Returning to Musicianship

I’m recording an album this year, and I’m shooting for an October 2016 release! So, now I’m going to babble (probably way too much) about this, and the circumstances leading up to this project.

I haven’t really mentioned this specifically here on my own blog and web page, but I did complete my Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management from Notre Dame of Maryland University in December of 2015. Working on the Masters was certainly the main focus of my energies for almost 2.5 years. Even while working on the Masters, I was able to engage in many artistic and creative projects. Also, at the same time having a full-time job. However, for my final semester of work in Fall of 2015, I made it a point to not take on any artistic projects. I found myself overriding my natural state of not wanting to turn down any kind of paid artistic work, and actually saying “No” to opportunities. My final semester was quite intense. My capstone project was a “For Dummies” style guide on how to start a community chorus, which I will actually look into getting published at some point. I earned an “A” for my capstone, and completed my Masters with a 4.0 GPA.

Clearly, avoiding additional projects for my last semester was the right decision. However, since I had been saying “No” to projects, I found myself at the end of December 2015 without a sense of what would be my next artistic/creative thing! I thought about the fact that a vast majority of the artistic things I have been doing over the last 10-15 years were really more about teaching music, acting, or music directing. The less frequent times where I was being a musician left me feeling very rusty and self-conscious about my musical abilities. So, I started to just play piano more. I started pondering the idea of releasing an album. I already have 4 individual tracks floating out there for sale, but I haven’t really put together a cohesive album. I have also had plenty of ideas for what I would want to do as an album.

I wanted to wait before really talking about this to the general world. I’ve always been fond of the saying, “There are two kinds of people: those who talk about doing things, and those who do things.” My own experiences have taught me that it is better to wait until I know I am both mentally engaged in a project and also have the time and energy to see it through, before I start talking about it. I feel like this is a good thing, and it keeps me honest and held accountable!

Another big impact on this decision was the passing of a dear friend and musical colleague, Nick Delaney. Nick was an incredible and natural musician, and had a fantastic ear. He was the kind of guy that EVERYONE loved to work with. He also began music directing himself quite a bit, and frequently honored me by asking me for input and advice on projects he was directing. (Not that he ever really needed it!) I was a Music Theory and Composition Major, not a performance major. I’ve done more teaching and music directing than actual playing. I know a whole heck of a lot about music, the best way to teach music, the best way to help musicians prepare how to perform, music history, analyzing music, and music in an intensely “scholarly” sense. However, not since high school have I ever devoted the right kind of focus to just PLAYING MUSIC. This lead to solidifying the decision of, “Damn it, I’m going to focus on playing as best as I f*(#ing can, and release an album!!”

So, the name of the upcoming album will be: “Scott plays Scott.”

The basic goal was to have at least 12 tracks of pieces written by somebody with “Scott” in their name. This was fueled by the simple fact that I’m a big Scott Joplin fan, I can include some original pieces, and I had a curiosity and fascination with Cyril Scott, a friend and contemporary of my favorite composer Percy Grainger.

At this time, I have two Scott Joplin rags pretty close to recording ready, one Cyril Scott piece, and one of my own pieces. I believe the finished album will certainly include at least these two Scott Joplin rags (possibly another), at least two pieces by Cyril Scott (possibly more like 7 pieces if I record a whole suite for which I am anxiously waiting the sheet music from Germany and which has not been recorded by anybody), a rag by James Scott (“Ophelia Rag”… not sure if it is a Shakespeare reference, but it’s a great piece!), at least 2 (probably more like 4) of my own folksong settings, and an original setting/interpretation of the Scottish folk tune “Annie Laurie” which was written by Alicia Scott, also known as Lady John Scott. If that ain’t enough Scotts for ya, then I don’t know what is!! “Scott plays Scott”!! Ya get it?!?!

As far as the logistics of recording goes, I am intending to record and render a MIDI version of my performances that will be sent to a recording studio in Oregon and used to drive an acoustic Yamaha piano. So, this will be an actual recording of an acoustic piano. I suppose it is akin to a player piano version of the mechanics of the playing, but this is combined with the current state of 21st century technology and recording techniques. I feel a little like I’m cheating, but at the same time it lets me do a whole lot of the work in my own home studio and reduces the recording costs. And, the end result is the same because it really will be a recording of an acoustic piano which will include MY touch, tempo and phrasing, and all the sympathetic vibrations and sounds that one would hear if I were actually there playing the piano!

I am really looking forward to the effort and energy that I will be throwing out over the next 6 or 7 months to achieve this goal! I firmly believe that it is the best thing that I could be doing right now. It will rekindle my love and appreciation for MAKING music, so that it will rekindle and re-energize my abilities and skills at directing and guiding the making of music. I’m so excited, and even more so now after sharing all this!

Cheers!!

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