Well, it’s been a bit.

2021 was a tough year. My mother, Linda Flinn, died on June 17 after an 2-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was just a couple of months shy of 85. We’re all still heartbroken, of course, but Dad somehow soldiers on, though sometimes I get overwhelmed when I think about the fact that they grew up together and he probably has no memories that don’t involve her in some way.

Work was challenging with COVID, but we did the best we can. Owing to a concatenation of events, I had to be discipline coordinator this fall, when we had turnover in all three ensemble director positions and when the other two tenured faculty were on leave. It was harrowing and I’m pretty sure I aged several years. But the adjunct faculty, staff, and students all performed admirably, and I am pleased to say we did not have to postpone or cancel a single event for weather-related or COVID-related reasons. I am fortunate to work with people this good.

Now comes the fun part – I am taking a sabbatical of my own this spring to write an opera! The plan is to write this spring, orchestrate this summer, workshop and revise next year, then do a full staging in 2024. This will hopefully also launch a summer festival of new opera/musical theatre works here.

I will try to do weekly (or hopefully more regular, anyway) updates on my progress.

The opera will feature a libretto by my dear friend David C. Cole and will combine elements of American history, science fiction, and politics. The title is…

John Quincy Adams and the Subterraneans

Major roles:
John Quincy Adams, Sixth President of the United States of America (tenor, though a contralto could do the role as well)
John Cleves Symmes, Jr., explorer (Bass-Baritone)
Louisa Catherine Adams, First Lady of the United States (mezzo-soprano)
Monarch of the Subterraneans (dramatic soprano, possibly coloratura)
Andrew Jackson, General and later Seventh President of the United States of America (mezzo-soprano or countertenor)

I haven’t been excited about a composition project like this in a very long time.

In other news, I am pleased to announce that I finished several works in 2021. I wrote some miniatures for the Georgia Runoff Commissioning Project (Riff for solo piano; bent not broken for solo contrabass; Souvenir from a Canceled Trip for solo flugelhorn; Thibodeaux Breakdown for solo tuba; The First Amendment for SATB choir). A small consortium commissioned a three-movement trombone quartet, The True Saga of Charles Everett Mathews and His Search for a Perpetual Motion Machine (named for my maternal great-grandfather, who never found one). For my new-found interest in alto trombone, I wrote Everything About This Is Wrong, an exploration of a poem by my friend Emily Vieweg and scored for solo alto trombone with flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, soprano sax, horn, trumpet/flugelhorn, timpani, vibraphone, and snare drum. I finished the orchestration of Concerto for Piano and Wind Band.

My article on techniques of developing variation in the music of Morton Gould was published in GAMUT, and it’s nice for that research to have found a home. Might mess around and start writing a theory textbook too.

My beloved wife and the cats are all in some reasonable facsimile of good health, and I am grateful for that. I lost a few pounds last year (10-15); the plan is to keep doing that, though the fact that I bake more might make it difficult.

I hope you’re all well. Let’s keep muddling through together.


Continuing with the theme established from last week, I’ve decided to list ten absolutely on the audition excerpts. Some are from band music, some are from orchestral music.

In no particular order:

1. Holst, Second Suite, first movement, euphonium solo at reh. 5
2. Holst, The Planets, “Mars,” euphonium solo (this is the famous 5/4 excerpt) at reh. 4
3. Mussorgsky (orch. Ravel), Pictures at an Exhibition, “Bydlo” (originally played on tuba, lies very well on euphonium)
4. R. Strauss, Don Quixote (originally for Wagner tuba; according to David Werden, Strauss himself recommended euphonium after hearing the Sousa band)
5. Gould, Symphony for Band “West Point”, first movement, solo at reh. 11
6. Grainger, Irish Tune from County Derry (great for showing off good sound)
7. Sullivan (arr. Mackerras), Pineapple Poll, first movement, beginning to reh. 1
8. Shostakovich (arr. Hunsberger), Festive Overture, reh. 8
9. Barber, Commando March, reh. B
10. King (arr. Bainum), Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite

There are many others that could have made this list (it was a tough call leaving out Grainger’s Children’s March: “Over the Hills and Far Away” because I love that solo so much; ditto the Safranek transcription of Tchaikovsky’s 4th), but these ten mark a good cross-section of the standard rep.

What do you think?