My New Reality Show

I’ve often thought of pitching a reality show that follows a composer around in their day-to-day activities.  I mean a real reality show, with the person in the career they had long before the reality show started.  Something you know they’ll still be doing long after it ends.

Then I realize what the show would really be.  A lot of this…image

interspersed with a bit of that…image

not to mention…image

Of course, you’d also see some of this…image

followed by…image

Yeah.  The day-to-day reality of composing is not all that exciting to watch.  Although, truth be told, day-to-day life for most of us is pretty low key.

Still, there are exciting moments.  And some very busy weeks!  Take these last two weeks, for example.  I’ve been working with the 8th grade keyboard classes at Ed Smith School almost every day as part of a composition residency there.  This is an opportunity for these kids to help create a new piece for premiere in May.  Add to that a performance for a local charity organization (that ultimately led to a severe case of laryngitis for me), one at a semi-annual flute showcase, nine rehearsals, and one more performance (two sets) at another local elementary school just this morning.

And in between, of course, more of this…image

There are definitely a few more weeks of that coming up.  And then another whirlwind of activity in May!

But even without the whirlwinds, I think this show could really sell!  Just look at this program.



When Things Come Together

It’s an exciting time!  Rehearsals for the 2014-15 concert season have started, the Brazilian ensemble has had two performances in the last week, with two more scheduled for this week.  The flute choir repertoire is set after our reading session last week, and rehearsals start in earnest next week.

And CDs!

Last night I got a copy of the (nearly) final master for the upcoming Samba Laranja CD, featuring my work, Travels.  I am so privileged to have been involved not only in the recording of Travels, but in both performing and giving artistic input on the rest of the CD as well.  The last CD won a SAMMY – and honestly, this one is sounding even better.

Which has raised my excitement level for the new Trio Casals CD as well!  I’m working closely with the sound engineers at PARMA right now, to get Three Songs sounding just perfect.  (Not a difficult job, really, given the incredible performances by Trio Casals!)  Now I realize what a difference it will make when I can hear it in context with the rest of the CD.  I’m even more excited to hear the full master!

It’s also exciting – and a bit nervewracking – to watch the Indiegogo funding campaign.  With just 18 days left, I haven’t quite hit the 20% funding mark.  So here it is, another request for you to check out the campaign and make your contribution.  Then share it with your friends and family, and ask them to support it as well.

Trio Casals: Sylvia Ahramjian, violin, Anna Kislitsyna, piano, & Ovidiu Marinescu, 'cello

Trio Casals: Sylvia Ahramjian, violin, Anna Kislitsyna, piano, & Ovidiu Marinescu, ‘cello


Still not sure if you want to support a new and untried work?  That’s understandable.  And so I encourage you to read this article from Minnesota Public Radio.

The Year So Far

Why so long between posts?  Well, it’s been a busy 2014 so far, and it’s looking to get busier!

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to participate in some great collaborations so far this year.  In March, Rob Bridge and Jennifer Vacanti shared their percussion skills in premiering “Rhythmody” for Vision of Sound.  They gave three performances, accompanying the dancers of Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell’s studio, and I was fortunate to be there for all of it.

Meanwhile, I had my second opportunity to work with the students at West Genesee Middle School.  Again, I collaborated with the 8th grade band students to compose a brand new work, which they premiered earlier this month.  I have to say, this is one of my favorite collaborations!  Martha Grener, the wonderfully talented band director, is a joy to work with, and she encourages enthusiasm and welcomes all input from her students.  Once again, we left the naming of the work to the students, who revealed the title at the premiere performance.  What a great performance of “The Hour of the Raven.”

I also had the chance to spend quite a bit of time in the studio, working on the next Samba Laranja CD (due out this fall).  My world drumming piece, “Travels,” will be included in this release, and I am very grateful to Josh and Dr. Elisa Dekaney for giving me the opportunity to compose for this ensemble once again.

In the midst of all of this – yet another CD in the works!  Ovidiu Marinescu of Trio Casals contacted me early this year to ask for a new piece.  They are recording a new CD for PARMA Recordings, and my newly composed “Three Songs” will be a part of it!  We are all set for a July recording session, with the CD release and live tour set for next year.  (Ahem – look for my Kickstarter campaign very soon!)

As for the “next thing” – I have several pieces in the works, and will update you on those as time passes.  I am also working on the last few details before offering my works for direct sale on my website.

Get Up And Dance!

Often, when I give you a post about a performance, I’ll include a photo for you.  Especially during Cazenovia Counterpoint.  But not today.  I was far too busy up on stage with my fellow musicians!

Samba Laranja is the Brazilian Ensemble at Syracuse University, and during the school year we have anywhere from 35 to nearly 50 participants.  Over the summer, though, our performances are given by a small but mighty crew of long-term members.  Last night it was myself, Brian Ludwig, Rosie Rion, and Josh and Elisa Dekaney, who lead the ensemble.

We had a perfect night for music!  A gentle breeze blew in off of Cazenovia Lake as an enthusiastic crowd gathered on the lawn.  Everyone was settled in, ready to sit back and let the music wash over them.  Then we started in with the Samba Reggae, and sitting quietly was out of the question!  Everyone started smiling, clapping, and getting up to dance.  (Check out the music on the Samba Laranja MySpace page – you’ll have a hard time sitting still!)  And the dancing hardly stopped all night.  We had couples dancing salsa and samba, kids dancing in groups (with one enthusiastic group joining us on stage for a number), and tons of folks clapping and chair dancing. By the final Samba Funk, we had a line of 25 or 30 folks dancing all over the park.

Also included on the program were some indigenous songs, some Brazilian pop music, and my original choro.  I don’t know that I’ve seen so many people up and dancing at one of these concerts before.  If you were there, I thank you for your incredible enthusiasm and support.  And if not, keep an eye on this website for upcoming performances from both Samba Laranja and Josh Dekaney.  You won’t regret it.


Edit:  My friend Steve took some great pics!  Here are a few for you to enjoy:

Samba Laranja Performs


The crowd dances to Samba Laranja!















Diane, Rosie & Brian









Josh & Elisa

Hi-Ho, The Travelling Life

So, my last week has included the following:

  • Staffing the Society for New Music booth at the Solvay High School Career Fair, (thanks for the company, Paola);
  • A performance by Samba Laranja at Cayuga Community College;
  • Traveling from Central New York to Pennsylvania (just south of Philadelphia) to hear a talented young cellist, Kaylee Black, performing my piece Charm Bracelet at the West Chester University 2nd Annual Festival of Women Composers;
  • Another Samba Laranja performance, this one at the Wynwood of Manlius Assistive Living Center;
  • Attending the world premiere of the new opera Eleanor Roosevelt by Persis Parshall Vehar

Not to mention my regular weekend shifts at WCNY, the ordinary day-to-day routine.  Oh yeah!  Don’t forget about taking time to compose!

Rest assured, I’m not complaining, not for a second.  Being a full-time composer allows me the time to do all of these things, and thoroughly enjoy them.  I get to mingle with incredibly talented performers and composers (thank you again, Persis, for our chat yesterday!), and being able to immerse myself completely in music with so many different audiences and performers keeps the compositional ideas flowing, sometimes faster than I can keep up with them.

So as I sit by the bay window, watching the chickadees busily fussing with their nest in the bright sun, and working on my next piece, I just wanted to take a moment to wish you a happy spring, exciting travels, and music, music, and more music!


Drumming and Dancing and Singing – Oh My!

Last night was the semi-annual Samba Laranja concert at Syracuse University.  I’ve been a part of this group for almost 5 years now, and every single performance is an adrenaline rush.  This one was no exception . . . in fact, this was one of our best concerts.  Congratulations, Josh and Elisa (our illustrious leaders!) for another job well done!

A huge part of the success of these concerts comes straight from the audience.  It’s really difficult to sit quietly and stare at the stage when there are 3 dozen people up there drumming, dancing around, and singing their hearts out.  And that’s the joy of attending a Samba Laranja concert – you can jump up from your seat and dance in the aisles.

Actually, I spent some extra time in the audience myself.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I’ve had to miss the last few weeks of rehearsal, which meant I didn’t have a chance to learn two of the vocal pieces.  But they each had great choruses that the audience could learn, so I wound up running up and down the aisles getting folks up on their feet, singing.  What a blast!

That’s one of the other great joys of this group.  Although we spend the semester rehearsing and preparing for the concert, there is plenty of room for spontaneity.  While the everyone was regrouping, changing gears from singing and dancing to grabbing instruments for the Samba Reggae, Josh improvised on the repinique.  And, since all I had to grab was a shaker, I started a little back-beat along with him.  We ended up having our own little rhythm and speed improv, giving the audience and the group a real kick.

Finally, since the night was clear and surprisingly warm for November in Central New York, we marched outside, bringing the audience with us, and finished the concert in the grass outside Crouse College, adding a little Samba Funk to the mix!  That’s how Brazilian Drumming is supposed to be experienced – outdoors, where you can drum to your heart’s content.

In case you missed us, here are a couple of pictures to enjoy:


Samba Laranja outside Crouse College

Josh leads the drumming, Nov. 11, 2010



Samba Laranja Sings 2010 Nov 11

Elisa leads the audience in Setnor Auditorium, Nov. 11, 2010



By the way, here’s a message to the four guys in the very back by the door who were “far too cool” to dance around with the rest of us.  While you were sitting there all slouched down looking miserable, the rest of us had a blast.  Sorry you missed out on all the fun!

Tons of Summer Fun in Central New York

Who says summer in Syracuse is boring?  No one who lives here! The last week and a half has been filled with excitement.  Lots to do, and barely enough time to fit it all in!

The Cooperstown Chamber Music Festival is in full swing.  It’s a bit of a hike to get there from here, but well worth the trip.  We were able to get to the Flute Fest showcasing students from the International Flute Institute, and it was a great performance.  These young flutists are amazingly talented, and standing out (in a group filled with stand-outs!) was soloist Jae Uk Jeon, the winner of the 2009 IFI Concerto Competition.  His performance of the Allegro maestoso from Mozart’s Concerto for Flute in G Major, K.313 was fantastic, and the arrangement for flute choir accompaniment by Mian Kim was extremely well done.

The festival continues through August 21, and will include Igudesman and Joo performing A Little Nightmare Music (check them out on YouTube for a big laugh), as well as Bach’s A Musical Offering on closing night.  Although the tickets are a bit pricey, you should make an effort to attend at least one performance.  Organizer and Artistic Director Linda Chesis has put together a wonderful program for this 11th season.  This is the first time I’ve been able to attend, but it will definitely not be the last.

Closer to home, Samba Laranja performed at the Marcellus Library on Friday evening.  We set up on the lawn beside the new library building, and the crowd brought their sunglasses, their lawn chairs, and tons of enthusiasm!  The concert was free and kid friendly, and so high energy that the kids were running and tumbling in the grass in time to the music.  Cheers and shouts for “Encore!” kept us playing until the sun had nearly set.  A bad day melts away, and a good day only gets better when the drums start your hands clapping and your feet tapping.

Saturday brought the Latino Festival in Clinton Square in the heart of Syracuse.  Food and vendors lined the street, they sponsored a Frida look-alike contest, and the stage was full all day with performance after performance after performance.  Local teens showed their dancing skills, Salsa dancers twirled, live bands performed . . . and the Society for New Music brought cast members from Frida, a new opera being staged in September.  The cast sang selections for about half an hour, whetting the appetite of the crowd for the full opera set for September 11 at 8:00 pm at the Carrier Theatre in Syracuse.  (Tickets are $15 adults, $12 students/seniors, and are available at the door.)

But we didn’t rest after leaving the festival.  Saturday night we brought our lawn chairs to Thornden Park in the heart of Syracuse and settled in to watch Shakespeare’s The Tempest, part of this year’s Syracuse Shakespeare Festival.  It was a beautiful, clear night, and this was the perfect play to see in such a natural setting.  It was as though we were on Prospero’s island with the cast.  The actors did a fine job, and, with the exception of the microphones cutting out for a moment here and there, was clear and accessible.  And there is still an opportunity to see this play.  It will run this week as well, at 5:30 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2:00 pm on Sunday.  Bring the kids – they have games and a maypole there as well!

Best of all, the Samba Laranja performance, the Latino Festival, and Shakespeare in the Park were all free events.  In fact, at Shakespeare in the Park they sponsored a 50/50 drawing as well as drawings for copies of the play – you had the chance to walk away with something extra!

All of this goes to show that the arts are still going strong.  More importantly, they are accessible to everyone.  If you’ve been reluctant to check out a new music concert, or a play, or an art exhibit, just watch your local events calendar.  Free events (and very inexpensive ones) abound!  What have you got to lose?