New Commission: Work for Euphonium & Wind Ensemble

I’m currently working on a new commission for Euphonium and Wind Ensemble, a project being led by Sam Houston State University. The work is being commissioned in memory of Isaiah Ray, a Euphonium player and alum of SHSU who tragically passed away in 2006.

Isaiah’s younger brother Irving, now a Euphoniumist with the U.S. Army Band “Perishing’s Own” will be the soloist. Quite an amazing story that Irving, also a Euphonium player, has gone on to be a Euphoniumist with the Perishing’s Own.

The music is lyrical and reflective and I’m enjoying the process of thinking about interesting timbres that can be realized between Euphonium, winds and percussion. Stay tuned for more!

The work will be premiered at SHSU in early February, followed by a performance at TMEA.

"Six Little Songs" for Voice and Piano Now Available!

I’m excited to share my latest song cycle - Six Little Songs! These six songs are settings of short, whimsical poems written by my wife, Ashley. Listen to four of the songs below, and click here to view the score and read more about the work.

The Man in the Moon - a poem about childhood memories and the mystery of a moonlit night.

Orchard - a reflective poem about our visit to a small, family-owned apple orchard in Central Massachusetts one Sunday afternoon in early fall. It was a quiet, grey day, and the owners invited us to wander through the orchard as long as we liked.

The Letters - a poem about the letters Steve and I wrote to each other the summer after we first met, when we were living on opposite sides of the country.

Academy Hill - a poem about a quiet hilltop park in the small Massachusetts town where we lived just after graduate school. (The place where Steve proposed.)

"Winter Song" for Chamber Winds & Solo Flute Now Available

Winter Song, for solo flute and chamber winds, was recently premiered at Sam Houston State University with conductor Brian Gibbs and solo flutist Kathryn Daniel. The work is based on one of my favorite sonorities - the major 7th chord.

Throughout the piece, I use different voicings of the chord to create harmonies and textures that are sometimes stark, and other times beautiful, reflecting the varying landscapes of winter.

There is much stillness and starkness in the music throughout, but at times the music grows intense and dramatic, especially as the work leads to a climax in the middle of the piece. After this point, we hear the beginnings of a familiar bird call (the black capped Chickadee), perhaps a sign of spring. The quiet and stark music begins to grow warmer at the end, hinting at the gradual relenting of winter and the unfolding of spring.

Listen, view score, and purchase here >>

Free Teacher's Guide & Student Workbook Now Available for Street-Wise Professor Book

For the 2nd Edition of Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor: What You Won’t Learn at Most Music Schools, lead author Ray Ricker and I developed a FREE teacher’s guide and student workbook to accompany the book (both available below). Find out more about the book and read testimonials here, and purchase from Amazon here.

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Having used this book in our classes at the Eastman School of Music, we have developed a wealth of in-class activities and assignments that we are sharing here. Our goal is to save teachers time and provide some tried and tested ideas that we know are effective and that students find helpful. The Teacher's Guide includes 18 topics taken directly from the 2nd edition of the book, and has suggested page readings, in-class activities, and assignments for each topic

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We’ve created a FREE student workbook that has prompts and brainstorming space to help guide students through the self-reflection parts of the book. 

Download your free copy >>

Residency Recap: University of Alabama Huntsville and Alabama All-State

I've just returned from a wonderful residency at the University of Alabama Huntsville where I had the opportunity to work with three talented ensembles.

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I had the pleasure of working with my good friend David Ragsdale and his University of Alabama Huntsville Wind Ensemble as they prepared for a concert at the Alabama All-State Convention that included my work Into the Silent Land.

The Grissom High School band was also preparing "Into the Silent Land" for a performance, so I had the chance to work with conductor Theo Vernon and his outstanding group of high school students.

Finally, the Alabama All-State Red Band, conducted by Cynthia Johnston Turner performed my piece Outlaws and I had a great time working with the all-state students!

It was great, Alabama - see you next time!

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