Composition

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.

Recap: Composer-in-Residence at UMass Honor Band Festival

Recap: Composer-in-Residence at UMass Honor Band Festival

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of serving as Composer-in-Residence for the UMass Honor Band Festival. Matthew Westgate, the Director of Wind Studies at UMass invited me to participate in this wonderful day. 

I spent two days at UMass; the first was focused on working with UMass students. I worked with the Wind Ensemble in a rehearsal of my Magnolia Star and Goodnight, Goodnight.

New Recordings Up! Our City, Vermont State Fair, and Adagietto

New Recordings Up! Our City, Vermont State Fair, and Adagietto

Our City was commissioned by Florida International University and premiered on October 13th on a concert titled "Urban Landscapes" at the FIU Music Festival in Miami, FL. 

The work is scored for women's choir, piano, harp, oboe and two percussion. Listen to the recording from the premiere here.

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!

Thanks for the Music, James Horner

My dad introduced me to the music of film music composer James Horner when I was a kid and I always loved the emotional power and lyricism of his music.  To this day, my favorite movie is Field of Dreams, in large part due to the soundtrack.  There is so much beauty and depth in this music, and I will always look back on it as some of the inspiration that made me want to create my own music.

My Favorite Getaway: Aurora, NY

When I need to get out of the city (okay, Rochester isn’t a huge metropolis, but it is a city nevertheless) I head to one of the most peaceful and beautiful small towns I know – Aurora, NY.  Nestled on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, the town is steeped in history, with a picturesque main street running along the lakeside.  It’s a perfect place to get inspired and feel refreshed. As a composer (and I suspect this is true for other artists, as well), I have come to realize that it is important to get away and separate myself from my work occasionally.  Often times, the best artistic ideas, seeds that can grow into a good idea, happen away from my desk.  That's not to say that one should just hang out at the beach every day waiting for inspiration to strike; I am a big believer in creating regularly (every day, when possible) - exercising that creative muscle.  I find that many times, when I put limitations on myself (such as deadlines), the creative work actually flows better.  I have to be self-motivated, but that pressure can help fuel productivity.

So, it's a balance.

Most artists tend to feel like they can never stop working - there is always room for improvement, always a higher level of excellence to pursue.  Working hard is very important, but I have also found that getting away from work for periods of time can provide the spark needed to really come up with creative ideas.

What are your favorite places to get away?