The 2010 Nashville Symphony EarShot Blog: Preparing Parts

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Michael Rickelton

[Ed. Note: This week the music of four emerging composers will be read by the Nashville Symphony as part of the American Composers Orchestra's EarShot program. During the course of the week the composers—Ryan Gallagher (b. 1984), Chia-Yu Hsu (b. 1975), Michael Rickelton (b. 1983), and Daniel Temkin (b. 1986) —will have an opportunity to work with mentor composers Robert Beaser, Jennifer Higdon, and Edgar Meyer, culminating in the readings on April 7-8, 2010. We asked one of the four composers, Michael Rickelton, to serve as our tour guide through the process. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Rickelton is currently based in Baltimore where he is pursuing a master's degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory under the tutelage of Michael Hersch. But Rickelton had previously lived in Nashville for many years—he received his undergraduate degree from Lipscomb University—so this week is something of a homecoming for him.—FJO]


It seems like ages since receiving notice mid-January that my music would be read by the Nashville Symphony as part of the American Composers Orchestra’s EarShot program. But when I think back to the preparations for this coming event (three days from now) I still don’t know how everything got done on time. My piece, And after the dark, has yet to be read and therefore no parts existed. With a number of other pressing deadlines approaching before the required submission date for parts (February 17), I wasn’t able to begin the process until the final week in January. That gave me three weeks to edit the full score and create parts. On the surface, that may seem like a lot of time. However, with work, school, rehearsals, and performances, available time shrank to the hours of the late night to early morning, requiring days of no sleep. Now, it is true that I tend to work best during the night, but as I get older I have found that I just can’t do all-nighters like a used to. Luckily, Mother Nature saved the day (more like month) with two back-to-back blizzards that shut down Baltimore for over a week: no classes, no rehearsals, no church, no concerts, nothing—a full week to sit at home and complete my parts.

I’m sure many other composers would agree with me that creating parts is an incredibly important step in the creation of a new piece. The smallest error can not only cause the loss of crucial rehearsal time but can also make you look like a complete idiot. The process of editing parts requires attention to every detail, but the process can be excruciatingly boring and it almost (I emphasize almost) makes you ask, “Is it really worth it?” Well, of course it is, but if it weren’t for the DVD player and seven full seasons of The West Wing, I think I might ask that question a bit too often.

So, February 12 rolls around and I have five days to get my scores and parts to Nashville, including shipping time. But even though I was so excited that the snow allowed me to get all I needed done, I quickly learned that no copy and print store in the entirety of Baltimore was open. Let’s just say it is no easy task to cut over 100 sheets of 11×17 paper down to 10×13 with a straight(ish) edge and a knife—good thing I have really good knives. (Thanks, Dad!) Luckily I had the other 300 sheets cut before the storms hit. And, if not for the lone printer available at the Peabody Conservatory during “Snowmageddon” (one of the many names given to this year’s blizzards by local and national news personalities), my parts may have never made it to paper.

I’ve been somewhat removed from And after the dark since sending in my parts almost two months ago. I’ve had to focus my attention on work, school, and a couple other composition projects that have consumed all of my time (including the creation of parts for another orchestra piece). For the past week and a half, though, I’ve spent as much time as I can going through my piece to make sure I know it backwards and forwards. This should be a given since I wrote the piece, but it has been quite a while since composing it and I just needed to spend time with it.

I’m exited to be returning to Nashville. I lived in Nashville for six years—four of which included my undergraduate years at Lipscomb University. Nashville is such a great place to live and an incredible place to experience music. The Nashville Symphony is a top-notch group that more people need to hear, and I’m extremely honored to have them play my music. I’m also quite eager to hear the music of the other three composers on the program: Ryan Gallagher, Chia-Yu Hsu, and Daniel Temkin. From what I’ve read in their bios, I know that there will be some wonderful music presented in Nashville next week. I haven’t been back to Nashville in two years and I hope I’m able to see some old friends. I feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to participate in EarShot. Although I’m a bit burned out from Holy Week I’m ready to get to Nashville and hear some new music. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that part of my excitement included the opportunity to indulge a craving I’ve had for the past two years—a gyro from this little place on Nolensville Road about two miles south of downtown (incredible!).

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