Music has always been a big part of my family. I grew up listening to my grandparents sing in the church choir and when I got old enough I started singing too. In high school my cousins and I were all in band together, which usually lead to trouble and interesting band trips. Most of my aunts and uncles sang or played an instrument or two also. So, I was always surrounded by music and music makers. I was the only brave enough (or stupid enough, depending on how you want to look at it) to make music my career choice.
There are times that I get frustrated with music and all of the hassles that come with having a performance based career. However, there is a lot of joy that comes along with it too. One of the things that keeps me coming back to teaching piano is watching students struggle with pieces, start to understand the piece, and then grow from the experience. It doesn’t matter their age, young kids or adults, I love watching them work on a piece and then hitting that moment when they realize that they can play something they enjoy. All that hard work they’ve been putting in finally paying off. I also love that moment of realization that student get when they finally understand a concept that they’ve been working on for a while. That moment when it clicks and you can see it in their eyes is so satisfying and it reminds me why I teach.
In the composition side of my career, it’s a little different. There are several things I love about composing. For me composing is like working on a puzzle and I have to figure out how all the parts are going to fit together. The process itself is satisfying, but hearing from other people is gratifying too. I always feel a little vulnerable when I present a composition for public review. In many ways it’s like raising a child. You, put all this time and effort into crafting a piece that you think is perfect in every way and then you have to let it go to see what it can do on its own. Will it get criticized? Did I give enough attention to make it the best it can be? Did I put enough of myself in it to make it awesome? These are several of the questions that run through my mind when a performance happens. It can be nerve wracking at times, but hearing a piece played that people enjoy and react to positively is an amazing feeling.
Music has its ups and downs like all career paths, but I don’t know if I could do anything else.
I hate these things… everyone does. Talking about themselves, trying to pretend to be humble but what you really want to do is brag about all the little dumb things that you have ever done. So, that’s exactly what I’m going to do, brag about myself and not sound humble about it. Now, where to start?
First off, I’m a composer. I love writing music. I love writing weird music. I like writing music that’s easy to listen to. I like experimenting and finding sounds from random objects. But, most of all I just love writing music for beginning musicians and children. I’ve been composing since 2001. I started out composing small simple things that I thought were amazing, and looking back were just … eh. I eventually started taking composition lessons and discovered that I love composing children’s and pedagogical pieces. I love the ridged structure that children’s pieces require. I eventually discovered having that rigid structure is essential to my composition process (we’ll explore that more in a later post). I also like writing more sophisticated pieces. However, they don’t come as easy for me and I really struggle with trying to make them sound the way I want.
I have studied composition with several people, Jim Vernon at Oklahoma Baptist University, Dennis Widen at Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Edward Knight from Oklahoma City University. Each of these professors taught me valuable lessons, but Dr. Knight taught me that my musical voice is important and that there are people out there that are interested in what I have to say. It’s taken me quite a while to get there and I understand now that not everyone is going to like my music, but there are people out there who are going to love what I say musically.
The second thing that I like to brag about is that I am a pianist. I am classically trained and have studied piano since I was 12ish… it’s kind of fuzzy, but somewhere around there. I love playing the piano. I love its range, the many colors that it can produce, and the wide range of literature available to explore. I went to college at Oklahoma Baptist University and was able to study piano with Sandra Meyer. She helped me to develop my technical skill and helped me to explore a wide range of literature that was fun and exciting. After graduating from OBU I went to Southwestern Oklahoma State University where I got my degree in music therapy. There I studied with two piano teachers, ChihChen Sophia Lee and James Breckenridge. Both of these wonderful people helped me to grow and develop into the pianist I am today. Dr. Lee helped to develop my technical skill and Dr. Breckenridge helped me to develop my artistry and musical curiosity. I can’t thank them enough for their support and guidance.
Last thing I’m going to brag about, I promise. I have opened my own music studio where I teach piano, composition, and music theory. It is by far one of my most gratifying accomplishments and source of frustrations. By opening my own business, I have learned a lot over the past few years. I have learned a lot about business, self-reliance, asking for help, and music. Though, from time to time, there are things that frustrate me and times that I don’t want to teach, I keep coming back because I love it and my students. I love watching them grow into musicians and exploring music. I love that moment when something clicks with a student and you can see a visible change in their face.
What should you expect out of this blog? Well mostly, I’m going to be talking about myself and my career as a composer and musician. I will throw in other things, present music I love, review performances I’ve been to, etc. If you have something that you are interested in me talking about, please feel free to leave me a comment and I will look at it. Most of all, I am looking forward to getting to know you and exploring music with all of you more. Feel free to reach out and contact me. I want to make this as interactive as I can. Until next time!