Writing in 7/8

It is a well-known fact among my close friends and family that I like weird time signatures. Partly because my kid brother (who played euphoium in high school) loves music with weird time signatures and partly because it’s just something different. I don’t hide it. It’s who I am. I try not to write in weird time signatures too often because I know its complicated and people don’t like complicated. (Ha!) But I had to with Jabberwocky. Because Lewis Carroll was a weird guy and Jabberwocky is a weird poem. So too, should the music be. For those who don’t know, smack dab in the middle of my choral setting of Jabberwocky is a section in 10/8 for a rhythmic chant. And it worked out beautifully.

So I wanted to write more stuff in weird time signatures. That is how Festival Dance, my newest piano solo came about. Sometimes, when I’m writing music, it just flows from my brain onto the paper (or computer) without interruption. These are the pieces I know I will write fast and well. It happened with Jabberwocky. It happened with Inferno. And it’s happened again with Festival dance. It is a light and jovial piece into which I tried to capture euphoria and joy. I set it in 7/8 with a few measures in 4/8 for good measure (ha!). As soon as I put the finishing touches (dynamics and page editing, ugh!) I will put it up on here for all to witness. I think it’s safe to say I have made my kid brother proud!


Hiatus Over!

So it’s been a few months since I last updated anything. And a lot has happened very quickly. So I will hit the highlights.

  • In June 2016, I got engaged to a wonderful and handsome man. We set a wedding date for January so suddenly my life became about wedding planning and whatnot.
  • In November 2016, I was offered a tiny raise and more hours at my retail job. With a wedding to plan, I took it.
  • In January, 2017, I quit my retail job (sadly) and  I got married (twice!) to my wonderful man. Which brings us to
  • February 2017. I am staying with my husband in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada!

So needless to say, a lot has gone on since I’ve been away. But things are slowing down and I want to continue updating this page. So, the question everyone is asking (I’m sure) is “What are you working on now?” Great. Here’s a list:

  • Mama’s Girl: My musical is kind of an ongoing project. Slow and steady, after all.
  • Wade in the Water: That’s right. The piece I was working on last year is still in progress because I had a minor computer crash. It happens. Luckily, I had a hard copy. Also, in rewriting, I have had a lot of revision opportunities. So I added body percussion, changed the key, added new harmonies, the works. So that’s nearly done. I hope to have it finished by the end of Black History Month.
  • Miscellaneous piano pieces: After finishing Inferno I wanted to write more piano music. So I’m working on a piece in 7/8 called Festival Dance. So far, it’s going pretty well.
  • Other than composing stuff, I’ve been checking out the music scene in Ottawa. I’ve even joined a community choir. All in all, life is good!

I’m Alive!

So I was bopping along, enjoying April when all of a sudden, it was May. So here’s what has been keeping me busy lately.

  1. Work. I’m still working two jobs. So there are very few days I have off completely. But that’s post graduation, I suppose. I arranged a version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight for my students at camp and they loved it! If you want to use it in your classroom or just for your own fun, I posted it under scores on this site. I’m looking for other songs to arrange for camp (I’m entirely out of the loop when it comes to kids songs. I still think Disney songs are fun…)
  2. Inferno. I wrote a new piece. Because on top of everything I’ve been doing, I can’t not have a project. I finished a piano solo for my friend Danny to perform at his recital next spring. Personally, I think it’s great. But it still has to go through a series of judges (Campbell Music Department Staff) before Danny gets the okay to perform it at his recital. I will also be performing it at a fellow music teacher’s student recital at the end of this month.
  3. Wade in the Water. After finishing Inferno, I (immediately) started working on a choral arrangement of the African American Spiritual Wade in the Water. I’m still working on it. I was finished, but then I woke up one day and decided the piece had a burning need for a key change. So that’s in the works. When it’s finished, I am thinking of presenting it to the choral teachers at Campbell.
  4. Downsizing. I am a notorious pack rat. I believe this is a trait I inherited from my father. So I’ve been cleaning for the last month, trying to get rid of stuff I don’t use anymore. Right now, I have piles of books and clothes and shoes to take for donation. It’s a project in and of itself.

I am thinking of taking a break from Feature Fridays for a little while. I will try to post here more regularly, but no promises. Next month (next month!) I’ll be returning to Canada for most of the month of June. I’m always more productive there. So I suppose we will see.

Feature Friday: Dreamland


Written for mezzo-soprano and accompanied by piano and flute, Dreamland is one of my favorite pieces I’ve written. Do I say that with every piece? Cause I mean it with every piece. Vain? Probably. Anyway, I used a wonderfully dark poem by Lewis Carroll with the same title. I wrote this one after To a Stranger. Mostly because I had so much fun singing To a Stranger, that I wanted to write something I could sing in my recital. So Dreamland was born. This recording is from my senior composition recital, featuring myself as the mezzo-soprano, and my friends Taylor McCulloch on piano, and Emma McCulloch on flute.

I used the key of D minor because I love its heavy and dark tones. The mezzo-soprano voice ranges from a rumbling chest voice to a soaring head voice, giving this piece a range of emotions. Like To a Stranger, I used text painting in the both the piano and the voice. The beginning is slow, dirge-like, representing the “midnight mists creeping” and the “mighty dead” treading in the first and second stanzas. The third stanza is brighter and faster, which represents the “blaze of noon day splendor.” The last stanza returns to the dirge-like beginning.



Suddenly Wednesday

So I was supposed to post a Feature Friday last week. Oops. But the joy of having my own blog is that I’m on no one’s schedule (except my own). So I will post a Feature Friday this week. (Two blogs in one week!)

Today, I am keeping busy. I am working on a piano solo piece that is currently called Inferno. But I’m not married to that title yet. I am hoping my good friend from my alma mater will be able to premier it at his recital next spring. We’ll see though.

I haven’t forgotten about other project’s though. My friend’s wedding is (rapidly) approaching and I’m still working on the arrangement for that. Mama’s Girl is still in the works but on a temporary hold while I create other things. And I am still working on the companion piece for Jabberwocky. Man, I’m ambitious. But again, aside from the wedding and the recital, I’m on no one’s time but my own. I just have to stay focused.

My fortune cookie told me that I am the flexible person in my present situation, so I’ll be applying that to every aspect of my life. Visit my Twitter to vote for which piece should be featured this week!

Keeping Busy

Wow, is it Thursday already? How did we get to the end of March so quickly?

It seems like I’m always counting down to something. Days until my next visit to Canada (more on that later). Days until my next day off. Days until the gloriously long days of summer. But for the first time in my life, I don’t have seemingly endless hours of school to fill that time. I’m currently counting down the days until my mom’s spring break because she and I are off on an adventure to Boston! (Follow me on Instagram for updates). We leave on Tuesday. And I’m so excited.

These days, I have work to keep me busy. It’s funny to think that just last week, I was looking for a third job because I didn’t think I was getting enough hours. Well today is Thursday and so far, I’ve worked at the track out camp three times (twice as a sub and one normal shift) and I’ve worked at my retail job every other day. And needless to say, I’m exhausted. I think the last time I was this tired was in October when I had two senior recitals (in one month!) and I was still working 10-15 hours and taking a full class load. But it’s okay. Because Spring break is coming!


Body Percussion and Other Fun Things

So I have been teaching rhythm and percussion to elementary and middle school aged kids. So far, I’m loving it. I’m having so much fun! And I feel like I’m learning a lot about myself and my own passion for music. Next week, I am planning a lesson in body percussion. A couple of years ago, we did a piece with body percussion in choir and I fell in love with it. It’s fun, it’s active, and it’s musical! The piece we did was called Bring Me Little Water, Silvy and it was so much fun. Plus, that was when I learned that I could hit a low, (sexy) E. So I will be introducing the kids to body percussion. Not Silvy, because I think it’s a bit too advance at this stage. But using the methods I found from Michelle Wirth‘s website, I will be introducing my students to the joy and wonder of body percussion!

In other news, my birthday is this weekend. I’m turning 26. 26! How did that happen? Somehow, without my noticing it, I became a full-fledged bill-paying aches-and-pains adult with two jobs and responsibilities and such. I think I’ll drink some coffee and think about what I’ve become.

Happy Spring!

Stuff and Things

I’m still trying to post once a week. Some weeks, that’s harder than others.

So here’s what’s going on in my life right now.

  1. New job.
    • I just started working at a track out camp in my area, teaching percussion. Right now it is only about three hours a week. But as an introvert, pouring my energy into elementary and middle school aged kids is exhausting for me. I have thus far only worked one day and I came home and slept for the rest of it. It will take me some time to get the balance right. But I will get there.
  2. Old job(s)
    • I still have my retail job, which I work at about 15 hours a week. It is a routine and after three years, I’m pretty darn good at it. But it is exhausting and draining.
    • I have also been giving piano lessons to one, sweet student, whom I adore. (She practices!) These things have not changed. But I have to adjust for the new job .
  3. Composing
    • I never realized how much I relied on deadlines until I didn’t have them anymore. When I was still in school, I was presenting new music to my composition teacher every week for our lessons. Which means I was writing a lot more than I am now. That being said, I’m still writing. But rather than finishing a piece a month (man, could I focus) I’m finishing a piece every few months. It’s okay, though. As long as I keep writing, I think I’ll be okay. I am currently adding the finishing touches to “The Duchess’s Lullaby” for SSAA and percussion and “Dreamland” for SATB. It’s the tedious part of adding dynamics and editing the score for aesthetic purposes.

I also just posted a video to my Facebook page, which you can watch here.

Feature Friday: To a Stranger

To a Stranger is another piece that is close to my heart. This is the first art song I wrote. I stumbled upon the text by Walt Whitman many years ago in a John Green novel. (Paper Towns). But I forgot about it. Fast forward to just a few months ago when I was about to try my hand at art songs. My friend Jessica suggested I look at poetry in the public domain and I once again fell in love with this poem. I knew I wanted to write for a bass singer because I absolutely love the range of the bass. I coupled this text with a haunting melody passed among the piano, cello, and voice.

The piece opens with a chillingly beautiful motif in the cello, which is then emulated in the right hand of the piano, and finally in the voice. I wanted the music to represent the sort of nostalgic feeling of the text. I also wanted to give the feeling of time slowly passing. By using repeated octaves in the left hand of the piano, I created a sort of tolling bell. I used changes in rhythm to create a feeling of movement. In the second stanza, I used text painting, by using quickly moving notes on phrases like “flit by each other” and long notes on phrases like “fluid, affectionate…”

Finally, after a section of intense tension and movement, the piano and cello fade and the voice rings out on the word “alone.” The end of the piece is reminiscent of the beginning with the hollow open octaves in the piano. This signifies that the remembering of the dream has ended and real life has begun again.

With its constant changing tempi, To a Stranger gives the listener a sense of longing and a bittersweet sort of feeling.



Jobs and Creativity

So today is a good day for me. I got a job! Huzzah!

In other news, I went online and found out how to make my own rains stick. Mostly because you can never have too many instruments, right? But also because I thought it would be a fun activity. And it was. I used a cardboard tube from a poster someone in my family got in the mail. It’s sturdy and it rather large. I put nails in it spiraling all over then filled it with unpopped popcorn that had been in our pantry for far too long and would therefore not be missed. I am in the process of covering it in plastic tape of fun colors to hide the nail heads and make it easier for small children to play with. It’s quite relaxing and now I’m wondering if I can make other home made percussion instruments. I’m pretty sure I can make a tambourine out of paper plates and jingle bells. And I could probably construct an ocean drum in a similar manner to my rain stick. Either way, I’m having fun being creative and crafty.


I ran out of plastic tape but this is the (almost) finished product.

In other news, I finished my SATB arrangement of Dreamland and I absolutely love it. Now I just have to find people to perform it…