Elly Toyoda, violin
Matthew Bridgham, piano
This is the first movement of a larger work. Recorded live in the Morse Recital Hall at Yale University on 14 April 2016.
Shea Owens, baritone
Michael Barrett, piano
I desire a career dedicated to opera and song. Recorded live at OPERA America's National Opera Center in conjunction with the New York Festival of Song (NYFOS) on 17 February 2015.
Feel free to drop me a message about scores, performances, new and exciting project proposals, teaching, etc.
Have you ever noticed that bios are always in the third person? Something about that bothers me. Maybe if I wasn’t writing my bio, then it would be ok. But seeing how I am, I find it fitting to use first person.
I am also bothered by bios that exclude the people who have helped you get where you are. I’m not talking about the professors with whom you have studied. I am talking about the people outside of your professional affiliations: the everyday people who have (probably unknowingly) steered your life in new and remarkable directions.
I wasn’t made to study music. My earliest interest in music must come from an elementary school field trip to a local symphony orchestra (well, that and looney tunes). I remember them introducing the families of instruments (a presentation that included excerpts from the repertoire). A few years later, I was curious of my father’s busted up yamaha. He dug up some old D batteries, plopped them in, and showed me some chord progressions from the Grateful Dead tune Casey Jones. (Probably not the best thing for a ten year old: driving that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones you better watch your speed.) The following summer I got an old, garage-sale organ—two misplaced sheets from some lost piano method book in its bench. Two manuals. Didn’t work, so I climbed in the thicket of wires, boxed by the body of the instrument, and fixed it. Again, probably not the best thing for a ten year old.
I taught myself for four years, and in that time I upgraded to a dusty, loose-keyed, spinet style Wurlitzer, wrote little piano pieces, learned some Bach, and drooled over Beethoven’s complex key schemes (all those accidentals!).
My junior high, choir teacher and art teacher took notice, urging me to attend the Indiana University Purdue University Institute (IUPUI) Music Academy. The instruction at IUPUI helped establish a basic understanding of performance practice, but the real takeaway was meeting James Green. He has undoubtably helped shape who I am. Our earliest phone conversations would skip from music to politics, to Pokémon, to religion, to internet memes, to race, etc. There was and still is too much to handle when we hangout. I remember one summer when we studied eighteenth century counterpoint from a random book and analyzed Bach inventions, sinfonias, and prelude and fugues.
After the academy, I auditioned at the University of Indianapolis (UIndy), where I would study piano performance with Richard Ratliff and music composition with John Berners. One week into school and I was asked to write a piece for Weng Yi, visiting lecturer of piano at Shanghai Normal University. Nocturne was a step in a new direction. Some context: Before UIndy, I wrote thirteen(?) piano sonatas, each in a different style (Scarlatti, Mozart, Schubert, Prokofiev, etc.); I wrote a nice handful of fantasies, two of which I titled symphonic poem, one of which I premiered at the Circle Center Mall, downtown Indianapolis; I set out to write a collection of 24 preludes and fugues, but only wrote two (go figure), one of which was an homage to Ives in five voices and quoted a song from my childhood (Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden) à la Ives. Excluding the latter (written a month before the nocturne and before I attended UIndy), all of my early pieces explored music as Iheard it. Nocturne was one the first pieces where I explored music as I felt it.
Jazz was a huge part of my time at UIndy. I was in Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo. I studied privately with Steve Allee. I attended the Jamie Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops, funded by the UIndy Jazz department (headed by Harry Miedema). Jazz has fundamentally changed the way I approach music making altogether as an improvisor, interpreter, and as a composer. I remember one lesson when Steve said something along the lines of “My Jazz mentor, Claude Sifferlen, always told me to think of music as a meeting place between time and space.” I’m not sure if that was exactly what he said, but the sentiment stuck with me.
After a successful undergrad, I married an opera singer (who owns a kickass Etsy store), adopted a kitty (Walter, pictured above), and moved to Ann arbor for my MM in music composition at the University of Michigan. Grad school started with the loss of my friend, Eric Hergenroether. He was a passionate and hard working Jazz drummer who helped teach me, through his welcoming openness in collaboration, how to express my most inner musical ideas. With this profound loss and the unmeasurably inspirational lessons with Evan Chambers, I began to notice a change in compositional process. My focus shifted from writing decent music as an intellectual exercise (an unfortunate reversion that happened after the nocturne, though, every now and again, I had my moments of honest expression) to writing music that focuses on self-reflection and personal transfiguration. I went on to write fake it till ya make it, a musical response to a sour interaction with a hero of mine. Written directly afterwards, sweetfeather, revealed a clearer, softer side of my mind. And we are eaten up by nothing carries the same air.
Of course there is more to my story than one webpage can hold, and I thank you for reading a bit about my life with the hope to understand me.
I should mention that I’ve been coached by many fantastic composers including William Bolcom, Martin Bresnick, Gabriela Lena Frank, Bright Sheng, Carter Pann, Derek Bermel, Joan Tower, and Libby Larsen. My compositions have been performed at the New York Festival of Song, the Shandelee Music Festival, the Midwest Composers Symposium, and in Naples, Italy (Musicista o internauta? and Ascolti di inizio Millennio). Some recent-ish awards include “runner-up” in the 2014 Donald Sinta Quartet Composition Competition for my saxophone quartet compact DiSQ and “finalist” in the 2014 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Competition for my Chamber Concerto.
My pianism has earned me time on Indiana public radio (WICR) as a collaborator and soloist in both the classical and jazz realms. I’m featured weekly on the radio show “The Voice of the Performing Arts” performing my piano miniature smelling honeysuckles, which I wrote as their theme song. I was the Indiana winner of the 2011 Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) collegiate/young artist auditions and district winner of the Indiana Music Teachers Association (IMTA) auditions for four consecutive years.
I live in New Haven with my wife and Walter where I study music composition (DMA) at the Yale School of Music.
Sonata for violin and piano
Listen to the first movement. Complete work to be premiered Fall 2016.
A song for high male voice with strings, percussion, and harp. Text by Dakota Miller. To be premiered on 11 June 2016 as part of the ASO's American Music Festival.
Scherzo for two vlns, vla, and VC
For performance at the 2016 Colorado Music Festival.
Quartet for Cl, Vn, Vc, & PF
For the Ronen Chamber Ensemble's 2016-17 concert season. To be premiered October 18, 2016.
New work for orchestra
On the sounds of the Avon rail yard. For performance in December 2016.