The Jazz and Third Stream offerings were probably what most formed me as a musician. I consider myself very flexible in my approach to music, and I love to draw inspiration from a wide range of experiences, some "off the beaten path."
Class year and degree program at NEC:
Class of '92, Master of Music in Composition
Freelance composer and conductor
1) Why did you choose NEC?
I came to NEC to study with William Thomas McKinley. I also wanted to be at a school with a strong performance program in a city with a vibrant arts scene—NEC and Boston were the perfect combination.
2) What are some of your favorite memories from your time at NEC?
I worked at the Firestone Audio Library with performers who taught me about their instruments and asked me to write for them. This proved to be, among other things, a significant entrée for me into the world of writing for brass. I also forged some lifelong friendships there!
My most impactful musical experience was, without a doubt, playing my violin in the Jewish Music Ensemble directed by Hankus Netsky ’76, ’78. Not only did it loosen up my sound as a violinist and allow me to develop as an improviser, but it also served as a portal into the magnificent world of Klezmer music from which I continue to draw inspiration for some of my compositions - including my current project, which is an opera set in the Holocaust.
3) Share a story about one of your favorite faculty or studio instructor.
Hankus Netsky was my absolute favorite teacher! What I loved most about him was his frankness. I convinced him to be my composition teacher - even though he didn't typically teach this area - because I thought I could expand my horizons as a musician. To widen my palette of rhythm, he assigned me to memorize and then perform a rap song. I got about 8 words into it, and he cried, "Stop, stop! That's AWFUL!" He was right, and I was amused. Well, there went my chances of a career as a rap star!
4) What have you been up to since graduating from NEC? What projects have you been working on?
I write classical concert music according to my commissions and publishers. I divide much of my time between not only composing but also the business end of being a composer; be it corresponding with editors and going over page proofs or communicating with performers and performing organizations all over the world. I also guest conduct regional youth orchestras, guest lecture at universities and conferences, and generally maintain a presence as a composer in a wide range of arenas, which of course has become increasingly possible thanks to the internet. What’s most important to me, though, is my composing. My most recent commissions have been for a violin solo sonata, a song cycle, and a woodwind ensemble piece that can be rehearsed and performed virtually. I am currently working on a full length grand opera.
5) How have your NEC experiences shaped your artistic approach?
Because of the wide variety of offerings at NEC, from jazz to classical to contemporary improvisation (then called Third Stream Studies), I have been able to take away the sounds and approaches that resonated with me. As a composition major, I was exposed to a traditional conservatory approach to theory and composition. I later realized that this approach was not for me, but being exposed to it in the first place helped me develop my own tastes for music. The Jazz and Third Stream offerings were probably what most formed me as a musician. I consider myself very flexible in my approach to music, and I love to draw inspiration from a wide range of experiences, some "off the beaten path."
6) Share any other stories about what has inspired you at NEC and beyond.
A big part of being a composer is the community of performers I write for — my "village," so to speak. I met so many wonderful players at NEC, and getting to write for them was incredibly inspiring. These alliances were a vital early step in building the larger network of performers I now have who commission me, perform my music, and essentially give direction to my career as a composer.