wind band

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.



"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.

Magnolia Star at Midwest!

Magnolia Star at Midwest!

I'm thrilled to share that Magnolia Star will be performed by the Alabama Winds at this year's Midwest Clinic in Chicago on December 20th at 12:00pm. The ensemble is directed by Randall Coleman.  It's an honor to have my work included at the conference, and I look forward to working with the Alabama Winds and seeing many friends and colleagues there!

From the Sydney Opera House to the Steps of the U.S. Capitol

Magnolia Star (for wind band) was recently performed at the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia by the Los Altos High School (CA) Festival Ensemble and by the U.S. Navy Band on the steps of the U.S. Capitol! It is a great honor to have my work included on these programs. Magnolia Star has been performed by a wide range of ensembles: high school, all-state, college, community, and professional. This past year it was performed by both the U.S. All-National High School Band and the Canadian National High School Honor Band.

2015: A Year in Review

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Happy New Year's Eve! As 2015 comes to a close, I'm spending a little time looking back on the past 12 months and remembering everything that happened this year. I don't often share behind-the-scenes posts, but today, I thought it might be fun to share a few of my favorite things from 2015.

Enjoy!

HIGHLIGHTS

2015 was a big year for me, personally and professionally. My wife and I bought our first home in Rochester, NY this summer (a 1920 Colonial) and we're slowly learning how to be homeowners (and how to fix things!).

On a professional note, it was an honor to have my music performed at a number of all-state conferences and honor band festivals in New York, South Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, IllinoisHawaii, and Kentucky. In addition, I was thrilled to have my music performed at the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) conference in July and by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) All-National Honor Band at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in October.

I attended the Chamber Music America (CMA) conference in NYC in January and helped organize the pre-conference day, "How to Succeed in a Changing Musical World," hosted by Eastman's Paul R. Judy Center for Applied Research. We had a great time at the conference and enjoyed exploring Times Square for a few days!

Working with the Canandaigua HS Band | Steve Danyew

RESIDENCIES

I had the pleasure of working with several great high school and college bands this year (and a church choir, or two!), with residencies, guest rehearsals, and Skype sessions at Nazareth College, Augustana University, Liverpool High School, Trinity Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Arkansas Tech Summer Band Festival, and Canandaigua Academy, among others.

PERFORMANCES

As a composer, the best part of my job is when people play (or sing) my music. This year, I counted over 65 performances in 18 states (and I know I'm missing some! Side note: I'd love to include your performance on my events calendar! Just fill out this form).

PUBLICATIONS

As most of you know, I self-publish the majority of my work, but over the past few years, I've started working with a few publishers for some of my choral and chamber music. This year, I had five pieces accepted for publication with Colla Voce, Augsburg Fortress, and Keyboard Percussion Publications:

- Speaking Love - An Hour of Hallowed Peace - Wake, O My Soul - Filled With His Voice - Chorale Variations

COMMISSIONS/NEW PIECES

Vermont State Fair | Steve Danyew

It was a busy writing year for me, with two new pieces for band (Vermont State Fair and River Town Jubilee), two pieces for orchestra (Winter Song and Vermont State Fair), a new chamber version of "A Country Boy in Winter" (from Alcott Songs), and my second song cycle (New England Folk Songs).

P.S. Thinking about a commission for the 2016-2017 year? Let's talk!

As always, thanks for your continued encouragement and support of my music. Cheers to 2016!

SD

Sketches of "Vermont State Fair"

I am in the midst of composing a new work for band (and probably an orchestral version, as well) called Vermont State Fair.  I wrote about the inspiration behind the piece back in April here.  This picture shows a few of my "sketches" (that's a fancy way of saying "my notes and ideas"). At this stage, I am trying to come up with a several different motives that I can use and develop throughout the piece.  Because the setting is a noisy and exciting fair (think people, rides, games, and horse racing), I anticipate moving between different melodies, motives, and sections frequently to give the piece a bombastic and fun feeling and give a sense of the exciting atmosphere.  I have about ten motives/ideas/melodies so far and I hope to develop several more.  I have also started planning out the progression of music - what order these things will happen in - and working on some orchestration in Finale.

This is a fun piece to write - a range of different kinds of music, but all fun and exciting.  Stay tuned!

A Reflection: Playing Under Gary Green in the University of Miami Wind Ensemble

This past weekend, Gary Green led his final concert as the conductor of the University of Miami Wind Ensemble and Director of Instrumental Performance at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music. When I arrived as a freshman at the University of Miami, I was assigned to Symphonic Winds, the "2nd band," in which I played bari sax. Even though it was not the “top band,” I remember thinking that the sound was amazingly rich. All those tubas, euphoniums, and trombones! Our high school band was good, but we only had one tuba – so yeah, the sound was pretty different. The Symphonic Winds rehearsed in the cavernous Fillmore hall, and though our conductor wasn't Gary Green, he occasionally visited rehearsals and guest conducted. Whenever a DMA applicant for wind conducting visited the school, he or she would conduct the band and Mr. Green would sit in the back, watching and observing how they used their time on the podium.

I still remember the first time I heard the Wind Ensemble under Mr. Green's direction – in fact, I remember the first chord. It was my first band concert at Miami — a split concert where the Symphonic Winds played the first half and the Wind Ensemble played the second half. I remember sitting in Gusman Hall as Mr. Green walked out onto the stage. The Wind Ensemble looked small to me — it wasn't a large band like I was used to playing in. It was one player per part — small and nimble. But, when he gave the downbeat for William Schuman’s “George Washington Bridge,” I remember that first chord being the best chord I had ever heard from a "band." It was so loud that I couldn't believe it was coming from the relatively few players on stage. Everyone was in sync and in tune, and it was at that moment that I realized that loudness is not only a reflection of numbers, but also intonation and articulation. Mind blown.

It was the first of many experiences playing in the bands at Miami where my ears and views of music were totally transformed.

For a freshman, the Wind Ensemble seemed a distant and elite group led by a renowned conductor. They were professional, polished. They rehearsed in Nancy Green Hall — a smaller, more intimate space (even the lighting was cooler, I swear). Although I was admittedly a little intimidated by the thought of playing alongside upperclassmen and graduate students, I wanted so badly to be a part of that group. Everyone did.

My second year, I got a chance. It felt surreal walking into that rehearsal in the Fall of my sophomore year, carrying my bari sax. I felt young and not entirely ready to play in the "top band." Nevertheless, I was excited and wanted to learn from Mr. Green, whose name carried a special weight and aura around the hallways.

Over the next three years, I encountered a wide range of music, from traditional repertoire to brand new commissions. We played some really beautiful pieces, and some that fell on the other side of the spectrum – dense, atonal, thrilling. At a time when my young ears were hearing contemporary music in classes and concerts (which I didn’t encounter much before college), having the opportunity to actually play some of this “new” music really opened my eyes and ears.

Here are 4 things that I remember most from my time playing under Mr. Green:

1. He treated everyone like a professional. From the way he conducted rehearsal to the way he spoke to students, I always felt like Mr. Green treated everyone like a professional. He gave everyone the benefit of the doubt — he never embarrassed anyone for making a mistake or not being prepared. He let you know there was an issue he wasn’t happy about, but he assumed that you would come back next time, like a professional, with the issue solved.

2. He inspired people around him. Mr. Green is one of those leaders who just makes you want to be better. You wanted to play better as an individual and as a group. You wanted him to take a moment, put down the baton, take off his glasses, and tell you a story about why that was so good and why it means something in our crazy world.

3. His depth of musicality was astonishing. Hearing Mr. Green talk about the music was just as thrilling as playing it. He thought deeply about what the music was doing, and what the composer was saying through each piece. He brought a level of humanity, gratitude, and joy to the podium — it was thrilling to be part of that.

4. He had the respect of every player in the group. When I think back to rehearsals with the Wind Ensemble, I don’t really remember players talking to each other. You know those moments — when we stop to rehearse something in the clarinets and everyone else in the group starts their own side conversations? People didn’t talk in these rehearsals – they didn’t mess around. They listened and paid attention. Mr. Green treated players like professionals, and they acted like it, with deep respect.

Finally, I want to mention the considerable bond Mr. Green formed with each of his conducting students. As a player, I watched Mr. Green coach his conducting students, interact with them, guide them. When a conductor finished their degree, Mr. Green took time at the end of a rehearsal to talk about that person’s journey and accomplishments and how much they meant to him. Each time, he had tears in his eyes. It was always apparent to me that he cared deeply about his students and those of us who played under his direction.

Thank you, Mr. Green, for caring so deeply about people. Thank you for inspiring students to want to become better musicians. And, thank you for sharing your music with us.

Image Credit: Frost School of Music, University of Miami

Next Project: "Vermont State Fair" for Band

When I was a kid, my family spent nearly every Labor Day weekend in Rutland, VT, where my grandparents and several aunts, uncles, and cousins lived.  It was the unofficial end of summer; afterwards, we would return to Connecticut and start the new school year.  The highlight of Labor Day weekend in Rutland was always the Vermont State Fair, held just a short drive down the street from my grandparents' house. I have vivid memories of walking around the fairgrounds with my family and most exciting of all, sitting in the grandstand and watching the horse races.  My grandfather loved betting on the horse races, and it was a tradition that was passed down to the whole family.  It was exciting and fun - a true American scene. The fair also included games, rides, animals and all manner of fair food, including the famed french fries at Roxies.

The fair provides the perfect inspiration for a new band piece - a fun overture inspired by the horse racing, games, and atmosphere of the Vermont State Fair.

I am just beginning to sketch out some ideas now - stay tuned!

Image credit: Jack Delano [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons