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I’ll be back in the Champaign-Urbana region this week for several Composer-in-Residence educational activities. Here’s what I’m up to:

Tuesday, 11/14: Illinois State University

I’ll spend the day in the city of Normal, working with lots of music students who attend the university. First, I’ll give a talk called For Freshman Only, which I created especially for… you guessed it… freshmen music majors. We’ll go over establishing good working habits, learning to budget their time, writing their personal mission statements, and figuring out their short- and long-term goals.

Next, I’ll give a seminar for a music business class. I’ll be covering lots of aspects of running a career: developing offline networking skills, building a social media presence, creating email newsletters to promote one’s career, and crafting effective crowdfunding campaigns to fund musical projects.

Finally, I’ll present my own music for the university’s composition majors. One of the pieces I’ll talk about is my choral work Give Me Hunger. The poem (originally called At a Window) is by American poet Carl Sandburg, and is one of his few poems on the topic of love. There’s a great video that Chanticleer put online of a performance they gave in Russia, which I feature as part of my presentation; you can view it here:

Wednesday, 11/15: Illinois State University

Today, I’ll teach four one-on-one lessons with composition students. This will be followed by a saxophone studio master class, in which students of Dr. Paul Nolen will play movements of my Pieces of Sanity and I’ll work with them to fine tune their performance. If we have time left over, I’ll do a Q&A with the students.

Thursday, 11/16: University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana

I visited the University of Illinois back in October to teach several composition lessons and give a seminar for their student composers. Today, I’ll teach a few more composition lessons, as well as attend a saxophone master class that Dr. Debra Richtmeyer has arranged. Several of her students have been working on the second movement of my saxophone quartet Flight of Icarus that they’ll play for me and I’ll provide feedback. The saxophone students have also developed a list of questions that they would like me to address. Their questions cover a lot of ground: what is my approach to composing, and writing for the saxophone specifically; how do I go about writing a piece for a specific performer or group; what is the process of funding through grants, consortiums, and organizations; and what would like I performers to know or focus on when interpreting my music.

Friday, 11/17: Champaign Central High School

A marching band consisting of 170 students will be visiting the high school for an hour. The music faculty asked if I’d like to meet with these students. This is quite an intriguing and unusual challenge!

I’ll start by talking with the marching band students about what a composer does and how I got into composing, which I discovered while in high school. Then we will make a list of all the musical parameters that we can imagine; next, we’ll explore what happens when we combine various musical parameters in different combinations (they’re going to need to make some noise for this exercise – making various vocal sounds, clapping, foot stomping, etc.). Finally, we’ll listen to a musical piece or two, and analyze what we’ve heard based on our musical parameter discussion. Hopefully, they’ll have a better understanding of what a composer does by the end of our hour together.


This is going to be a busy week – I better bring snacks. And chocolate. See you soon, Champaign-Urbana!