2017 was a year to remember with much happening on many fronts. If I had to name the year in a few words, I would say it’s been the year of vocal jazz.
Here’s an overview of my professional year in a few more words:
I published a new post on this site every day in 2017, a total 367 total posts.
I totaled over 72,000 words written for my blog this year; That averages to about 6,000 a month or roughly 200 per day. That’s always my goal – an easily and quickly readable post.
I have maintained a weekly newsletter collecting my writings for that week, and offering as some extras (weekly recommended media and updates on my work). Apologies for letting that over the break….it will be coming back shortly!
I wrote three a cappella SSAA arrangements for 2016-17 Noteworthy.
I composed and attended the premiere of my piece “Always Something Sings” for the Livingston County Chorale and their conductor Kelli Falls. With words by Ralph Waldo Emerson, this piece was scored for three separate choirs in celebration of their 25th anniversary. It was a fun challenge to write for such a large contingent, and a thrill to hear the premiere.
I set a romantic ballad for a choir of Rockford HS alumni and guitar, which was sung during the ceremony of our dear friend Kaelynn Earnest, the Rockford theatre teacher.
I wrote thirty-five band charts in a single week for this year’s Rockford HS Beatles Cabaret. Phew!
Finding myself with a 2:1 ratio of men to women in GRCC Shades of Blue, I transcribed and adapted “Centerpiece” from Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross to sing alongside the wonderful singer Edye Evans-Hyde at our Fall Jazz Night. For that night I also rearranged my “Straighten Up & Fly Right” (available at UNC) for a big band with no trumpets.
I adapted my “Once More A-Lumbering Go” for use by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club in a packed program focusing on Michigan themes. Additionally, the full setting was accepted for publication by Pavane Publishing and should be available soon at all sheet music retailers.
I saw my 2017 sight reading for MSVMA published (both Choral Festival and Solo & Ensemble) and completed the 2018 editions. This is my seventh year writing sight reading materials for MSVMA.
I’m blessed to be able to stay busy writing music I’m excited about. If you’re interested in commissioning something for the 2018-19 season, now’s the time to hit me up!
The Rockford Aces 2016-17 made excellent music last year, performing much challenging music. They earned a spot on the MSVMA Honors Recital at Michigan Youth Arts Festival (their third appearance in eight years) and gave a wonderful performance at their annual solo concert! We completed and released our fourth studio album, Get Ready at the concert. I believe it’s their finest so far. I’m always amazed at what a dozen committed and driven high school students can achieve when given the opportunity.
This year, my fourteen Aces hit the ground not just running but sprinting – a retreat and ten rehearsals was all we had before we performed as a featured ensemble at the ACDA-Michigan Fall Conference. 25 minutes of music is a lot by the end of October, and my students worked nonstop to be ready for it. Our program, titled Through The Years, was a retrospective look at the first ten years of the Aces, including several pieces we commissioned and premiered over the years. We’ve commissioned a piece entitled Part of the Story from composer James Abud that we are looking forward to premiering this spring.
Meanwhile, I was invited to join the faculty of Grand Rapids Community College (the only NASM certified community college in Michigan) to conduct Shades of Blue, the vocal jazz ensemble conducted for many years by my mentor and friend Duane Davis. The opportunity to get back into vocal jazz, my first musical love, has been a deeply thrilling and satisfying turn in my professional life, and one I hope to continue for many, many years. Shades started small, with only seven singers this past semester, but they tackled challenging music, worked hard, and gave excellent performances. I can’t overstate how wonderful it’s been to get back into the world of vocal jazz.
In 2016 I started the Michigan Choral Commission Consortium, whose mission is to facilitate new choral works by putting together groups of choirs across Michigan. After a year hiatus, I am looking forward to round two: we hope to engage twenty choirs and commission two pieces, including an SATB work from Andrea Ramsey.
I remain on the ACDA-Michigan Executive Board as Webmaster/Editor and maintain the digital footprint of the organization. I am working on establishing a weekly publishing schedule for the website with new choral content, though that has not been without hiccups.
As overseer of the Rockford High School Performing Arts Series, I managed our second annual concert, featuring the Swedish a cappella superstars The Real Group. They put on a concert which blew our students and attendees away, presented a wonderful masterclass, and once again revealed themselves to be quintessential human beings. I hope we get to cross paths again soon. I remain grateful to the Rockford Education Foundation for supporting our department’s dream of providing world-class concerts and education to our music students.
I completed my fourth and final year helping plan and manage the MSVMA Summer Workshop. It was a blessing and an education to learn from the over-100 presenters, headliners, and colleagues who I worked with along the way. I wrote a retrospective here.
I haven’t left MSVMA volunteering, though, as I serve as Supervisor of the brand-new All-State Jazz Choir, which will have their first performance at the Michigan Music Conference during the Specialized Choral Hour at 8pm on January 26. This has been a massive undertaking to get off the ground, but I think the results are going to be excellent. I was able to run a prep rehearsal of the ensemble in December and am excited to see what guest conductor Greg Jasperse does with the group next month! (We’re already well into plans for 2019, so keep eyes open, Michigan teachers!)
With my additional responsibilities at GRCC, I eliminated my private studio at Rockford High School, but I have maintained three young piano students (all with the last name Scott…).
Meanwhile, 2017 was not without its disappointments. Without going into details, I received several high-profile “no” responses to big dreams. While it is hard to receive the rejections, I’m mindful of the many professional blessings in my life, and take the rejections as opportunities to learn, grow, and dream again.
Every day I am looking for more and better ways to give back to my professional community – with my time, with my attention, and with my words. If you have an idea for a project we could work together on to make the choral community stronger, please contact me!
I baked more than 110 loaves of bread in 2017, and hardly a week went by without some of our family staples: homemade pizza, pancakes, waffles…. Cooking remains an outlet for me to clear my head of music, and a tangible way to express my love for family and friends. 98 loaves of my sandwich bread means my sons can’t really imagine what store-bought sandwich bread tastes like. I like that.
I read 22 books in 2017. I find it hard to carve out as much time for reading as I want to, but am also mindful that I read a lot more than many. It fills my spirit.
I maintained my Duolingo Swedish habit in 2017, completed their entire learning tree multiple times, and ended the year at about 55% fluent according to Duolingo. It’s been fun, challenging, and has opened up my brain in new ways. I’ll probably switch to Italian in the New Year, to be ready for our choir tour planned for the end of March.
A week in Hawley, Massachusetts in July was the first family vacation with just immediate family since our honeymoon 15 years ago! We eliminated all screens, and spent the week swimming, playing games, reading, and generally reconnecting. (The fact that we got to spend some quality time with the lovely Alice Parker was a big bonus. The boys think of her as an extra grandma.) We combined it with a wonderful family reunion in Rhode Island, a memorial of my own grandmother’s 102 years.
Since 2004, my writing was almost always accompanied by a black fuzzball who liked to sit at my feet while I worked. We said goodbye to Quincy in April, and our hearts still ache for his sweet presence. We haven’t started seriously thinking about a new dog in the house, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see that news in my 2018 update.
My life is full in the best possible ways, and on the horizon I see possibilities I couldn’t have dreamed even a few years ago. Every day I try to do the best I can at the job in front of me, and on most days I see positive change.