My project consists of a portfolio of four solo piano works, three small ensemble works, and two orchestral works. In total, this is around 60 minutes of music, and includes many of my works that were composed and/or performed since the onset of the pandemic. However, this project's significance is not just about the notes I wrote down on paper. Beyond the music, my project included the collaboration with musicians and ensembles, and the organization that went into sharing this new music with a wide range of audiences.
The most challenging aspect of composing for me is assuring that my music is as original and personal as possible. I have a great deal of music running through my head all the time, and I love everything from Renaissance works to Beethoven to Ravel to various contemporary composers. While I want to learn from these masters in some ways, I also want to make sure that I am saying something new, or at least that I am presenting something old in an unfamiliar musical context. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, performances of several of my pieces that were due to be premiered were canceled. These included premieres of Rainshapes, (for flute, bassoon, and harp) Dances at the End of Time (for Baroque orchestra), and Leaves (for solo English horn). Much later in the pandemic, the premieres went ahead in an online format. Like all musicians, I missed the experience of being in a beautiful hall and hearing my hard work come to fruition in-person. On the other hand, the online situation also gave me an opportunity to participate remotely in lessons and workshops that I would probably not have been able to otherwise attend. For example, I was accepted into the Merriman Young Composers Workshop, and participated in the 10-week-long program which culminated in a performance of my Wind Quintet by members of the Seattle Symphony.
I hope that my compositions benefit my community when I share them with audiences. In the past few years, I gave several full-length livestreamed piano recitals in which I played several of my original works. I was happy to have a large international audience of around 1,000 viewers. I also am passionate about benefit concerts, and have recently presented programs for churches, choirs, music teacher associations, and music schools. I also gave many concerts at a local retirement home, and these were especially memorable because at each visit, many of the residents came up to tell me how much my concerts cheered them up, how they brought back special memories, or how they were inspiring. In each concert, I speak to the audience about the history of each piece, and for my original compositions, I talk about my process and inspirations. I think the fact that the audience is coming face to face with the composer of the music they are listening to helps to engage them in the music and perhaps understand it more deeply.
I have also worked with various non-professional groups in my community. For example, my music school's student orchestra recorded one of my recent orchestral works, Petawawa Gorges. To prepare for the recording, I attended rehearsals where I helped with the learning process. I believe the students enjoyed working on the piece, and I heard from a few of them that the piece
had introduced them to new extended techniques on their instruments. The final recording was a success, and it was uploaded to YouTube where over 400 students and music teachers have watched it. I also recently collaborated with a 90-person amateur choir and a local professional harpist to perform my composition, Winter Solstice. For many of the singers, it was their first time singing a world-premiere, which was exciting for them. It was also a challenge for many of them to sing in the chromatic framework which this piece uses. But the fact that they were able to work through this unfamiliarity and deliver a great performance shows that there was an educational benefit for them in this experience.