Score published by Tapspace.

Beyond the Clouds was commissioned in 2017 by the Vandegrift High School Percussion Ensemble from Austin, Texas where my friend Joe Hobbs serves as the director of percussion.

In 2013 Joe, myself, and a small group of friends planned a trip across the globe to Nepal, where we would trek for three weeks to the remote Himalayan base of the Annapurna massif. Each of us had been dealing with various forms of transition and loss in our lives, and this adventure was a way to challenge ourselves both physically and mentally, facing the unknown together.

One of the details we overlooked in planning is that our trip was to take place during Nepal’s monsoon season. This meant hiking in the rain most days, up and down endless, steep, ancient trails and across wobbly, slick suspension bridges at high altitudes. Views of the mountains were completely obscured by clouds, though on rare occasions majestic, glaciated peaks would emerge from a clearing, bringing a completely new dimension to where we actually were.

The miserable, soggy, leech-filled paths became our gateway to witnessing something magnificent beyond the clouds. I’ve found this to be a useful metaphor of life, acknowledging how immediate perception and circumstances often differ from a broader, more objective reality.

Since the adventure in Nepal, we have embarked on several others in different parts of the world. Each trip has been filled with unique challenges and discoveries. Perhaps most importantly they represent the power within making a deliberate choice to connect and persevere together. I treasure these experiences and these friends.

Beyond the Clouds is dedicated to Joe Hobbs, Mark Hunter, and Sean Womack – the friends with whom I’ve shared these ongoing adventures. It premiered in Chicago, Illinois, at the 2017 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.

–Jim Casella