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Friday, November 5, 2010

The Prodigal Son Returns

It's really interesting to think about where I was just a year ago. But it's even more interesting to think where I was six years ago. Six years ago, my life seemed to be pretty laid out for me - it seemed as though I would get a college degree in Music Education and wind up directing some high school band some day and would be happy. But as abruptly as the weather can change, so can one's life - and often times without warning. Call it my blind lust for an 'exciting' job with ample leadership opportunities and outstanding respect from my superiors that swept me away from going after a life I wanted to have since I began playing trumpet in that middle school beginner's band so many years ago. Or perhaps I was also facing classic burnout from the tiresome amount of work that professors seemed to push upon their students. Whatever the reason, I decided to take a different path.

Have you ever gone for a walk, and the further and further you walked the harder it was for you to look forward to the walk back? This is a perfect analogy for what I had been feeling at the time. It seemed the further and further I drifted down the path of Corporate America and the 'Big Bucks', the less likely it seemed that I would ever return to the low-paying but satisfying career of music. Then, one cold March Day in 2010 I came to the realization that the path I was headed down was incomplete and had a 1,000 foot drop to the dark depths below. I was laid off of my job as an Operations Manager at Indiana Beach, a title I had worked the past seven years to achieve. I had mixed feelings about the situation. It first lead me to wonder what the hell I was going to do with my life, as these sorts of jobs don't pop up like weeds (if this gives you a whole different analogy of corporate America, I intended for that). On the other hand, I couldn't help but feel like I had been given a free ride on a raft that was about to depart from a sinking ship.

One thought did, however, remain - any corporation can strip me of a job I'm good at, but few things in this world can take away what I'm passionate about.

A shameless confession, that only my closest friends, and family members have been aware of is that I used my management abilities to my advantage to nab a job with Thomas and King as a an applebee's manager in Lexington, Ky with the whole intention of leaving the company in August to return to school. I guess one could say this was my final confrontation with corporate America in which I gave them a gift before sticking the knife in and twisting it. Unfortunately, Thomas and King did appear to be a well organized company - but it was still a company with one thing on its mind: The Almighty Green. So after my last encounter with the constant kissing-ass that I've told myself I'm completely opposed to, but have reluctantly practiced over the past several years, I returned to school - after being absent for five years.

Indiana University Southeast is as good of a 2nd chance school as it is an only chance school or a stepping stone school. It appears that many people either go here just to get that piece of paper but with no real long-term career ideas in mind, or go here because its cheap and is a good place to boost your grades till you can get accepted on scholarship at a more prestigious establishment. Or in my case - you failed at getting your degree at a previous university but didn't not have low enough grades to be declined at a smaller school with lower standards. That being said, I am in no way ashamed to go to IUS and if anything I am proud of the fact that I have put so much work into getting here, and more importantly that I will finish my first semester with nothing lower than a B for the first time in my entire life.

Is it weird, you may ask? To be a 29 year old and still going for my bachelor's degree? Why would that be weird, do you think? Lot's of people do it. College is not easy. And a large majority of people in the world never get their college degree. So why would I feel any shame that it is taking me longer. Even at 29, I'm still well ahead of a lot of people.

Ok, so I'm 29 and I'm living on campus in the IUS Lodges (or dorms, if you feel like referring to them as that). I seriously get questioned about this all the time by people. Honestly, it doesn't really bother me a whole lot. I know that I am here because of a stupid mix-up that was for the most part out of my control, and because of that perhaps I need to take a few steps backwards. Live the young adult 'college life' again to push myself to greatness. Sounds reasonable doesn't it? Should I even mention some of the really awesome people I've met here - people that are going to help me get over some of the non-traditional aspects of my life, and finish with an undying certainty that I overcame myself to achieve success. If anyone thinks that I don't deserve to be recognized in their life because of a few differences, then perhaps they don't deserve my friendship.

The last statement of my epic adventure to achieve what I once thought was a distant impossibility is that I am in the right place. I don't see that changing and will feel confidence in that statement when I am on my deathbed breathing my last breathes of air.

Friday, May 28, 2010

School = $$$, Both In and Out

Well, I have signed and accepted a $12,000 loan to transfer to Indiana University Southeast and finish out my degree. I guess I should be pretty excited about it, though I'm looking at it from a more cynical perspective and realizing that it is MORE debt to my already overwhelming load. The unfortunate thing about attaining a degree in music composition is that the job market would require me to seek out a masters degree and potentially a doctorate before I could even hope to establish a career for myself. I am also making the decision to leave a job that is paying my bills faster than they've ever been paid, which begs the question - is this the 'smart decision'? I'm not going to lie - I already hate working in the food industry. It's frustrating, people are too picky, employees hate their jobs no matter what you do, and every day I come home smelling like fried food. I really don't want to do this job for the rest of my life, therefor I am aiming towards a job/career that I know that I will always enjoy. Is there anything wrong with that?

I really wish I could just win the lottery - or an ample amount of funds somehow - and this wouldn't even be an issue anymore.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reflections on 'Time'

It has been more than two years since I have constructed that conservatively structured marching band suite entitled 'The Elements of Time' which served as my debut opus into the realm of Marching Band Original Music. Since its completion, only two bands have taken the piece by the horns and performed it on the field. The first band, the Harrah High School marching band directed by Martin Andraszek, is the ensemble that it was respectively written for. I had the pleasure of joining the band in rehearsal as they prepared for the Konawa Band Festival in Konawa, Oklahoma. After initially seeing the performance, I had big grin on my face - not because it sounded fantastic (which it did) but because I had flashed back to my times in the Lafayette High School Band when I spent my years admiring the great composers/arrangers that put together our marching band shows I came to know and love. Suddenly it dawned on me, I was becoming those greats. Granted, I wouldn't dare compare myself to Scott Hickey....and certainly not Key Poulan, but it was definitely a start.

Let's back up a minute - it's not fair to actually call the Harrah High School band fantastic as what helps a group most is the criticism. They were very good for a small band taking on a piece that was OBVIOUSLY written with a larger band in mind. That was the first mistake I made when writing 'Time'. I wrote it with the Lafayette Band in the back of my head and theirfor many of the big hits and chord progressions sounded very hollow. This is an important lesson for anyone to learn when writing for an ensemble - the size of the group matters immensely.

On that Saturday, as the band was dressing for the performance I flipped through the program to notice that Martin had changed the title's to three of the four movements. This is not typically something that is done with respect to great composers.....however, me maintaining current Amateur status had come to the realization that he had very good intentions on change the names of the movements and I almost considered changing them to those names myself. The fact of the matter is that the title I gave to the movements were NOT 'Elements of Time' Perhaps I could have gotten away with calling the suite "Reflections of Time' and that would have suited the movement breakdown better. This fact was further brought to my attention when the Fox High School Marching Band (Missouri), directed by Matt Rice, bought the score from Impact Marching and changed the title of the entire piece to "Insomnia: Journey through a Sleepless Night."

Unfortunately, you can't hear the music as well in that video. If you are a friend of me on facebook, you can check out a better video at the following link.....

The FHS Marching Band's video also includes the last movement, which the Harrah Band had not yet had on the field when I visited. That was the other part of the suite I would have fixed. I really did not like the beginning of the last movement. I originally wrote that with the Salvador Dali painting of 'melting clocks' in mind, however it did not fit the rest of the piece very well and just sounded odd.

Overall, as a personal reflection writing the 'Elements of Time' served as a good experience for me, and taught me a lot of valuable lessons about writing for Marching Band that I have applied to my other two marching band works 'Traffic' and 'Joy! Reconstructed.'

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Music Industry and Siobhan Magnus

I'm quite the rebel when it comes to music. I don't buy into the sappy romance songs that in my heart I know were written for the purpose of boosting record sales. We saw it happen when Nickelback wrote that musically horrific song 'Photograph' which became an instant best-seller. That being said, you could have walked up to any high school female during that year and asked them what their opinion on that song was and it would quickly be followed by the revolting response "I LOVE that song!" I guess with music being more of a business than a hobby in the real world that it is accepted to write music you hate to make money which...of course...we all love to have. Personally, I think creating music born from your passionate heart and STILL being able to pay the bills and make ends meet is much better than 'selling-out'....but what do I know?

Let's talk about American Idol. It has been on for nine seasons, and for the previous eight seasons I might have watched one episode (when Idol visited Louisville and one of my co-workers went to the auditions). I had always felt the show was not just political, but the end results have rarely generated artists that I enjoy listening to. Carrie Underwood would be the exception to this, because she is definitely the best out of all of the winners and contestants. Plus she's smokin' hot! But the biggest problem I had with the show is not what comes out of it, but that to me it is usually nothing but one big Karaoke contest. the contestants are charged with 'changing' the song up a bit...but unless they do something spectacular, its still the same song.

So many years I joked with people that wasted an hour or two a week putting their heart and soul into watching the show and spending hours upon hours texting or calling in a vote for someone who they will probably never meet in their lifetime. Well, a little over a month ago I was devastated with the unfortunate termination of my position at Indiana Beach. That being said, I had a Tuesday off one night when my brother and mother talked me into watching an episode of American Idol. I didnt have anything else to do, so I toughed out the episode. Apparently, it was rolling stones week...which was pretty cool. Never a big stones fan so I didn't mind seeing their songs horrifically butchered.

Then came Siobhan Magnus. My mom, who was practically narrating the show for me, told me that she was as Simon Cowell put it "a funny little thing" and that I might like her. At this time, I kind of rolled my eyes as I still wasn't that into the show. Then it hit me....a loud female note in the upper register, piercing through the sky but with great intonation. Behind the signature I could hear the "Freedom" chorus from Aretha Franklin's 'Think', and realizing that it was NOT a stones song....we hadn't even gotten to this week's performance! That was when it started......a very dramatic version of the song 'Paint it Black.' Siobhan was wearing a stunning midnight blue dress, and sitting on a red and black stair case. She sang the first verse, very slowly and haunting before flashing lights accompanied by drum beats took control of the stage and the Massachussettes glass-blower (which is interesting because glass-art has always been a love of mine since I was a child) stood up and entered the front of stage with fire, anger, and twisted emotion. I was really diggin the performance, and since then I had been on the Siobhan Magnus bandwagon.....through her best and worst (Through the Fire) performances. I hadn't missed an episode of the show I used to despise since....

To much shock, Siobhan Magnus was voted off of American Idol on Wednesday, April 28th. She had never been in the bottom three and was highly praised by the judges (though highly criticized by the media) for her 'returning' performance of Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine'. Even Kara DioGuardi, who over the past four or five weeks had expressed how she was 'confused' on who Siobhan Magnus was as an artist, exclaimed "Guess who's back. Siobhan!". The only negative comment came from everyone's favorite Simon Cowell who claimed that her screaming at the end of the song felt like she was 'giving birth' up on stage. I felt it wasn't a solid performance, but still loved her stage performance as I always have and was glad to see her going back to the styles that made her famous.

But despite the judges praise and the response from the audience, Siobhan was eliminated the following night. Her fans were devastated, probably more than she was as her signature response was 'This isn't the end, its the beginning of something new." Very mature response for a girl who many claimed didn't sound like the brightest crayon in the box when interviewed. (I always laughed at that assessment because she was 20 years old and isn't used to having that kind of media. Seeing her on the Ellen Show....she had much more intelligent things to say, and it was very obvious - this is NOT a dumb girl)

Ok, so the fact that she was a trendy pick for ending up in the top 3 this of course raised a lot of suspicion on how accurate the vote was to the point where over 4,000 of her fans have signed a petition to reinstate her. Their argument is that the wrong numbers were posted on her facebook fanpage which hosts approximately 23,000 of her devoted fans. If you would like to sign the is the link. Seriously, need to let this one go. I'm as upset as the next and have my own suspicions, but personally I think she is better off. Plus - when did we decide that American Idol was the be-all end-all of the music industry? American Idol is about giving regular talented schmo's off the street an opportunity at success...and it's already done that for everyone from Paige Miles (the top 12 eliminated contestant) to Crystal Bowersox or Lee Dewyze (the two speculated favorites). Personally, a girl of independance such as Siobhan is probably much better off being able to browse the endless opportunities that are out there than she is to be tied to some stupid Fox Contract that will make her sing songs she doesn't want to sing for however long the contract is.

So what IS next for Siobhan Magnus? Well love her or hate her, the girl HAS a voice. The most significant comment that was given was pertaining to her high-note (which many people critically refer to as a 'scream') when Simon Cowell, after her paint it black performance, said 'A lot of people are going to love that, but unfortunately a lot of people will genuinely hate it.' Good thing for Siobhan, she doesn't change who she is just because some people want her to. Risky....but admirable. And this of course is the reason why I think Broadway would be the best move for her after she is done with the tour. Sure, there probably isn't as much money in Broadway as there is when you are on tour the entire year and putting out millions of copies of albums.....but do you really think Sarah Brightman is sitting in the lap of poverty right now?

It really made me happy to hear that Magnus was wanting to perform in musicals (she referenced both Andrew Lloyd Webber hits Jesus Christ, Superstar and The Phantom of the Opera......its a shame she wasnt a contestant when he was a Mentor on American Idol - but I'm sure the two will meet eventually) I believe this would be the perfect transition for her and feel that Broadway is the least likely to screw her up as an artist. I could even see her writing some pretty amazing hopefully this is something she would consider doing.

Now, I'm sure some of you are in strong disagreement with most of my assessments on here....but that is exactly why I said I am a rebel when it comes to music. I'm not trying to compare myself to Siobhan as a musician...obviously....but the fact of the matter is that she sang the songs she sang on American Idol mainly because she LIKED the songs - and kept doing it despite the criticism from viewers and the judges. I write music I like to hear, despite what many of my colleges have said and I have constantly had trouble finding success because of that. The fact that a person like Siobhan, who Kara once called "an unlikely character on the show", has become pretty successful on American Idol...and at such a young does provide people who are different, or rebels, a sense of hope for the future.

As she said immediately following her elimination "I wanted to show them (her sisters) what we are all capable of" Well, Siobhan, I think you've showed the WORLD what everyone is capable of.

And now for your are some videos of Siobhan's stand-out performances on American Idol.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I apologize that it has been a while since I have updated my blog, but there is really one word that can sum up how I feel about the past three months: Pineapple. OK....that word is actually very meaningless to the events that have happened recently, but its still a mildly humorous word if you say it over and over again. I think that it is the actual fruit that is even more amusing because it doesn't taste anything like an apple (or pine for that matter) and people seem to use it for just about any food creation these days. Do you know people put pineapples on pizza? Sounds weird....but in fact its a very common topping for american pizza franchises now. Unripe pineapples can give you the runs.....that's definitely an interesting fact about pineapples.

I hated pineapples with a passion growing up.....

And now......the past three months' 'pineapples'.

Pineapple #1. I managed to place 4th in the Humboldt composition contest. Not too shabby for my first competition. Cheap bastards didn't award me any money, though. (That's meant as a joke....I apologize if its not funny.)

Pineapple #2. I have published another successful marching band show at Impact Marching. "Joy! Reconstructed" is my third show and will be premiered by Harrah High School Marching Band in Oklahoma in the fall. It's a feel good show inspired by familiar tunes - I apologize to Bach, Beethoven, and Haydn in advance, however if you feel so inclined to do so you may listen to the recording at

Pineapple #3. Morgan RV Resorts didn't let me finish even a year at Indiana Beach and gave me my notice of termination (along with three maintenance, which came as a shock to the majority of the staff. I guess Morgan RV doesn't think that rides operation, rides maintenance and cleanliness are necessary in order to run a successful theme park.

Pineapple #4. I moved back to Lexington and now have a job training to be a manager at Applebee's. I know you all will want to come visit MY neighborhood!

Pineapple #5. I will be going back to school but this time at Indiana University Southeast and going after a degree in composition. And to think, Hoosier Hysteria thought they could get rid of me that easily? HA!

Interesting personal fact about me: I hate pineapples, but pineapple lifesavers are my favorite flavor.

You're craving pineapples now, ain't you?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Music, Football, and a Move That Even Ticked-Off Hitler

I've hit somewhat of a slow period in composition. I'm caught up on the current projects I had been working on over the Holidays, and now I'm only working on one: A euphonium solo for an old friend who's made it up the ranks as a prestigious virtuoso. The performance opportunities this could create would be astronomical (assuming he was able to find gigs on the moon). I am torn between several ideas, but in time I will hopefully be able to create a masterful work that he will enjoy playing as much as the audience enjoys hearing (which seems to match my particular musical idiom).

The Colts were defeated by the Saints in Superbowl XLIV. I was of course rooting for the Colts, however I can not say that I was terribly disappointed as this made a terrific story for the Saints (at one time referred to as the 'Aints). It was a little alarming to see Peyton Manning end the season on an interception play that was ran in for a touchdown, however I still believe he is one of the greatest Quarterbacks ever and will pass the majority of Brett Favre's records (assuming Favre ever retires)

I've recently become addicted to the NBC-hosted show 'Chuck' I think the concept is really neat, and to date I have seen every episode. The whole idea of a normal guy who works on the Nerd Herd at Buymore (which is obviously supposed to parody the Geek Squad at Best Buy) suddenly being tossed into the secret world of the CIA and going on several dangerous missions to keep his family safe is just SO cool! Yes, we have all felt that our lives arent going anywhere at some point...not sure how I would like the Spy business, though. Yvonne Strahovski is a very attractive woman, btw.

Although, when you think about it - I'm kind of living a double life myself. Aside from my musical career which I work so very hard to keep strong, I am also a Manager at an Indiana Theme park and when I'm not writing music I'm usually at the office. It's an enjoyable job, and keeps food on the table so I can't complain too much.

Six Flags announced its plans to shut down Kentucky Kingdom (the park where I used to work) over the weekend. It's very said that this happened, and many of my friends were told that they wouldn't have a job at that park this summer. I'm really pulling for them all to find places they enjoy working at, but in this economy it looks grim.

This move even pissed off Hitler....see for yourself....

Ted and Jason from Impact Marching are down in Texas currently trying to gain clients for their 2010 line-up of marching band shows. I'm hoping a few of them pick up my two new shows Traffic and Joy Reconstructed, but we'll have just have to see how it goes I guess.

Life is good so far, hopefully it gets even better!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Midnight Ramblings

After ten years of establishing myself as a successful composer, I've finally entered my first professional contest. The contest is sponsored by the Humboldt University (Arcata, Ca) and will be announced sometime in May. The winners of the contest will receive a cash award and will have their works performed at the Chamber Ensemble Workshop that is held at the University Annually. I figured this would be a good way to know where I stand on the level of musicianship as a composer as I do not know anyone who will be judging the contest or witnessing the performance (if it were to place). Unfortunately, I can not announce the name of my entry on here because the contest has specifically asked for anonymity of the entries. I would be very exciting to win, or even place - but I don't have high expectations as I rushed the end of the piece to get it entered in time. Of the movements, I like the final movement the LEAST. Fortunately, I'm not one of the judges......I would probably not vote for my own composition.

The Colts are in the Superbowl. I'm really excited about this, and am wishing that they win. Peyton Manning is a LEGENDARY Quarterback. Yes, Paul. I said it. I said LEGENDARY. Take THAT. Anyway, glad that they made it after all the crap their coach received for pulling the starters, despite I myself was irritated by that move. I'm also very happy for the Saints - what an umbelievably amazing story that is for them.

Speaking of things that are amazing, if you haven't seen the beatboxing flute player, you are missing out.

I'm wondering if there is a community-help organization for people that are addicted to facebook. I should probably join, as I spend probably way too much time updating my status and posting obnoxious comments on others. Mostly I pick fights with Kentucky fans, but that's just in my nature to start arguments.

I'm still offering free CDs to anyone who wants one. I'm amazed that no one has e-mailed me requesting one. I mean...its not that expensive. It's only FREE. But I guess in these screwed up economic times, even FREE is too expensive. I really do hope our president knows what he is doing, because I am starting to get impatient. I know change takes time, but surely we should be seeing SOME improvements by now. Oh well....I have nothing but respect for any man who takes on the responsibilities of the entire country, so I'll just keep hoping for the best.

Anyone remember high school marching band? I do! Here's a link to some of the best shows ever, three of which I participated in (1997-1999)

Have a nice week, everyone. :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Short Autobiography of my Compositional Happening

It would be inaccurate to say that I was born with the talent to write music. I grew up in a household of mildly talented musicians. My mother sang - My older brother, Matt played Piano - Paul and Mario both play guitar and write songs. My sister was in chorus and I was in we all had our own personal musical experiences. However, I was the only one who sought out an education and ultimately a career in music. It all started after seeing Craig Cornish, who is currently the director of bands at Middle Tennessee State University came to my elementary school (Garden Springs) and began demonstrating the sounds of mouthpieces for certain instruments. I found the buzz of a trumpet mouthpiece the most amusing, and according to my mom I wouldn't stop RAVING about it when I got home. Unfortunately, for certain reasons I would not be able to play with the band in the fifth grade. However, I did not forget that experience...and I attended a few of the Elementary school band concerts. I would sit there in awe, amazed at this new ability to generate those kinds of sounds out of structured piece of wood and metal. I desperately wanted to be part of this experience. It wasn't until the summer before I began Middle School at Beaumont Middle that my mother surprised me one morning by presenting my very own trumpet, which she rented from Don Wilson Music. Along with the trumpet, she had gotten me lessons with Stewart Smith of DW Music to prepare me for middle school band. In middle school, because I missed elementary school band, I had to sit in the beginner's band for the first semester of school. To my excitement, that funny guy named Mr. Cornish was the beginner's band director. He was also the director at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, but the pay rates for Kentucky High School Band director's were not high in those days so most director's worked at the local middle schools to earn a secondary income. There were not a whole lot of us in that beginners, and we used to have a lot of fun learning the instruments. Eventually, I taught myself how to play the theme from the "Muppet Show" and got a lot of amusement and laughs out of my bandmates. I loved the trumpet, and would spend a lot of my own personal time just playing the instrument and experimenting......"writing music" with my mind.

I would eventually play trumpet, until switching to Baritone in the 7th grade (and a new middle school) due to a difficulty in hitting the high notes. I would eventually attend four different middle schools in four years (I repeated the 6th grade because it was not felt that I got the propper education at Beaumont and several of my grades were substantially low) I performed in the band at all middle schools, and despite the other schools accepting my lone ability to read treble clef....Jessie Clark Middle insisted that I learn Bass Clef, as that was the standard clef for Baritone and Euphonium players. J. Steven Moore, the assistant band director who was also the director of bands at the prestigious Lafayette High School Band, was the one that individually spent time with me teaching me how to read Bass Clef.

Truth be told, I only marched three years with the Lafayette High School. I claim to have marched four years in most of my biography's because I regretted my decision to drop out of band my first year within the first month of parting from them and went to every football game and nearly every competition I could. I really felt like I was a part of the band that year and video taped many of their shows, taking them home and watching them. I probably knew Parisian Venues better than more than half of the band did. Thankfully, Charles M. Smith (Chuck), the Lafayette Director that replaced J. Steven Moore, allowed me to rejoin the band and informed me that if I quit again I would not get another chance. That was a fair condition, and the following summer I went back to band camp and worked really hard at helping the band win three more state titles as well as numerous other awards and recognitions. I also participated in many solo and ensemble contests and honor and all-state bands.

It was during my time in high school when I really began to notice how I had a unique ability to hear and regenerate music that was played by the ensembles was I in. Most bandmembers can hear individual melodies and counterlines, however I would literally be able to go home and recreate some of our music on the piano without ever seeing the other parts. This was a gift that I had discovered and that has really helped me mature and develop as a composer. My mom said it was as if I was breaking apart the music piece by piece and finding ways to put it back together. I began writing my own songs on piano, none of which were very good....but I kept working at it and would experiment with different chord structures. While in my dad's basement, I heard some computerized instrumental sounds coming from Matt's room. Astonished by what I was hearing, I went over to the door and saw him sitting at his desk. Curiously, I asked him what it was. Excited, he told me that it was a new 'music notation software' that he bought for about $40. It was called Voyager, and he was able to create music and play it back. I later found out this particular software was geared towards people who could not read music as you did not place the note values....instead you would drag the length of the note you needed onto a pitch chart. I was AMAZED by this amazed I went out and found the software myself. Thankfully, that was around the time I spent my evenings working at McDonald's and had enough money to purchase. I took it home immediately, and spent a LOT of time with that program. I would write all kinds of orchestra songs, or instrument solos and would let my family listen to them. Still, none of music would ever leave beginner stages. I was unable to find ways away from the one chord, so most of my music was very boring.

After accepting a full-tuition scholarship, I started attending the school of music in education. Initially, I wanted to go for Composition however this was frowned upon as they informed me that the job hunt was much easier in education. My roommate, Allen, would become one of my primary influences. He shared the same passion for classical music that I did, and also did his share of writing music using inexpensive amatuer programs similar to voyager. Often times, we would find ourselves competing over our music.....usually in friendly manners, but would crack jokes at eachothers works. We ended up becoming really good friends, and I learned a whole lot about music composition from Allen. I also began taking courses in Music Theory which really helped to train my ear. I've sometimes commented that I have perfect pitch, because I was able to sing intervals and recite music that I heard much better than most of classmates.

The year 2000 was a rough year, financially for my family. My step-dad found himself constantly on the job hunt, trying to find work that paid well enough to support my other two siblings and help me with college. My mother was also struggling with her work. They lived in a rented house at at times could barely afford to pay their rent on time. Still, in Christmas of 2000 when talking to my mom about how AWESOME the new music notation software 'Sibelius' was, and how I really wished I could afford it she said "I'll buy it for you for your christmas present." I couldn't believe mother truely cared so much about my future and my passion for composition that she insisted on risking her families financial security for it. And she stayed true to her word, and purchased it for me on Christmas. My mother is by far the biggest influence of my musical life.

Sibelius was amazing. There was so much I was able to do with it, and I could create the most amazing scores. I spent a lot of time with Sibelius, and eventually began to self-publish my music on in 2001. I started interacting with the other sibelius music users and made some friendships along the way. To this day, I have over 50 self-published works at Sibelius music.

My junior year, I began taking lessons with Dr. Steve Rouse, who was the head of composition at the University. Now, I had written some pretty amazing music around that time.....however, most of it was rough around the edges. I had a tendancy of writing music too difficult to be performed, and my sense of repetativeness needed some fine-tuning. Dr. Rouse taught me how to make music interesting as well as playable. He also got me my first ever compositional performance.

In February of 2004, "Cataclysm" would be performed under the direction of Mark Kersting. The experience was once in a lifetime. Not only because of how amazed I was, but one of the percussionists happened to miscount a bar, and unfortunately her tubular bell part happen to be the cues in half of the musicians' music. The ensemble literally was parted exactly one measure from eachother. Mark's first thought when this happened was "My God, PJ's gonna kill me" Instead, I rushed backstage after the concert and before Mark could apologize I said "Don't worry! I actually liked it better that way!"

The music was contemporary enough that without seeing the score there was virtually no way to tell that the group was off....and it actually did make the piece all the more interesting.

I have had several performances since then, including an arrangment of my "Christmas March" that was performed in Singapore by the Tuba Powerhouse. I never was able to witness that performance, but the arranger sent me a recording of the performance and it sounded terrific!

Unfortunately, because of some struggles with grades as well as confusion with the financial aid offices I was forced to withdrawl from school without graduating. I managed to remain in Louisville and continued to work at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Eventually, I would spend the next two years more focussed on my job. I wrote little pieces of music here and there, but I had the toughest time concentrating and being away from the school of music caused me to drop back into some old habits. I also lacked motivation, and considerably...nearly got rid of Sibelius and quit composing all together. This was literally a day before I received an intriguing e-mail on that cold December day in 2007. The sender was Martin Andraszek, of Harrah High School in Harrah, Oklahoma. His e-mail was very brief, but said that he really liked my style and wondered if I would consider writing the show music for his band for the 2008 season. It was at that moment, that I realized SOMEONE didnt want me to give up on my dreams. SOMEONE didn't want me to throw ten years of experience down the drain. And that SOMEONE opened the door of opportunity and invited me to walk-in. Graciously, I accepted and three months later 'Elements of Time', my first Marching Band Score, was created. And because of that, I was inspired and began writing music left and right and received several opportunities to write music for musicians who were willing to pay for my music.

That following summer, I got tangled up in a relationship with a girl who I really thought I could help. She was a struggling single mother of three boys, and I vowed to take care of her for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, her life took a huge toll on myself and I fell into a very painful depression. My financial situation had never been worse because of my constant efforts to bail her out of situations, and I appeared exhausted at work and could not focus on my job because of how much time I spent on her and her kids. In August, I decided I could not live that life anymore and got out of the relationship. It was a brutal end, involving the police being called, and several harsh words said towards eachother. Frantic, I quit my job at SFKK and moved back home to Lexington, landing a job at the Marriott and at Amazon (which was later replaced by Toys R Us). During my time in Lexington, it was hard for me to write music because working two full jobs to pay off my debt, and bring myself out of the financial hole made me very exhausted and I spent a lot of time sleeping. In December of that year, after applying for an apartment in Louisville I received a very detrimental reponse. I had been turned down because I had a balance on my old apartment. I was unaware of this balance as I put in my 30 days notice and attempted to contact the offices several times upon my leave. When I called the complex, they informed me that I had 'abandoned' my apartment and said I owed them $2000. It was a shame that my poor incident phone had to suffer the impact of hearing this news as I threw it across the room and it smashed open (miraculously it still worked after putting it back together) I was very enraged and scared my family because of my terrifying shouting and cursing. At that point, I even told my mother "There is no God, because if there was he would not have let this happen to me."

On a side note, I was raised in a very religious atmosphere and I grew up believing in God and have often times found myself receiving religious experiences that could not be explained by any sort of logic other than to use the easy phrase "it's just a coincidence". I've managed to attend church on my own both in Louisville and currently here in Indiana. I still believe in God, and know he is looking out for me so for me to say something so mother was nearly in tears when she heard it. Apparently God heard it as well, because he responded....

After calming down, though still angered, I checked my e-mail. To my astonishment, I received an e-mail from a Jason Miller. As it had turned out, he had seen my Marching Band Score for Elements of Time on sibelius music, and claimed he felt it would sell well and offered to publish it for me at his site Impact Marching. That night, I owed God two apology, and a thank you. I gave him both.

Since these experiences, I still continue to publish at Sibelius music and have three professionally published scores at Impact Marching. I have also been hired for a third time to write for Martin and his band, and have also received several other offers of works that are currently in process. I can not explain exactly how I got to this point, but three conclusions can be drawn from all of my experiences. One would be that influences such as my mother, and my siblings have really helped push me to getting where I need to be. I have fallen several times, but someone has alway been there to catch me and help me stand...and that's a gift you can't buy. The second conclusion is that there IS a God and that he is watching over me, and wants me to succeed. It is easy to say that those were just coincidences, but to have huge opportunities come up following times when I feel its neccessary to throw in the towel...the odds just arent in the favor of basing that on chance. And the third conclusion is that I am a very tenacious individual. My grandmother was the first to place that label upon me, and I have stuck to it since her death in 1999. I have overcome a lot of challenges, and its primarily because I refuse to give up.

I did not write this blog as any means to upsell myself or talk about how great I believe I am. In fact, several times I've considered myself the worst human being. I have written this because I want to encourage anyone who has read this to never lose hope. Every challenge can be overcome in someway, and all you have to do is work hard and have a little faith. You will never know how successful you can become if you give it all up.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Joy! Reconstructed" now Published!

My third marching band show has been published at Impact Marching! It will be premiered in the Oklahoma area by Harrah High School under the direction of Martin Andraszek. Check it out!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Decade to Remember

WOW! What a decade it has been! As I look back over the past decade, I will remember some outstanding events of my life and some very tragic times.

- January 2000 - The beginning of a new decade, a new century....HELL a new friggin millenium!!! Widespread worry about the Y2K bug had ended as their were few if any problems resulting in the year change.

- May of 2000 - I GRADUATED FROM LAFAYETTE HIGH SCHOOL!!! Unlike my struggles in middle school, there is no question to weather or not I would be able to advance to the next level. I managed to finish with a GPA of 3.3 (Thank you Senior Year of nothing but music classes!). I also managed to have a successful audition with the University of Louisville and aquired a full tuition scholarship. A very proud moment in my life indeed!

- June of 2000 - The Kentuckian Music Institute is underway! Unfortunately, it also brought an ex-girlfriend of mine back in the picture, Jennifer Rasdon, and after a heated amount of pressure, I caved in and we started dating again. Two weeks before I started college, she dumped me by e-mail claiming she was heavily involved in the church and didnt have time for a relationship. You heard it here first, guys. A girl left me for GOD. How can anyone compete with that?

- November of 2000 - George W. Bush is elected as our 43rd president of the United States after a fiasco in Florida is resolved and a recount is done.

- December of 2000 - The best Christmas present I have ever mother and step-dad purchased Sibelius Music Notation Software for me. This sparked my compositional career and would turn to bring me ample amounts of success.

- January of 2001 - My first composition is published to "Everlasting Hope", a sweet little flute solo written for a friend who was in an accident that involved a drunk driver. She was in the hospital for a little over a week and has since recovered nicely.

- May of 2001 - My baby sister graduates from high school! :)

- August of 2001 - I begin working on my First Symphony. Unfortunately, while the first and second movements are published on the site my symphony is not quite finished as I have been working diligently in perfecting my compositional personality.

- September of 2001 - The absolutely most horrific moment of our nations history. Four planes collide into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon. The fourth was brought down by a heroic effort of the passengers and never reached its target, our nations capital. Over 3000 people died as a result of that tragedy and we have been at war with terrorism since. That was a day when all America stood together and you could not go anywhere without people being crowded around TVs staring in disbelief. A very sad day for our Country that will never be forgotten.

October of 2001 - I start a relationship with EKU undergrad Jennifer Wallace of Northern Kentucky.

- January 2002 - After a rough year in school, I was placed on probation and my scholarship was in jeopardy. I began seeking psychiatric help and began seeing a therapist who really started to help me. Unfortunately, by the end of the semester he moved to Florida after taking a job offer.

- February 2002 - I was diagnosed with the combined type Attention Deficit - Hyperactive Disorder, after four hours of extensive on-site testing and 300 pages of paperwork. Off of the help from Everist, my therapist, I began taking tests and studying in the Learning Disabilities center and my grades did begin to improve. I stopped going when Everist moved away - this was an obvious mistake.

- March 2002 - "Little Star Overture" wins the first ever Sibelius Users Composition Contest.

- August 2002 - After quitting a three year run at McDonald's, which was my first job, I decided to spend my summers trying to finish my degree. Shortly after my leave, I was hired by Chuck Smith as a low brass instructor for the Band Camp of the Lafayette High School Marching Band. The band would end up winning its 12th State Championship in a row that year.

- December 2002 - I proposed marriage to my girlfriend, Jen, after being together for fifteen months.

- January 2003 - Battle of the Misfits is written, and receives an ample amount of attention. To date it has received 3,768 views, 5 prints, and 9 reviews.

- April 2003 - Many of my friends watched as I performed a full-lengthed recital on euphonium ever. As someone who has struggled for many years with severe performance anxiety, this became a huge victory for me as it was quoted that I gave a "wonderful display of musical ability" by Professor John R. Jone, Jr. Among the performances was my own personal arrangement of "Nessun Dorma" for euphonium solo and euph/tuba ensemble.

- April 2003 - I was hired as a ride operator at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Intended to only be a summer job to earn some extra cash, I would remain in the theme park business and spend most of the decade working at Six Flags.

- September 2003 - I begin taking private composition lessons with Dr. Steve Rouse, Composition Head at the University of Louisville and winner of the 1987 Prix Di Rome.

- February 2004 - "Cataclysm" is premiered on stage, marking the first public performance of any of my compositions. Special thanks to Mark Kersting for asking me to write a piece for his conducting recital. Among the performers of the Brass Choir was Delfeyo Marsalis, brother of famed Wyton and Branford and son of Ellis.

- March 2004 - Mvt 1 of "Schlosskirche" was performed for the first time. Unfortunately, the intended 5-movement work has yet to be completed.

- April 2004 - I begin my second year at SFKK with a promotion to Senior Team Leader at the Giant Wheel. Three months and 336 annoying phone calls to command base later I moved to a different section of the park and one month after that relocated to the front side of the park, shortly before moving down to kiddyland. Four crews in one season? That has to be a record....

- November 2004 - George W. Bush is re-elected for a second term, beating out John "Flip-flop" Kerry.

- December 2004 - "Fantasy" for trombone and piano receives its first performance by Audrey Davis. In a practice with her pianist I attended, she asked me how she should play the piece and I responded "Play it.....Audreliciously" To this day, she has used that quote many times in her interpretations of music (at least I hope she does).

- February 2005 - Beating all odds, I was promoted to Rides Supervisor becoming the only person to achieve the title of Rides Supervisor at SFKK in less than two years with the company since Six Flags took over the park.

- April 2005 - The Louisville Cardinals basketball team would advance to the final four for the first time since the 80's after a convincing comeback win over the West Virginia mountaineers. Rick Pitino becomes to first coach in NCAA history to take three different teams to the final four.

- August 2005 - The infamous Chicago trip. The adventure Inn is the best hotel I've ever stayed in. I liked it only slight more than I did operating the Whizzer at Six Flags Great America.

- September 2005 - After failing to complete my lease on time, I was forced to move out of my dorm and into an apartment at good ol' Cumberland Apts in Okalona, Ky.

- December 2005 - I would finish my last semester at the University of Louisville, after a lack of communications with the student loans office. I would not complete my degree.....a huge tragedy in my life that has still been very tough to overcome.

- January 2006 - New Ownership takes over Six Flags. Shapiro and company move in and promise a more family friendly atmosphere and "No more Goliaths".

- June 2006 - Another setback in my life, Jennifer breaks off the prolonged engagement claiming that we have grown distant over the years. I guess she meant literally considering she moved four hours away from me. Though, can't say I blame her....I was a college dropout with no goals in life at that time.

- August 2006 - The infamous Cedar Point trip. Half the trip was spent in our hotel room drinking ample amounts of "beverages" while the love-birds (now married) went back to the park for some more cedar point fun!

- December 2006 - The Louisville Cardinals football team win the Big East in their second year with the conference after a West Virginia victory over Rutgers in Overtime.

- January 2007 - The football team would then go on and win their first BCS game ever with a 24-11 Orange Bowl victory over the deamon deacons of Wake Forest. And I was THERE FOR ALL OF IT!!!

- February 2007 - SFKK announces "Deluge", a brand-new hydro-magnetic coaster with cutting-edge technology that would shatter three world records. The previous multi-record smashing ride at SFKK was Chang, built in 1997. Unfortunately, Holiday world would win the golden-ticket for best new water ride for their crap-guzzling bowl, Bakuli. As if that wasnt enough, they managed to jump right on the end of pro-slides contract with deluge and promise the construction of an even taller, faster, and longer hydro-magnetic coaster in 2010...Wildabeast. Gotta love amusement park rivalries.

- March 2007 - I would switch departments to Park Services with the expectations to work with two experienced park services supervisors and change the face of Park Services. Unfortunately, those two ended up becoming very committed to their outside jobs and I ended up biting off more than I could chew. Thankfully, because of some really good Supervisors and Team Leads we all were able to overcome to difficulties and receive a prestigious award for being the cleanest Six Flags park.

- June 2007 - Tragedy strikes again as young Kaitlyn Lasiter loses her feet on the Superman: Tower of Power at SFKK. The worst thing I have ever witnessed in my entire life, and due to the sensativity of the incident I will not discuss it in detail.

- November 2007 - I receive an e-mail from a band director in Oklahoma asking me to write for his small marching band. That was a milestone as I currently write on an annual basis for his band, and have two published marching band arrangements.

- January 2008 - 'Elements of Time', my first marching band composition ever, is completed and submitted to Martin Andraszek of the Harra High School Marching Band in Harrah, Ok.

- May 2008 - I would begin dating Jenny Kannapel (formerly Rasdon) again, and would take on the responsibility of helping her with her kids. Eventually I would move in and propose to her.....

-May 2008, I would be asked to move back to the rides department to fill some holes.

- August 2008 - After going through a lot of brutal emotional strain, things would end between me and Jenny. I had also fallen quite a bit in my responsibilities as a Supervisor at SFKK and a lot of my friendships were in Jeopardy. Despite how I felt at the time, it was certainly the right decision for both of us. Sometimes things just don't work out.

- September 2008 - I would move back to Lexington and begin working at Amazon and soon, the Marriott.

- October 2008 - My brother and I would take a trip to Oklahoma City and attend a performance of "Elements of Time" by the Harrah Marching Band. I had a very good time in Harrah hanging out with Martin and learning about his band. It was a fantastic experience not just from the musical aspect, but to also learn that a guy who is a director for a band that has very little to work with uses his passion for his job to make the best he can out of it. And for what that band has been given, they are a damn good group with a lot of talented musicians!

- November 2008 - Obama would be elected as the 44th president of the USA, and first ever black president in a controversial election (I don't say controversial because he shouldn't have won....I say controversial because of the topic of the Acorn voting fraud)

- December 2008 - Martin would ask me to write for his band again, this time using 'Traffic' as the theme with the intention of using construction cones and vests as colorguard props.

- January 2009 - I would move back to Louisville and begin living with Amanda Martin and Brittany Casper. I would also return for a seventh year at SFKK.

- January 2009 - Barak Hussein Obama is inaugurated as the first ever african american president of the United States.

- March 2009 - I would be promoted to Front Gate Coordinator at SFKK, but shortly after I accepted a job as the Operations Manager at Indiana Beach in Monticello, Indiana. I would leave SFKK after six and half seasons with the company.

- April 2009 - If you are in a drowning situation or need CPR, fear not! For I am Red Cross and Ellis certified!....despite not being the 'best' swimmer.

- September 2009 - I manage to complete my first year as the Operations Manager at Indiana Beach.....we'll leave it at that.

- October 2009 - Oh yeah...i was the DJ at my sister's wedding.....take that for what its worth. :)

- November 2009 - Vegas Baby!!! I make a visit to Las Vegas for a skycoaster seminar, and it would mark the furthest west I have been. I plan to return to Vegas but also California in the fall of 2010.

2010 is here!!!!