Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Stumble Upon."

Hey there, ladies and gentlemen...

I was talking with my mom the other day about how funny it was that I decided to be a composer in the first place. Looking back, I didn't really find the window of opportunity to be a composer... I more or less stumbled until I smacked my head against it.

If you had told me my freshman year of high school that I would someday start composing and write a full-length work for cello and piano, I might have laughed at you. I never imagined music taking me down this path.

Entering my freshman year of high school, I didn't really take music that seriously. I mean, I didn't imagine myself majoring in it or wanting a career in it. It was just something I enjoyed and was reasonably talented at. I played Annie in the musical Annie in middle school, sang the national anthem for the college world series when I was 11, but I was never enrolled in a choir class throughout any of that time. I was the (first) alto saxophonist to make our high school's symphonic band, sure, but it would probably surprise a bunch of people to know that I had no interest in being in choir or speech team at the beginning of freshman year. So, I wasn't.

Later on as a freshman, I got recruited by the speech teacher (which was a required class, but he was also the speech team coach) to be a member, and I fell in love with Humorous Prose. For all you non-forensics geeks, it's basically the only event in which my proclivity for using strange accents, voices, and sound-effects was not only accepted, but highly encouraged. It's a 10-minute, memorized, 1 Act comical play in which the speaker plays all of the characters.

After making the musical my freshman year, managing to win quite a few prizes at speech, and getting the lead role for the spring play (against quite a few upperclassmen), I got it into my head that I wanted to be on Broadway. I was winning quite a few prizes at speech in an acting event, plus, I got the lead role in the play as a freshman. Something that is still rather unheard of at Columbus High School. With all this, I thought my chances would be as reasonable as anyone else's, plus, I'd been in dance since I was 4 years old, so I really had the bases covered between singing, acting, and dancing.

This news made my parents a bit unhappy, because, until the end of that year, I'd been convinced for all my life through middle school that I was going to be a Veterinarian. It isn't that my parents didn't want me following my dreams, but being a Vet is a much more sustainable career than trying to make it as a Broadway star. We made a compromise, I would go to college studying Pre-Vet, go to grad school in Chicago or New York, and while doing that, I could wait tables, audition, and get my vet degree. I'd take a year or so off to really focus on auditioning, and if it didn't work out, go on to being a Vet with a decent starting salary and some interesting stories and experiences under my belt.

This plan stayed on course even during my sophomore year, even when I started songwriting.
For my non-musical friends out there, there are quite a few differences between composing and songwriting:

A songwriter might pick a few chords (as I did, on piano not guitar, since I can't play guitar), write some lyrics, and maybe put the chord names above the lyrics to have a general idea of what should be played where, with the accompanying line mostly improvised by the performer. These are usually referred to as lead sheets. They're also used by jazz musicians. I still do this from time to time, and also do this when I'm doing some quick arrangements for me to sing along to on the piano.

A composer, on the other hand... Has a lot more work cut out for them. See, if you're writing for other people (who aren't jazz musicians); the general rule is that they dislike it when you don't give them clear directions on what to do. Give a classical pianist lead sheets and expect them to play the exact same thing every time, and you'll probably get some dirty looks to say the least. Give a violinist some lead sheets... Well, never mind, I vow to keep this a profanity free blog, and all of my examples of what a violinist would probably say after being expected to play from lead sheets involve expletives. In other words, composers must write exactly what they want to happen while their music is being played, or it won't happen at all. This is rather arduous and time-consuming, and requires a good ear among many other skills.

So, I started out songwriting my sophomore year. I liked it; people told me my songs were pretty good. So I kept doing this until my junior year...

Where you'll have to stay tuned, because scrolling through what I've written so far, this post ended up being far longer than I intended.

Like Ryan Seacrest during American Idol, I want to keep you in suspense so you have to see what comes next. He gets paid for making everything into a cryptic, cliffhanger ending, and, though I'm no writer, I'm going to take a crack at it. Even though I completely broke the fourth wall by explaining why I'm doing all this, so I'm probably doing it incorrectly. Oh well.

With love,

P.S. Song of the day: Sail by AWOLNATION. No, I'm not yelling at you, the band name is in all caps. The music video is worth watching, too. It's super passionate and deep, and I dig the style. It's a bit of a departure from my normal type of music, but I love it nonetheless.


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