As Aaron Flagg (BM ’92, MM ’93, trumpet), the chair and associate director of Juilliard Jazz, tells students throughout the year, “In Juilliard Jazz, we’re preparing artist leaders not just artisans.” Part and parcel of that, he explains, is helping students develop “the ability to communicate their artistic ideas and tell meaningful stories that illuminate their vision in written, verbal, and musical forms.” To that end, each spring the Composers Ensemble, which is coached this year by composer and trumpeter Dave Douglas, gives a concert of music composed by its members. The six students in this year’s Composers Ensemble gave us a sneak peek at their visions in advance of their March 20 concert.
Burt is a composition dedicated to the legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach. Through the process of talking about composition in Dave Douglas’ class, I’ve become increasingly fond of the concept of writing pieces in a one-page format. This tune aims to provide a simple, recognizable melody with some interesting asymmetry. I aim to provide the improviser with a challenging and satisfying harmonic rhythm to solo over, in contrast to the relative simplicity of the melody. In short, I’m trying to write a simple and effective tune in what I hope is a jazz reflection of one of the great popular-music songwriters. I ask that the improvisers treat their “solos” less like an individual time to express themselves and more like a communal continuation of the melody. Melody is what has driven the conception of this piece.
Bassist Mark Lewandowski, a native New Yorker who graduated from London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, is an Artist Diploma candidate
I wrote Styxian Currents specifically for this group, as I wanted to find a new texture unique to a two-bass instrumentation as well as to combine two trombones in a melodic line. It was inspired by a thought I had on the subway about how two basses could create one sound by alternating who was holding and moving within a melodic line. The strange murmuring sound is akin to that of a river. For this reason, I found this composition reminiscent of the river Styx. The trombones sing a cry over this pattern, finishing out the texture.
Bassist Adam Olszewski, a first-year master’s student, is from Michigan and holds a Juilliard Scholarship
The title of my composition, The Problem We All Live With, is a reference to a 1964 painting by Norman Rockwell with the same name. It depicts a 6-year-old African American student named Ruby Bridges who’s being accompanied to a recently desegregated school in New Orleans by four U.S. Marshals to protect her from violent protest. I hope the composition will evoke the powerful emotions of the painting and remind us of parallel issues facing our society today.
Jacob Kelberman, a master’s guitar student, holds Ruth Katzman and Timothy P. Kelly scholarships
Kinship is one of my first compositions. It’s about my first really deep friendship/love, with a girl in Naples.
Drummer Francesco Ciniglio, an Artist Diploma student from Naples, Italy, graduated from City College
I wrote Compensation specifically for the Composers’ Ensemble. It’s based on a simple motif that keeps repeating until it resolves.
Trombonist Kasperi Sarikoski is an Artist Diploma candidate from Helsinki, Finland, who studied at the Sibelius Academy and Paris Conservatory
I’m dedicating my composition, Patricia, to my grandmother Patricia Jackson, who has raised me and my twin sister, Justice, since our mother passed away when we were 15 months old. I’ve tried to capture the essence and different colors of my grandmother’s spirit. Ultimately, she represents this comfort and light in my life, but there is so much more complex, inner harmony to her that I’ve grown to really admire and love. She is my hero.
Jeffery Miller, who’s studying for his trombone bachelor’s, is from New Orleans and holds Victor Goines, Bootsie Barth, and Irene Diamond scholarships