Texas Tech

I flew into Lubbock on the morning of Tuesday, October 3. (Yes, I’m way behind on this entry.) After dropping off my bags at the hotel, I headed to lunch with a few of Dr. Sarah McKoin’s students. We hit a local pizza place, where I had a calzone.

After lunch, we went to the Texas Tech campus. The marching band was rehearsing for that weekend’s Homecoming game. Their rehearsal area? The parking lot in front of the music building.

Rehearsal started with “Turbine.” Damn, the group sounded good. The trombone sound was huge and bright. I gave a few notes — some mallet changes, kick up the tempo — and they ran it again, sounding even better than the first run. It was great.

My piece was one of three pieces by living composers — all in attendance! — on that wind ensemble concert. The concert was part of a new music festival, and the featured composer, who had pieces on (I believe) three different concerts, was Chen Yi.

The third composer was Narong Prangcharoen, originally from Thailand, now living in Kansas City. This would be the official world premiere performance of Narong’s piece, a transcription (and somewhat re-composed version) of a work originally for orchestra. The piece was spectacular. Here’s Narong giving notes to the ensemble.

After rehearsal, we all headed to dinner. And cocktails.

I had shepherd’s pie.

And an enormous piece of cake.

The sun sets over the Lubbock Whataburger.

The next morning, we headed to brunch. For some reason, I thought it would be appropriate to have nachos. At 11 in the morning. I was wrong.

I spoke to the student composers (and a whole bunch of other people) that afternoon. A great group with great questions. Chen Yi commented to me after the forum that I was “very honest.” She said this several times, making me think I’d been perhaps too honest, and had said something out loud that I shouldn’t have. Something like, “Yanni isn’t really that bad a composer.” Or maybe it was, “I am a whore.” Perhaps I should keep some thoughts to myself while in a public forum.

It was a full moon that night, and Chen Yi told us about a Chinese myth surrounding that particular full moon — the “fullest” moon of the year. She brought along these Chinese desserts that are a symbol of that myth. Here are the desserts, with Chen Yi in the background. See that smile? That’s Chen Yi. I have never met such a warm, inviting, sincerely happy person in my life. It was a nice contrast to me and my surly self. I love this picture.

Later that night, I had drinks with some of the Tech gang. Here, a clarinetist hides behind a martini.

Lunch on Thursday : a Philly cheesesteak. You know what doesn’t look delicious on film? Philly cheesesteak.

The ensemble in the final rehearsal for “Turbine.”

During a break at rehearsal, I spotted the color guard rehearsing just outside of the music building. Hooray, flags!

The concert that night was awesome. Narong’s piece was just great and full of energy and tremendous color. When Chen Yi introduced her piece — which was right before my piece — she couldn’t have been lovelier. Whereas I tend to be a bit snarky with the crowd (see below), Dr. Chen just glowed with joy, and she lit up the entire audience. After she spoke, everybody was beaming, just dying to hear her piece — and wanting to love it. And they did — for good reason. Her work, “KC Capriccio,” was incredible. It’s for wind ensemble and chorus, and the chorus primarily makes nonsensical sounds. Only five minutes long, not a second was wasted. I could have listened to it again and again.

After Dr. Chen’s piece, the audience was up for anything. Naturally, I came along and managed to make this crowd — who 30 seconds earlier, looked like they were about to commence a hug-fest — hiss at me. I shit thee not. I usually speak to an audience before a performance to tell them about the piece they’re about to hear. (This is something that Corigliano insisted is essential for a composer who isn’t dead.) I usually try to make a joke or two, but this time, I may have gone a little overboard. After describing how “Turbine” was about my fear of flying, I added, “I have to say that it’s a little weird for me to hear the piece here in Lubbock, Texas — the home of rock ‘n’ roll star Buddy Holly. If I remember correctly, Buddy Holly died in a plane crash. So, this is not particular reassuring to me as I head back to Lubbock airport tomorrow morning.” Most of the crowd laughed — but a few hissed. Very cool.

“Turbine” was fast and fantastically loud in all of the right places, and I think the energy pouring off the stage from the ensemble (or rather, the energy that was torpedoed from the players directly into the ears of the audience) won over some of the group that had hissed at me 8 minutes earlier.

Here, immediately after the concert, are Chen Yi, Narong Prangcharoen, Dr. Sarah McKoin, and me (looking even dorkier than usual).

Post concert, some hang time with the cool kids.

I headed home the next morning. On the way, I had a two hour layover in Vegas. Vegas, baby. Definitely the most entertaining airport in the US. Being the high roller that I am, I spent $1 on nickel slots. Check out this sweet win: 5 credits. That’s $0.25, my friend. Take that, Vegas!

Texas Tech was a great time. Dr. McKoin has that ensemble sounding fantastic, and they couldn’t have been a nicer group to work with. I’m excited to see some of the gang again at TMEA.

Now I’m back at Arizona State, after spending a few days in Ft. Myers, Florida. More on ASU in a few days. See you soon…


Sarah says

2 things:

-Your shepherd's pie and cake were from the Black-Eyed Pea, weren't they? I used to waitress there. I can spot a BEP bread basket from a mile away.

-I love the word snarky.

Courtney says

Was the calzone from One Guy's? I spent two years at Tech, and you just can't beat One Guy From Italy's pizza place.

I spent a lot of time out on that parking lot...fun stuff.

Amy says

What Lubbock might be lacking in fine cuisine, we certainly make up for in personality.

And hissing.

In any case, I know that we were glad to have you here.

PS: I doubt that one could call your demeanor 'surly'. Quite the opposite, indeed.

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