Prelude: Aggressively Happy was written to serve as a “high octane,” aggressive opener to concerts. Programmatically, this piece represents people who are so immersed in their own happiness that they seem to emit joy like sunlight wherever they go. We all know of people like this in our own lives, but I am lucky enough to spend most of my time with someone who is exactly this type of person. My wife, Caitlin Clayson, positively radiates joy and happiness wherever she happens to find herself on any particular day. Throughout my many years knowing Caitlin, I have seen her put aside her own problems again and again for the sake of helping others, and do it with a smile on her face. She is truly my biggest inspiration, and this piece is dedicated to her.
Aria: Amidst the Anguish is a piece for 5.0-octave marimba that I wrote to serve as a change of pace in recitals. There is nothing happy in this piece, but instead a musical portrayal of a person who struggles with extreme depression after the loss of a loved one. Someone who feels that they struggle just to exist—whose life seems merely to pass them by day by day with no real meaning. It is a portrayal of the pain and emptiness that the death of a loved one brings. The piece is very slow and often seems to wander around the same thematic material while having no particular end goal in mind. This effect expresses the endless hopelessness and “living in a loop” that grief and depression can bring. Like the sudden loss of loved ones, this piece offers very little solace or resolution, only the sad and terrible realization that a piece of your life is now gone forever and you will never be quite the same. It is dedicated to Crystal Kelley and her family. Crystal was killed in a car accident only a few months after her 16th birthday. Though her memory lives on, the holes that her death left in her family’s hearts can never truly be filled.
Fantasy: Soar! is an easy to intermediate solo for 4.0-octave marimba. I wanted to write an attainable challenge for younger players while still being fun to play and to listen to. Its duration is slightly under 5 minutes, which makes it a great choice for recital programs, festivals, and jury examinations. Soar begins with a joyful, spirited theme in A Major, with a melody presented over an ostinato. It then transitions to a second theme in a slow and lyrical chorale, giving performers plenty of opportunity for dynamic and lyrical expression. Finally, the piece returns to the original theme, at first lifted to E Major before modulating back to A major for a buoyant, energetic finish. The bright, fluid melodies make it an enjoyable piece to learn and perform, while also serving as a good technique builder for younger players. Soar includes utilization of single independent strokes, double vertical strokes, double lateral strokes, multi-manual playing, and traditional rolls. It is my hope that this piece helps marimbists “soar” to new heights in their playing!