Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute Readings, June 2-4

My experience having a reading of my new orchestra piece “Crystal Skies” by the American Composers Orchestra, June 2-4 at Miller Theatre, Columbia University.

Listening to the performance of “Crystal Skies” for the first time! (Composer Tania J. Leon is sitting behind me.)
P1080204 - Bellor applause
Congratulating conductor Delta David Gier and the orchestra after such an amazing performance!!!

Being a JCOI participant in the readings was a special experience for me because even though I received my degree in classical composition, I love working with both classical and jazz musicians, and writing music that incorporates both elements, whether it be involving jazz musicians in my pieces where I want improvisation, or writing a piece for classical musicians where I write out the improvisation that I’m hearing in addition to having a prominent rhythm section.

It was interesting for me to learn how the other JCOI composers approached composing the orchestra pieces, since they came from a jazz background. From conversing with many of them, they saw this as an opportunity to learn about all of these orchestration techniques and compositions that I was taught in music classes I took for my degree. Some of the composers also aimed to write something different stylistically from what they are used to composing for their own ensembles. When working with the orchestra, it was interesting to see how their use of terminology was different from classical musicians with regards to the use of articulation markings, such as how the ‘accent’ and the ‘staccato’ marking are approached differently between jazz and classical musicians. I hope my colleagues continue to use their own voice and write more compositions for the orchestra to create more repertoire that is new, exciting, and fresh.

P1080376 - Laubrock, Bryan, Sussman, Bellor, Tonooka, Milne
Composers, left to right: Ingrid Laubrock, Courtney Bryan, Richard Sussman, me, Sumi Tonooka, and Andy Milne.

I saw this reading as an opportunity to write an orchestra piece for musicians who were interested in being involved in an orchestra project that crossed stylistic boundaries. I’m so grateful to the American Composers Orchestra for giving me the opportunity to write this piece. It was such a liberating and positive experience for me, and I cannot wait to write more repertoire that incorporates these elements.

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Group photo of the composers, conductors, and mentors
Front left to right: Courtney Bryan, José Bevia, Sumi Tonooka, me, conductor Oliver Hagen, and mentor Anne LeBaron.
Back left to right: mentor Paul Chihara, mentor George Lewis, Ingrid Laubrock, Andy Milne, Richard Sussman, and conductor Delta David Gier.

Check out some excerpts!

Recorded live at American Composers Orchestra’s 2013 Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute New Music Readings. Please visit: www.americancomposers.org

Crystal Skies (2013) was inspired by my experience skydiving for the first time in upstate New York. It was a chilly November day, and as the airplane ascended into the air, it became even more freezing thousands of feet above the ground. When the door of the plane opened and I stepped out onto the ledge, I couldn’t wait to fall backwards and sink into the clouds. The freefall lasted approximately one minute, and then I felt like was just floating in the air. In my piece, I wanted to capture that feeling of being suspended in the chilly sky, as if I was flying. The string textures reflect the icy sky, portrayed by the artificial harmonics and ornamented lines that weave in and out of each other. The woodwinds represent birds gliding in the sky, and for a moment, I felt like a bird as I was slowly descending down to the ground.

The first excerpt showcases the first 48 seconds of the piece, and the second excerpt showcases 2 minutes and 11 seconds of the middle section. Please contact me for more information on the piece.

Here are some additional photos taken:
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The last day: Post-reading discussion – I was very happy!!!
P1070956 - Chihara & Bellor
My composition mentor Paul Chihara during the rehearsal
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Post-rehearsal discussion
P1080153 - discussion with Mandel & Oteri
Lunch with the composers, Frank Oteri, and Howard Mandel
P1080081 - Haas & Bellor
Discussing drum set notation with percussionist Jonathan Haas