New Percussion Ensemble: Beyond the Clouds

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New Percussion Ensemble: Beyond the Clouds

I've been working on a new piece for percussion orchestra to be premiered by the Vandegrift High School percussion ensemble (Austin, Texas) this December at the Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic in Chicago (Joe Hobbs, director). It's titled "Beyond the Clouds" and was inspired by the time I spent in Nepal with a group of friends in 2013. There's still a lot of cleanup to do in the score before it's road-worthy, but here's a peek inside the score as played back via Sibelius + Virtual Drumline.

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New Percussion Ensemble: Truth or Consequence

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New Percussion Ensemble: Truth or Consequence

What a surreal time we're living in. My latest percussion ensemble commission was being composed during the most bizarre election cycle possible. It's left me feeling disheartened about how our collective culture chooses to make its decisions, many of which seem impetuous and based on opinion rather than thoughtfully considered facts. I worry about the consequence that may result from a culture of misinformation, selfishness, and vindictiveness.

I don't prefer to be outwardly political, but it's tough to hide from it these days. This piece wasn't meant to be a political statement, however it was being written during a time of pronounced unrest, so the title Truth or Consequence seemed about as fitting a tribute to this time as I could surmise.

Here's an early mock-up of the piece, which you can read more about here.

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Inauguration Birthday

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Inauguration Birthday

For better or worse, my birthday coincides with inauguration day in the United States. I don’t post much in the way of personal opinion online, and I imagine with the political happenings this will mostly get buried in the noise. But since it’s my birthday, I’m going to ask for something.   

Continue reading...

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New Percussion Ensemble: Windows of the Maloca

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New Percussion Ensemble: Windows of the Maloca

I recently finished work on a new piece for percussion ensemble titled Windows of the Maloca. It was commissioned by Brandon Kunka, director of the Roswell HS percussion ensemble to be premiered at their performance at the GMEA conference in Athens, Georgia in January 2017.

The piece is a tribute to the time I spent in the Amazon jungle in Peru last year which left a lasting mark on my life. While there, I made a recording of some of the atmospheric jungle sounds and wildlife. Listening to it immediately transports me back to that beautiful place.

I wrote this piece amid a very full workload at Tapspace, scoring another short film, and trying to have some sort of balanced regular life. Needless to say, it's been a busy Fall! To read a little more about the piece and hear an early draft VDL mockup recording, go here.

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Tapspace Cover Story

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Tapspace Cover Story

Tapspace, the publishing company I started nearly 20 years ago (Really...almost 20 years? Damn, time flies!) just released a fun little animation on how Murray and I got our start and slowly learned the ropes to get us to where we are today, where we just announced a new design upgrade to our concert covers. 

The video was animated by our friend and fellow Portlander, Jesse Mattson, and the voiceover stylings were performed by Tapspace shipping manager and former SCV drum major, Alexander Bernstein. And special thanks to my long-time buddy, Bob Beck (Design.Society) for doing the design on our new covers. He also did our award-winning logo/branding update back in 2005 along with all the packaging design for Virtual Drumline. 

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IARP Tape from SCV 1997

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IARP Tape from SCV 1997

In the late 90's, the internet wasn't yet as commonplace as it is now, so the way people shared ideas was very different.

The now-defunct International Association of Rudimental Drummers (I.A.R.P.) was a small organization founded by Dave Vose from Massachusetts. He'd send out a monthly newsletter with articles on rudimental drumming, and every so often (maybe once a quarter?) they'd include a cassette tape called The Sound Source. Cassettes in the mail were almost as cool as those floppy plastic records that would occasionally come in some issues of Modern Drummer!

I started writing the percussion book for the Santa Clara Vanguard in 1996 and was still rather young. Had it not been for JW Koester's faith in hiring me after a few years at the SCV Cadets, and a passionate, talented group of friends who joined me on the percussion staff during those late-90's, I probably never would have had the chance to hone this unique craft of writing for percussion. Those were fertile years both for the corps and for us young bucks on the staff looking to make a statement. I'm deeply grateful for that time. 

Pre-You-Tube sharing mechanism

During the 1997 season, the corps really started picking up some steam and I think that was around the time I really started finding my voice as an arranger. Dave from IARP had asked me to contribute an audio article for a 1998 edition of The Sound Source discussing my approach to arranging for SCV. What the members of IARP received was the cassette tape you see pictured here. It was an honor to contribute something to an organization whose membership had such a rich lineage of experience in this musical art form.

I'm feeling a little sentimental about those years and proud of what we did. So I recently dug into some of those old photos and scores (man...I've come a long way with my notation software chops!) and added them to the audio from the original tape. If not a more visual experience, maybe it'll add some pizazz to a young arranger trying to explain his approach.

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Roller Coaster Awards and Screenings

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Roller Coaster Awards and Screenings

Since its premiere in Hollywood last November, the short film Roller Coaster has been on quite the ride, playing in film festivals nationwide and picking up some awards along the way.

Upcoming Screenings

If you're in one of the following areas, there are some upcoming screenings!

Jersey City, NJ
Sunday March 6, 2016 12:40pm

Brightside Tavern Film Festival
141 Bright Sreet
Jersey City, NJ 07302

 

Pasadena, CA
Wedesday March 9, 2016 7:45pm

Pasadena International Film Festival
Laemmle Playhouse 7 Movie Theater
673 East Colorado Blvd,
Pasadena, CA 91101

West Chester, PA
Saturday April 23, 2016 9:15pm

West Chester Film Festival
Chester County Historic Courthouse
2 South High Street
West Chester, PA 19380

West Chester, PA
Sunday April 24, 2016 2:30pm

West Chester Film Festival
Chester County Historic Courthouse
2 South High Street
West Chester, PA 19380

Awards!

I'm excited to share that Roller Coaster has received numerous awards these past few months, and even more excited that a few of these were for my music score!

International Independent Film Festival Awards

On March 4, 2016, Roller Coaster chalked up FOUR awards from the  International Independent Film Festival Awards in Encino, CA. The film won Silver Awards for Narrative Short (executive producers Jared Odrick, Karl Holtz, Rolando G. Vega; producer Bradley Hawkins; assoc. producer, Michael Ortiz) Directing (Bradley Hawkins), Actress in a Lead Role (Sarah Hawkins), and Original Score (Jim Casella).

Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards

On Feb. 21, 2016, Roller Coaster added two more awards to its growing collection at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards in Hollywood. The film won for Best Comedy/Dramedy (exec. producers Jared Odrick, Karl Holtz, Rolando G. Vega; producer Bradley Hawkins; assoc. producer, Michael Ortiz) and for Best Actress (Sarah Hawkins).

IndieFEST Film Awards

On Nov. 16, 2015, Roller Coaster won five International IndieFEST Film Awards
just one week after its Hollywood Premiere! The film was honored with Awards of Merit for Short Film (exec. producers Jared Odrick, Karl Holtz, Rolando G. Vega; producer Bradley Hawkins; assoc. producer, Michael Ortiz), Direction (Bradley Hawkins), Editing (Daniel Hoppes), Music Score (Jim Casella), and Sound Editing/Sound Mixing (Tyler J. Bailey).

For an ongoing accounting and to listen to the original score, visit the Roller Coaster page.

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How to be Bored

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How to be Bored

This is worth a listen. Extra credit if you listen to the whole thing in one sitting without clicking away to anything else. 

This book by Eva Hoffman (scheduled to be released in March) touches on a topic that many of us can relate to in an over-stimulated era.

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