From: Seattle, WA
Instrument: Tuba and Composition
School: University of Southern California, DMA Tuba Performance
Beverage Drinking: Large Iced Americano
"My goal is not to be a great tuba player and play in an orchestra. I mean, that is a goal in mind, but my goal is far beyond that. It has always been to make classical music more popular in our culture, and to explore and get better at other things. That’s partially why I decided to do more composing, more conducting, work in the orchestra office, things like that. I put myself in places to learn to be a musician, and what it means to be a musician, not just as a tuba player.
In terms of composition, Bach is a major influence on me. I’m not someone who really sees myself getting a tattoo, but if I were to get one thing, and one thing only, it would be S.D.G in Bach’s handwriting. Anyway, I don't really want to go outside the realm of music. Think about the Bach Cello Suites in particular. Those were not meant to be danced to, but they all are dances. They are all based off of the dances that were popular of the time period. So when you think back to the first ever performance of the Cello Suites, where the general public who goes dancing on the weekends but is also listening to the piece, sits there and thinks, 'oh! I get this, I'm familiar with this because I dance to this on the weekends!', it immediately becomes relevant to those people. That's what Bach was doing, he was creating a piece of art out of something popular.
I try and do exactly the same thing when I compose. By trying to mesh classical and popular music, I’m trying to convey that both are important and both have their own purpose in today's musical scene. But, overall, my goal is to just kind of become all encompassing, and for me that goes beyond the notion of just being a tuba player. Being all encompassing in trying to be the performer, the composer, the conductor, the manager, and someone who directly relates to the audience is what it means to me to be a great musician. I try and focus more on the bigger picture."
Advice for other musicians: I think that as a musician, and especially as a musician in training, not enough people our age go to concerts. I truly believe that is where you can get the most inspiration and continue being motivated. Because, at least for me, all I can think about when I go to hear the LA Phil play, or any group play, is that I want that to be me. You don’t need any more motivation than that.
Inspirational Quote: "When words fail, music speaks"- Hans Christian Andersen
Charity/Cause: Gay Rights
Do you think Inspiration is important?: "I think it's crucial. I think if you don't have inspiration you don't have anything. And if you are in a place where you do not have inspiration, find it as quickly as you can. For instance, when I drove home for my grandmother’s celebration of life last summer, or funeral for a lack of a better word, I drove from [LA] all the way to the Redwood Forest. On the way there, I stopped at a rest stop and woke up super early, like 5 am or something so that I could take as much time as I could to walk around in the forest. No one was there. So, I took out my tubas and just improvised. The joke is that it is the oldest audience I’ll ever play for, but as I was playing for those trees and thinking about how long they have been there, and just taking it all in, and that moment I had inspiration for a piece. I titled it “Avenue of the Giants” after the street I was on, and I’d always wanted to write a piece that was more of a theme and variations through time and style and genre. Since these trees have lived through all of it, 2,000 or so years, they have grown the whole time. So, the theme starts from the improvisation that I was doing in the forest, and eventually moves through sounding chant like, then a fugue, then a chorale, then a cadenza while is closely aligned to me being in the forest, then I have a final section along the lines of popular music, which is my style. But throughout the whole thing I have this idea that is growing and expanding, and the whole piece is structured that way, as to give the illusion that the trees are growing through time. Just in going there inspired me to write the best thing I’ve ever written so far. And for me, every time I listen to the opening of the piece, I’m put in that forest. I cannot, not think of being there.
Another thing about inspiration is that I remember somebody was playing something with some famous teacher, and she started crying while she was playing, but the teacher went up and slapped her in the face. The teacher said to her, ‘you need to be making ME cry! Not you!’ And, that’s a pretty intense example, but the idea is that we as musicians need to be able to move other people. To be able to do that, you have to be inspired, you have to be motivated, you have to be in it for the right reasons and have the mental state to be in the right place to be able to do that.”