Managing Deadlines | Student Blog

Thursday, Nov 15, 2018
Horacio Fernández Vázquez
Admissions Blog
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Instrumentalists rehearse

Nothing gets me more excited to finish work than a tight deadline.

Composers at Juilliard are well known for being some of the less busy students in the school. Since we are not expected to perform, even when most of us are also trained instrumentalists, we can usually be found with some time on our hands. This can be both a blessing and curse for productivity. One could think that since we have nothing but time on our hands, we should have no trouble in getting a lot of work done but whoever thinks this has obviously never spent time with teenagers! Some of us really need the pressure of deadlines to become more productive with our time and I am a classic example of this. Even when you are really passionate about composing, like I am, it can be hard to be organized about wrapping up projects when you are the only one involved. This has been a really important realization for my career because it made me think of ways in which I could make people depend on my work ethic in some way to pressure myself to compose more and, hopefully, better.

Wanting to be performed more and also wanting my time here to be spent as productively as possible, I have been contacting solo performers and ensembles about collaborating, and everything went as expected, this being the most celebrated conservatory in the world. Most of them were very interested since most of the musicians that I encounter here are looking for ways to stand out and be challenged as a performers. I got in touch with performers that I admire and asked them to give me deadlines. This was so they could include my music in their performances, and because of this attitude, I succeeded in having five premieres in my first semester, which was a goal I set for myself.

I have written for a variety of performers and ensembles, all of whom gave me very specific deadlines. I am finishing a piece for a brass quintet comprised of freshmen that's due November 14, and I know that if I had not been given so little time to compose it, I know that it would have taken me longer to complete it. I'm also writing for a German ensemble with a due date of December 1. It is a piece for clarinet, soprano recorder, and mixed percussion that's supposed to reflect in some way my heritage, and I have decided to title the work “Lluvia,” the Spanish word for rain. Last week, I finished a composition for solo cello called “Prelude & Bossa #2” that uses the cello as a guitar, which has been particularly fascinating because the performer I was writing for, Philip Sheegog, specializes in new music; his optimism and willingness to create new music has helped me finish the piece quite fast. I also just made my first submission for the annual composition competition, which was held a earlier this year, which meant more work in less time. It is a huge orchestral work, after all! Finally, I am working to get a high-quality video recording on a piano reduction of one of my orchestral pieces for Umi Garret, which has been very exciting. This will fuse two passions of mine: filmmaking and composing. I also recently finished the score for an action/comedy short film (I had to ask for several extensions for that project, sometimes I miss deadlines, which gets me to work even more), and I finished a commission for a clarinet quartet inspired by a national landmark of my hometown, back in México. This project was premiered just four days ago. To end November, I will perform two movements of my Piano Concerto with the main orchestra of my hometown and me on the piano. This has been one of the most exciting projects I've done, and I was able to finish on time since everyone in the orchestra was counting on me to send in my sheet music promptly so the performance would be good. Realizing how much composing I've been doing lately makes me think that I could maybe try to take it easy at some point before the year ends…but then I remember that I can rest when I’m dead!