2016 Already?!?

Wow!  That year just flew by!  I can’t believe I’m sitting here, minutes before midnight, looking back on the whirlwind that was 2015.

I must confess that most of my previous “whirlwind years” have been primarily due to hardships – illness, financial struggles, and so on.  But this past year has been verrrrry different!

This year’s whirlwind has been almost entirely musical.

I was incredibly excited to head to the SAMMY awards with our producer Bob Halligan to accept the SAMMY for Samba Laranja‘s latest CD, Pathways.  Having a work on that CD, and being in the studio throughout the recording process was an amazing experience.

This year also marked the release of Moto Continuo, the Trio Casals CD that was a nearly a year in the making.  Trio Casals (Ovidiu Marinescu, Sylvia Ahramjian, and Anna Kislitsyna) recorded my “Three Songs” last year, and the start of this year included proofing and approving recordings, liner notes, artwork, and more.  Then came May, and we traveled to West Chester, PA and then New York City for the premieres – just a few days apart.  It was a lot of driving, but well worth it to hear these two fantastic performances.

I also had a couple of new works premiered, “Dyad” for flute and cello, and “Elemental Suite” for flute, viola, and piano (premiered at the Vision of Sound performance in November.)  A snippet of “Porch Music” was included in the American Composers Forum 40th anniversary “Chained Melody” video, and I conducted the full work several times in the spring for the Central New York Flute Choir annual spring concert series.  Not to mention, “Three Songs” has been getting quite of bit of airplay across the U.S., and even made it to broadcast in Spain!

This year also marked the release of my newly designed Pet Dragon Music website.  (You can read all about that process here.)  I will admit, I’ve fallen a touch behind in my updates in the last couple of months, but I promise, it’s all for very good – and very musical! – reasons.

And what kept me the busiest in the last quarter of 2015?  A full-time job as the new mid-day host on WCNY-FM here in Syracuse.  Believe me, after so many years as a full-time composer, taking on a second full-time job was not a decision made easily or lightly.  But, having ensured that I will continue to have enough time to compose and perform, I jumped in with both feet!  It has been a big adjustment – no more staying up until all hours of the night composing – but as we head into the new year, I’m finally well-settled into my new routine, and I’m full of new ideas!

With all this going on, I also wanted to let you know the many different ways you can keep up with my activities:

  • “Like” me on Facebook (This is where you’ll find out just about everything – upcoming concerts and events, new pieces, website updates, new blog posts, and more.)
  • Follow me on Twitter (where I tweet a bit of musical trivia while I’m on the air!)
  • Watch my website for monthly updates, including uploads of new pieces.
  • Listen to me on WCNY-FM weekdays from 10am to 2pm (Eastern time).  You can live-stream from the website, or through the “Tune-In” mobile app.
  • Keep an eye right here on WordPress for various and sundry musical musings.

So now, as I finish this little essay on this snowy New Year’s Day, I want to wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy 2016, and may your year be filled with music and joy.

On New Year’s Eve

Here we are at the end of yet another year.  It seems 2014 has flown by so quickly!  But it’s been a good year.  If I had to put my feelings at this moment into a single sentence, it would be this:  I had a ton of fun in 2014, and I am looking forward to a busy and very exciting 2015.

A number of years ago, I heard an interview with James Galway.  The interviewer was in a limo with Galway as he traveled to the Hollywood Bowl in preparation for his concert that evening.  What I remember vividly is the sheer joy and excitement in Galway’s voice as he exclaimed, “I still can’t believe I actually get paid to do what I love!”

That pretty much sums up this last year.  Make no mistake – I don’t command the kind of money that Galway gets (not yet!), but I do get paid to do what I love.  Some of the highlights include another residency with the band students at West Genessee Middle School, a collaboration with choreographer Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell, and pieces on two different CDs, one with Samba Laranja and the other with Trio Casals.  And I’ve been been performing throughout the year as well.

It’s been busy, and it’s been a lot of work, but I have enjoyed every minute.  And it’s given me a running start to kick off 2015!

So, what is coming up in 2015, you ask?  Well, a re-designed website for one, with the ability to purchase either hard copies or downloads of my works.  Plus a couple of confirmed premieres, a residency in yet another school (my 5th one, if you’re counting), and you’ll even have the chance to watch me conduct one of my pieces.

One last bit of news – you’ll be hearing me over the airwaves again!  I have re-joined the team of professionals at WCNY-FM, and began dusting the cobwebs off my broadcasting skills just this week.  I’ll be on the air occasionally, doing fill-ins so those wonderful hosts have the opportunity to take a well-deserved break now and then.  I always enjoy spending time with the Classic FM listeners.

In case you want to keep up on the increasingly busy happenings around here, you’ve got a few options:

I’ll keep you updated with all the exciting things happening in 2015!

Before I go, let me give you my heart-felt wish for your new year to be filled with music and joy, as well as the chance to spend some time doing what you love.

Have a happy, healthy new year, everyone!

Welcoming the New Year

Like so many others do at this time of year, I am taking some time to reflect back on the last 12 months, and to look ahead to the coming months and years.  I have to say that, despite a few shortcomings, I am pleased with 2013, and very excited about 2014.

Admittedly, this whole “Thirteen in ’13” thing didn’t pan out quite the way I had planned.  I am truly disappointed that I haven’t given you 13 completed works over the course of the year.  That being said, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been working.  I’ve gone “fishing” a lot, and I have more than 13 sketches of new pieces to work on and flesh out.  (I guess that just means my “Thirteen in ’13” could be considered as “held in a private collection” for the moment.)

Of those finished works, I am especially pleased with Kelly Covert’s performance of “Iago” this past summer.  I describe this as “a short work, in honor of a life cut short,” which I wrote in memory of my late brother (“Iago” is Welsh for “James”).  Kelly gave a beautiful performance, and captured the soul of the work perfectly.

2013 also provided the opportunity to take a few breaths and get “centered” again, as it were.  Y’know how sometimes things just fall perfectly into place?  That’s exactly how I feel tonight.  Composing every day, enjoying time with family, spending time with friends, and performing around the area – as this year draws to a close, I am content in how all of those things have finally come into balance.  As 2014 begins, I feel energized and ready to enjoy boundless opportunities.

And the opportunities are already manifesting.  I have two confirmed premieres for this coming Spring, a couple of collaborative projects, some repeat performances, at least one workshop, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll hear more of my music coming up on a couple of new CDs!

So, as we count down to the midnight hour on this New Year’s eve, I wish you all health, love, happiness, and music to delight you throughout the coming year!

Just Another New Year

It’s that introspective time of year yet again, time to look back at what has shaped us over the last year, and what we are looking forward to in the year ahead.  Although my plans for the coming year have been gearing up for a while now, I thought I’d take a moment to share a few musings with you on this first day of 2013.

This past year has certainly been eventful.  Losing my brother to cancer in the Spring was . . . awful, to say the least.  I’ve also been putting in tons of extra time at the radio station for most of the year, covering one of our announcers who went on extended leave, while helping coordinate the digitization of our entire CD library and auditing the library database.

I’ve been a little busy.

But the vacant shift has now been permanently filled, and I updated the final CD last week (13,000 CDs and over 40,000 77,000 individual works).  And I’ve reduced my on-air schedule to just Sundays, so I have more time available on Saturdays to spend with family and friends.

Basically, the frantic note that has been pretty much a constant throughout this last year has faded, and I have a nice, clean slate for 2013.  I have time . . . time to compose, time to spend with family, time to explore new places and revisit some favorite locales.  My mind is already teeming with music crying out for release, and new pieces are getting sketched out.  This coming year is already shaping up nicely!

What’s left – for now – is my New Year’s wish for you, dear reader:  May the coming year be filled with music and joy, may you cherish the time you spend with friends and family, and may the hills and valleys along the road ahead be gently rolling ones.