Go Compose, Keep Composing, Be You
Happy March! Spring is approaching, more sunlight, buds on the trees, everything starts to grow, temperatures are warming up and the winds will soon settle down in Hawaii.
I had a unique experience this past weekend to watch young budding musicians grow. I participated as a tutor for the Go Compose North America workshop. It is a composition workshop for students aged 11-18 of all abilities. It started during the pandemic and has run three times in the last year all online and completely FREE to the participants. It is run by one of my dearest friends, Sonya Knussen. She has blended her passions for education and composition into a beautiful and welcoming course for all students. This incarnation had students from the USA, England and Namibia in Africa.
The weekend starts with the students having a meet and greet with the composition teachers and instrumental tutors. Followed by a composition lesson and Instrument demos. This weekend's theme was Fanfares. The instruments that the students composed for were horn, trumpet and trombone. It was fun to demonstrate the trumpet and show the students what we can do with sounds, moods, ranges and dynamics. I also enjoyed mentioning what not to compose for the trumpet. (I do have a short list, but hey, who doesn't?) The afternoon session is composition time with a composition teacher and an instrument tutor. We are there to guide the students with their work and they can hear the instrumentalists play their ideas as they compose.
On Sunday the students have a listening session where they hear different pieces and watch performances. This session was dedicated to the music of Oliver Knussen. The students were most likely hearing his dynamic works for the first time. If you are not familiar with his music, you most definitely want to check out his pieces, especially his opera, Where the Wild Things Are. This is followed by a dress rehearsal of the students' pieces and then there is an online concert in the evening where everyone can watch their pieces performed by live musicians and they can invite family and friends.
Speaking of friends, Sonya asked three of us to be instrumental tutors for the course. Mary Jo Neher on horn, Will Lombardelli on bass trombone and myself on trumpet. All four of us became friends at Boston University while doing our undergrad degrees. It was super fun for all of us to be together in the "same place." Being that we all live all over the mainland, that doesn't get to happen much even in non pandemic times. But we have the type of friendships that even if a lot of time has passed since we last spoke, we alway pick up as if we were sitting in the "purple room" just a couple of hours before. (Sorry a BU reference from the late 90's).
On a personal level, it was very rewarding to see the students compose such cool pieces in a short amount of time. It really made me feel like we, as the non students, were seeing a snapshot into their minds and/or souls for a split second. As the performer I had the privilege of bringing their notes on the page to life for the first time. I've played premieres before within the orchestra but this had a different feel. Seeing the students progress on the pieces I was going to play had a much more playful, expansiveness to the whole process. It also tied into my yoga journey of showing up as you are and just be in the space. This is the beauty of feeling and being in the neutral mind. It's the mind that can be here now. Everyone respected where everyone was on their composition journey. It was a very neutral place where people shared what they had. No one was judged and it was very enjoyable to just experience the space with everyone involved this past weekend.
How often do you show up, as you are and with what you have to create without attachments to how things should be? Being witness to young composers this past weekend was a great reminder to me of how playful and expansive life can feel, if we stay neutral.