how to be a composer 2): lighting & mood

Now that you have the best pencil ever and the staff paper of your choosing [see my blog about this: how to be a composer 1): pencils & paper], you have to set the mood. And the lighting. Sometimes they are the same thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have learned to compose everywhere and anywhere. I keep my laptop close and my staff paper closer. Just in case. Gotta be prepared. However, having a “home base”–a studio space that is set up for working, is really helpful. Continue reading


how to be a composer: 1) pencil and paper

To be a composer, you need a place to write. It needs to have a mood, lighting you like, a good drink, and the materials that are both fashionable and useful. Here is my comprehensive list.

Pencil and Paper

Let’s start with the essentials. You need to actually write music, so you need the best pencil and the best staff paper. Luckily for you, I have found the best pencil and some exemplary examples of staff paper of the highest quality.

Here is the best pencil, the Ticonderoga Black (it even says so on the packaging, click the link if you don’t believe me):

And here are some versions of staff paper that I really do love:

The classic Hal Leonard standard wire-bound. It travels well, it is affordable, so you may as well have several of these on hand.

When I am in the need to feel classy and hipster-y, I gravitate to Moleskine, which has many wonderful selections of staff paper booklet/journals. I carry a small one as a concert journal where I document my favorite motifs, unapologetic critiques of the performers wardrobes, and the ideas that populate as a listen to a master composition. I found that this larger staff paper journal is quite lovely to compose in. I am currently using it to sketch out the song-cycle I am working on called The Best Thing Ever.

I ran into another great looking bunch of staff paper when I was stalking the Facebook of Gabriel Kahane. After I asked him, via the comment section of his post, where i could find such a beautiful staff paper, he simply said “I think most places sell it” or something to that effect. Well, it looked good on his Instagram photo.

Now Go Write

Find some good lighting. If you have a piano, maybe find a desk lamp to put above the music rest and place your finely curated staff paper and pencil in the “go” position. Grab a small antique glass that you have filled with the finest locally roasted espresso, an write something beautiful.


Tax write-offs for the musician

It’s tax season and you should be thinking “Yes! how many ways can I find to reduce my taxable income?”

As a musician, there are PILES of ways to reduce your taxable income. First, let’s look at two types of working scenarios.

The Freelancer

If you gig/perform a lot, chances are you are paid on a 1099 or several (because you filled out plenty of W9’s)-or you are just paid by check or cash. In both instances, taxes to the federal and state governments were not taken out. If this money hits any of your bank accounts, it is considered a part of your taxable income (and traceable). By filling out a w9 you are agreeing to be the responsible party for forfeiting your own taxes.

Continue reading

Composing “shorts”

As a student composer, my favorite compositions were short duets. Out of necessity, I wrote these duets for trumpet and bassoon. I played trumpet, and my roommate played bassoon. Performers guaranteed!

What started as an exercise, the Duet in Three Parts became a very important piece for me compositionally and artistically. It may have been the launch into finding my tonal voice.

Looking back, about 10 years later, this work still resonates with me and makes me wonder why we [composers] don’t spend more time composing “shorts”. Why are we always looking to make a splash with a large work–a grotesque amalgamation of notes and complications that represent high art at it’s best–instead of composing for a variety of lengths, instrumentations, and purposes? Continue reading

media coverage part 2 & 3

Tonight I heard myself on the radio.

That’s part 2.

You can listen to it tomorrow (Thursday January 14th) at 10:00 am EST here: . If you listen, you get to hear me talk, with my pianist and friend Cassandra Kaczor, and you get to listen to three movements of six inspirations and another piano solo that will be heard on my concert this Friday.

Getting yourself out there is hard. Half of the battle is just getting noticed. Then perhaps the last struggle is getting people curious enough to care to come. Or at least consider coming to your concert.

With all of the media opportunities everyone has, I wonder if quality is irrelevant in the first step of media coverage. Maybe you just need to persist and tell everyone and get a look and a feel that says “I am here. I exist. I am important enough to consider.” Continue reading