Musical Ear: February 11th, 2012

As part of my efforts to talk about new music I’m listening to, let me mention a music group that has changed my life.

The Piano Guys.

If you haven’t heard of this dynamic group of musicians (piano, cello, etc), arrangers, and sound editors, RUN to YouTube and listen to every single one of their arrangements and mash-ups right now.  It WILL change your life.

Steven Sharp Nelson is an amazing cellist performing exciting sounds with his acoustic and electro-acoustic instruments.  Nelson uses two five string cellos, one with a higher string and one with a lower string, and can play almost the full range of an orchestra when his tracks are layered.  He even dons Jedi costumes and uses a light-saber bow for one video, solos with a very talented Youth Orchestra in another, and also plays on the top of huge rock structure! How much cooler can you get?!

Jon Schmidt is a composer and phenomenal pianist I’ve been following for a few years.  My little sister plays some of his piano music quite a lot and it’s always a joy to listen to.  However, watching Schmidt in these Piano Guys videos has truly inspired me to work on my own piano skills these past few months.  I may never  have the virtuosic piano chops or the beautiful ability to compose/arrange music like he does, but I can strive for it.  In reaching to become a star of a musician like this man, even if I never make it I’ll still improve my art.

The most recent Piano Guys video I saw this week was “Beethoven’s 5 Secrets.”  Not only is it a serenely beautiful arrangement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony with a pop song by OneRepublic, it features a very talented Youth Orchestra.  I’m not sure if it’s the music, the performance, or these kids but my heart melts with tears every time I watch it.  The classical music lover in me swoons.  The composer in me is in awe. The teacher in me screams, “THIS is the kind of thing I need to do to inspire my future students!!” and “I can only hope to have students so talented someday!”

Check out a few of The Piano Guys’ videos:

Beethoven’s 5 Secrets — Caution: This one may make your heart stop from epic beauty, bliss, and pure inspiration

Cello Wars: the Phantom Cellist

Coldplay – “Paradise” (“Peponi),” an instrumental parody using African elements

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New works

Since my last post last year (oops!) so much has happened.  I’ve finished a whopping three pieces, all of which are multi-movement.  I’ve even had one read by the new music group at MSU and another performed on a Graduate Premiere’s concert.


New pieces:

A piece for violin quartet and percussion (name currently with-held)

“Isolated Reveries” for Unaccompanied Bb Clarinet

A piece for SATB choir and piano (name currently with-held)


If all goes well with the editing process this weekend, I hope to enter 1-2 of my pieces composed here at MSU into the Michigan State University Honor’s Competition.  The winning pieces in the categories of band, choir, or new music ensemble will be pieces performed next year.

I’m hoping that the judge will at least give comments to all the entries. I really look forward to helpful advice and constructive criticism in order to help these pieces grow.  There’s still things in each of them I’m not completely satisfied with.  However, I know that they are as complete as I can possibly make them with the skills I have today.  I’ve put my sweat, tears, and (in the cases of paper cuts…) blood into these works.  Long, late hours or early mornings have gone into the creation of each moment of music.

No matter what the outcome of the competition, I’m keeping this quote in mind:

I know that these are some of the best pieces I’ve written to date.  They show a level of thought and technique I never thought I’d develop.  To me I feel like I’ve already accomplished something.  The greatest thing I could hope for is to receive comments for improvement and that one day people will willingly want to play  my music.

If you want to play my music, feel free to let me know.  Contact me for more information.  I hope to get the “music” tab of my site up and running again soon, so keep your eyes peeled!

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