"Write for your friends!"
By far, the most exciting part of Juilliard for me is the fact that writing for my performer-buddies is a really wise career move in many ways. I have discussed in previous blogs that many of my classmates will be among the most highly known instrumentalists in the future and it is important to not take that for granted as a composer hungry to get performed. One thing that I hadn’t thought about in terms of their abilities was the richness of their potential cultural capital. It is true that most of us are trained and have thrived on the language of classical music but many of them have a natural talent for the music of their own land, even if they don’t realize it.
One of my closest friends in the school is the only other Mexican-born musician in the school, clarinetist Hector Noriega; we both deeply identify with our very Mexican identity. Mexico is, however, a huge country and the culture is very dependent on geography. Hector comes from the far north, very near the border, and I come from the middle. My community is much more closely related with our indigenous heritage and our music is a lot more tropical sounding with a heavy emphasis on percussion, while Hector is much more closely related with a Mexican genre called banda, which consists of mostly brass instruments and melody. It is a huge difference but both styles are heard across Mexico. I have mostly written music inspired by the genres that are most popular in the part of Mexico that I come from and when the idea to write music for Hector came about I suggested to write inspired in the styles that I am the most familiar with. However, thanks to his personality and the trust within our friendship, he had no trouble at all in pushing me to write instead music inspired on the banda music that he is much more familiar with. I was of course hesitant at first because I had never done it before which of course meant that I HAD to do it. A challenge for me would be the instrumentation since it is heavy on its use of brass, which is again something that I am not particularly used to. However, I had just wrapped up a project with another group of friends. I wrote a brass quintet for them and everyone was very happy with the quality of the work and I was very impressed by the quality of their playing. This was all incredibly convenient and what sealed the deal is that we are all freshmen and buddies so when I suggested the idea, everyone was immediately on board.
This is definitely my second favorite part about being a composer (my favorite is to just chill and relax during my performances) because we build something of a community and our personal relationships feed our professional goals. My friends enrich me and push me out of my comfort zones and a great ability to develop is to learn how to get people into your projects because this way a new piece becomes a real team effort and it is something that the composer and the performers will deeply appreciate and will remember when future projects arise.