Hopewell Valley Central HS Jazz Band

Composing for school music programs is such an amazing experience. I try to make it as interactive as possible, and the results have been rewarding. In 2013, I’m lucky to have received commissions from three high schools: Hopewell Valley Central High School (Pennington, NJ), Central Bucks High School West (Doylestown, PA), and Kittatinny Regional High School (Newton, NJ).

Hopewell Valley Central HS Jazz BandHopewell Valley commissioned me early in the year to write a jazz band chart for their 2013 spring concert and jazz festivals. The piece is called “Strolling,” and it’s a mostly 3/4 swing tune that creates the feeling of walking outside on a nice day. We did a Skype rehearsal with David Schwartzer’s band, and everyone was open to the whole process of creating a non-traditional jazz band chart.

Same!For Central Bucks West, I’m writing a wind ensemble piece.  Before writing a single-note, I like to ask the director about his ensemble, the type of music he programs, and ideas for the commission. The only note Neil Delson, band director at CB West, had for me was that he likes melody. To quote Gob in season four of Arrested Development, “Same!”

Kittatinny’s jazz band call themselves the “K-Train.” When I found out their name in an email conversation with jazz band director Jarred Matthes, I signed off my email saying “All Aboard!”

As soon as I hit “send,” I knew I had the title for my piece.

Though I moved to Los Angeles to be a film composer, I love being a part of a community that got me into music in the first place. I had a lot of fun working with Hopewell Valley, and can’t wait to get it going with Central Bucks West and Kittatinny Regional.

If you’re a band director and haven’t commissioned a new work before, shoot me an email and we’ll talk about the process.  I’ll do my best to explain what an amazing experience it can be for your school music program.

All Aboard!

-Jon

It’s an amazing feeling when a student praises your music commission, like “Finding You for Jazz Band.” One of the trumpet players from the Strayer Middle School Jazz Band emailed me after downloading the demo mp3 (emphasis mine):

I am [name left out] and I am part of the Strayer Jazz Band. I am very impressed with this piece of music. I have heard of music that was just stuff that keeps repeating, but your music was so creative. I am a 2nd trumpet and I hope you continue to write for Strayer.

It’s a great feeling writing music for schools. Not only do I get to compose, but the young musicians get to play something that encourages a high-level of musicianship regardless of their skill-set.  There’s no reason why musicians at any age can’t have access to quality music, and my goal is to make sure anyone can play great music.

Side Note: You think the middle school trumpet player was talking about minimalist music when he said “I have head of music that was just stuff that keeps repeating”? Don’t think he was for some reason. 😉

Check out the “Finding You for Jazz Band” page to download the mp3 and view a sample of the score.

This morning an email was sent to music educators about commissioning new music. Below is the letter.

Today I’m reaching out to you and other music educators about writing new music for your music program. In 2011, I had the opportunity to write an original jazz band piece for Richard E. Strayer Middle School in Quakertown, PA, and the experience has been amazing. Not only are the teachers, adminstrators, and student musicians excited to premiere the new work, but the entire community is aware of the commission from their weekly school letter (The QCommuniqué) and video broadcast (QCSD-TV).

Here are two links where you can learn about the process and see a current one in action.

Start a music commission for your program
Learn how today’s music technology takes a music commission into the 21st-century and makes the experience even more special.

Finding You for Jazz Band
“Finding You for Jazz Band” was commissioned in 2011 by the Richard E. Strayer Middle School Jazz Band, Quakertown, PA, directed by Joseph Santanello.

As the composer, three things will be done to ensure a successful and rewarding commission:

  1. Write a piece based on your specifications and strengths of your group.
  2. Use the latest technology (Internet, Skype, Twitter, SoundCloud, music production software, etc.) to interact and promote the commission.
  3. Keep all parties involved from the beginning through the premiere.

By working together, we can create a piece that devlopes your student musicians, promotes your music program, and unites the community. If you are interested in commissioning music for the 2012-13 school year, please do not hesitate to send a message.

Best,

Jon