If there’s been a theme for 2018, you’d probably say that it would be the total neglect of my blog. It’s been months since I’ve posted anything, and I considered starting this year’s review with an apology for that fact until it occurred to me that no apology was necessary. Truth is, this past year has been one of the busiest and most rewarding years of my life. After years of feeling like my career was stuck in neutral, 2018 gave me the first hint of relief, gifting me abundantly with the only thing I’ve ever asked for: opportunity.
Rather than writing about my life, I’ve been living it.
The beginning of 2018 started off normal enough. It was my third semester at the College of Charleston and I began writing my second piece of chamber music. At that time, I still had a tin ear for modern classical music, or “new music.” It seemed to me to be a dissonant, jumbled mess that was difficult to understand. Up until this point, I had listened to Schoenberg and similar composers in my Masterworks and music history classes as well as at local concerts like Magnetic South. Exposure to the music wasn’t the problem, my perception of it was.
So before I even began the new work, I planned to try and write something that was completely outside of my comfort zone. Not just an exercise in doing something new and uncomfortable, but as a way for me to actually hear new music and make sense of it.
“As I Lay Dreaming” was the result of that approach. It’s a piece about the terrifying experience of sleep paralysis, beginning with a pleasant, dream-like texture that transforms into one that is dark and aggressive.
In terms of opening my ear up to new possibilities, “As I Lay Dreaming” was an overwhelming success. Through trying to compose in a completely different way, a new dimension of music has been opened up to me.
After the end of the spring semester, I was expecting something of a break in order to recuperate. But just before I settled into my summer groove, my composition professor Dr. Yiorgos Vassilandonakis invited me to Greece for the summer composition program at Anatolia College in Thessaloniki. Naturally, I was concerned about the cost, but, as if my fortunes weren’t already good enough, I received a summer travel scholarship from CofC that foot the bill for the plane tickets.
It was official: I was going to Greece.
I’m just a kid from Charleston, a small coastal town in South Carolina. I’ve barely traveled outside of the southeastern United States, let alone internationally, and now I was booking tickets for a trip abroad. To Greece. Because of music. For music.
And so I went.
It was the trip of a lifetime. I explored Thessaloniki, a city with twenty uninterrupted centuries of history. I walked in the footsteps of the ancient Athenians on the Acropolis. I swam in the Mediterranean Sea and drank Greek beer. What made it all the more satisfying was that I felt as if I had earned this trip. Excluding the scholarship, I went on my dime, I was invited because of my hard work, and I was there to do what I love: music.
Could it get any better for me?
Surprisingly, yes. Once I was back stateside, 2018 presented me with its final gift.
Ever since I was a kid I’ve always dreamt about writing for orchestra. The power, the emotion, the incredible depth of the instrument is beyond words, and this summer I was given the opportunity to realize that dream.
While in Greece, my professor told me that I would have the chance to write for orchestra for a premiere the following spring. My immediate reaction was that I was not ready, and truthfully, even as the piece nears completion, I’m still not sure that I am, but I couldn’t turn down the chance.
So the rest of 2018 has been uneventful with my days spent quietly working on my orchestral piece.
Life is good.
Here’s to 2019,