Magnificent Mountain for Mandolin Orchestra

Wow, what an amazing couple of days for me. I went to Normal, Illinois to attend the Classical Mandolin Society of America‘s national conference. I was commissioned to write a piece for this conference and Magnificent Mountain was the piece I composed. It was inspired by a trip I made to the Smoky Mountains back in June (2019). My son and I took a trip up into the mountains one day. As we were going up one of the mountains it was amazing to watch the landscape change. At certain points it looked very mysterious because of the way the clouds surrounded the mountains. At other times the landscape looked very grand and magnificent when the sun came through the clouds. The music was composed to reflect these different moods and changes of character throughout.

This was a wonderful conference. I met a lot of really nice people who were very passionate about music. I ran a couple of workshops (one on composing and the other on recording), went to concerts and socialized. Guest performers included Naeim Rahmami, Sebastiaan de Grebber, and Fabio Giudice. They were all amazing artists and really nice people. The final concert included the En Masse Orchestra directed by Dr. Jim Bates. The En Masse Orchestra was made up of 140 convention attendees!!

A few pictures and videos…

Here I am giving a workshop on composing music.

Friday night concert

It was a wonderful event. I have to make a few adjustments to the score and then I will post it on my website for free. I would love for this to be performed by other orchestras as well. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.


Write YOUR Music

Don’t worry what other people think about your music and don’t ask for their opinion. If you are happy that is all that matters. It doesn’t matter if it sounds like Mozart, Berg, or whomever. Don’t follow what other people are doing. Write music that you are happy with. Make yourself happy. Sounds selfish, I know.

Shut Up, Sit Down, and Create Some Art

I think everybody should create art. Ok, let me rephrase that….IF you have the desire to create art….CREATE ART.  Write a song, paint a painting, write a poem, do some performance art (stand by the bus stop downtown, take off your clothes, paint a purple B on your stomach and then run like hell from the cops….just an idea).

So many people I know (students, friends, family) TALK about creating something but never get to it. How sad is that? Don’t you realize that you aren’t gonna live forever? Do you want to be on your death bed and think, “Dang, I never wrote that novel!” There are so many reasons not to do it (gotta clean the house, pay bills, watch tv) that it is easy to put it aside. I have a theory….there is a reason why you have a desire to create art. It’s in you for a reason. You were meant to create something.

Now there is a difference between thinking, “boy, it would be cool to write a song” and having a real pull to create something. What holds people back?

Not enough time.

Me: Everyone has the same amount of time. If you need more time get up 1/2 hour earlier. Skip a tv show and create. You don’t need a huge amount of free time. You can do a lot in 15 min.

I have no training.

Me: You want to write music but you have zero training? Check out this guy (short version…records a jazz album without ever learning how to play the piano)….

I might suck

Me: You probably will. Everyone creates really bad art at some point. Look at early Mozart. Not good. Try this….write the worst song ever written. My guess is you will have a lot of fun doing that. Here is something I created that absolutely sucks. I know, many people have told me (I made a techno-remix of a beloved classical guitar piece)…

Final thoughts… Focus on the experience. HAVE FUN

Don’t try to create a masterpiece. That’s too much pressure.

Don’t take it too seriously. Taking it seriously is a great way to make your art REALLY BORING


Etude #6 Work-in-Progress

Currently working on my 6th etude. My goal is to write 10 etudes. I am writing these for a couple of reasons: to make me a better guitarist and to explore the different sounds (extended techniques) you can get from the guitar. For this one I am incorporating tapping. This technique involves “tapping” a right hand finger on the fingerboard to produce a sound which is usually followed by pulling off to an open string or a note with the left hand. Eddie Van Halen made this technique popular in his piece, “Eruption”…

Eddie Van Halen was/is a HUGE influence on me. Pretty sure if EVH had never been born I would have been a recorder player instead of a guitarist.

Here is what I’ve got so far….

You can listen to it here…

I recorded this last night and I worked on the piece some more today so the audio doesn’t quite match up to the score.

Subject change…..

Last weekend I played the South Haven Jazz Festival. My combo was made up of myself and two Lake Michigan College students (where I teach) and my oldest son. It was a blast and the weather was perfect. Here are a few pics from that concert (courtesy of Marissa Hoard)

Change of subject………

Friday was an AMAZING day because it was hot and muggy and I was able to go golfing. Golfing is pretty much my most favorite thing to do ever and I live in Michigan where in late September the weather can not be great so that fact that I went golfing on Friday and it felt like summer was…….let’s just say it was perfect.

Change of subject (last time)….

I’ve not been good lately with listening to the Buckethead pikes. In my book, Buckethead is a genius and I want to check out all of his pikes (all 200+ of them!!). Last week I finished the 44th one. I keep a list of what I have listened to on my phone as well as songs from the pikes that I like a lot and will want to check out again.

That’s all I’ve got for today.