Most Music Schools, 2nd Edition

NOW AVAILABLE! Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor: What You Won't Learn At Most Music Schools, 2nd Edition

I’m super excited to share that the 2nd edition of Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor: What You Won’t Learn at Most Music Schools is NOW AVAILABLE! See some inside pages and purchase on Amazon.com.

It was an honor to be the contributing author to this book, written by former Dean of Professional Studies and Professor of Saxophone at the Eastman School of Music, Ray Ricker.

"Into the Silent Land" - Music Reflecting on the Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy - Behind-the-Scenes

"Into the Silent Land" - Music Reflecting on the Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy - Behind-the-Scenes

I grew up in Sandy Hook, CT and attended Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I believe that music is one way we can remember the victims of the tragedy, their families, and victims of similar tragedies. This was the hardest piece I have written, but I hope that the music allows listeners to pause and remember these victims, and come together to prevent this kind of violence in the future.

Two Upcoming Premieres

Two Upcoming Premieres

I am very excited about two new pieces that will be premiered in February and March, 2018.

The first is "Ultra," a three-movement, grade 4 work that will be premiered by the Arkansas Intercollegiate Band, conducted by Rob Carochan on February 15th. The piece was commissioned by the Arkansas Chapter of the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA). You can see a little preview of me playing music from the second movement here.

Sneak Peek of "Ultra" for Wind Band

Sneak Peek of "Ultra" for Wind Band

In this short video, I play a little sample of the second movement, "Tree House," from one of my newest works, "Ultra." The piece was commissioned by the Arkansas Chapter of the College Band Directors National Association, and will be premiered by the Arkansas Intercollegiate Band in February 2018.

New Course I am Teaching at Eastman: Career Skills for the 21st Century

New Course I am Teaching at Eastman: Career Skills for the 21st Century

This Fall, I am teaching two classes in the Eastman School of Music's Arts Leadership Program:

- Creativity and Your Music Career
- Career Skills for the 21st Century

The Career Skills class is new to me and I'm excited to be teaching the class both at Eastman and online, as part of the Eastman Career and Leadership Certificate: Online.