2022 Bellevue West Residency – “Coming Home”
I just got back from a residency with the Bellevue West Music Department that has been almost 2 years in planning and 14 years in the making.
I graduated from Bellevue West High School in 2008. High school was a weird time for me. I never really fit in any social groups and mainly stuck to myself. It was during this time I really started to double down on my music composition. I was a really immature entitled prick back in the day (weren’t we all?).
Fast forward to 2019 at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago. I’m sitting in my publisher’s booth talking with Marques Eckhoff (the Co-director of Bands at Bellevue West). Marques had participated in the “Phase Shift” consortium and was talking to me about performing it on his spring 2020 concert. Along with this we had talked about doing a piece with every one of his groups. I had told him I had not been back to Bellevue West in over a decade and this would be a really amazing experience for me to come back. We agreed on the dates and details…
Then the world shut down in March of 2020. We kept in contact over the next couple of years trying to plan this out. We talked about backup plans and other options as well. Finally this past spring of 2022 the stars aligned and we were able to have our concert.
I don’t know how many people reading this have ever been back to their high school after they graduated. It’s a surreal experience. The place is the same but the people there are not the same. It’s familiar but different.
Bellevue West has traditionally had 3 groups. They rehearse them slightly differently now from when I was there as well. The band room has changed very little in 14 years (trophies definitely got A LOT bigger). And it was weird being on the other side of the podium this time round. On Thursday I rehearsed with their Concert Band on “Tempest” and the Symphonic Band on “Excelsior”. On Friday I worked with their Wind Ensemble on “Spark!”
One of the awesome things I also got to do during my time there was to talk to A. J. Reimer’s music theory course. Reimer started at West while I was there and I took his second ever course of Music Theory he taught at West. In the last 14 years it’s gone from a few students to a full classroom. I spent probably a good hour or so just talking a bit about my career, my philosophy on composing, and fielding questions from the students. I think the coolest thing I got to do in that class was give Reimer a copy of my symphony, “The Great Machine”. The main motif for the symphony came from a homework assignment he had given us and got stuck in my head. It was really cool to be able to present that work back to him in its completed form. Turning in my homework 14 years late!
The concert Sunday was wonderful. I got to invite many of my family members there who don’t normally get to hear my music live in person since I’m all over the country now-a-days. Bellevue West still uses their gym for their concerts as they couldn’t fit everyone in the auditorium. I do hear rumblings that they are going to be building a new auditorium soonish and it might be done in time for their 50th anniversary (wonder who is writing a piece for that? 😉 ). The concert was also attended by one of the previous directors of Bellevue West, Byron Braasch. He was more influential on my life than most know (more on him down below).
The entire theme of this concert was “Coming Home” and it really felt like it. It was great to return to where it all started. Everyone I talked to was super nice and made me feel like I was back in my comfort zone again. To see how much the program has changed and grown over the years really makes me proud I got to be a small part of it. I promise you all I will do everything in my power not to go 14 years again without coming back. Time to start brainstorming ideas for that 50th anniversary piece!
There are some people I wanted to thank who where at this concert this weekend and made this all possible:
- It was great seeing you again. You haven’t aged a year. Thank you for giving me the best possible start to my career.
- The summer of 2005 you convinced me to not quit music. My life trajectory would be vastly different without you.
- You did an amazing job on the concert conducting “Tempest”. I’m so thrilled you got to student teach at West. Best of luck to you next year in your first full time teaching position!
- I love the passion you brought to my music. You’re in for the ride of your career at West and I can’t wait to see what you do with Marques over the coming years.
- 3 years ago I sent you an email to join the “Phase Shift” consortium and you said yes. That set of the chain of events that lead to this weekend. You’re the 4th director of bands at Bellevue West in 45 years. Your legacy and impact on the program is yet to be determined. I can’t wait to watch it and be your biggest fan.