|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.
The Numinosum Blog
I've been off FB for 3 weeks so have only now been hearing and reading what has happened with the BMI Composers Workshop here in NYC. I'm sadden by the news. No, sadden does not totally encapsulate what I'm feeling. There's so much to say, that can't be really said. How can you capture in words, something that changes one's life so completely, so fully that to contemplate not being part of it means you are someone else and not who you are now. Some might be thinking I'm speaking in hyperbole, but for me, it is true.
When I moved to NY I knew three people: Maria Schneider, Anita Brown, and a friend from college. So for me, the Workshop, wasn't only a place to write, but really was my 'home'; the composers and musicians associated with the Workshop, became life-long friends and I drew upon many to play in my group when I started Numinous two years after joining the Workshop.
I literally moved to New York to be in the Workshop. I had a choice between going to grad school or coming to NYC and the Workshop. I left my job teaching a quite fantastic, award-winning high school band program outside Seattle and moved to NYC to pursue a crazy dream of being a composer. I was in my very early 30s,a late-bloomer to composing, and I wasn't quite sure exactly what kind of composer I wanted to be. While I never considered myself a "jazz" composer (at any point before, during, or after the Workshop), and really hadn't written any "jazz" music when I applied, I did know I had something to say and knew the Workshop was an opportunity to WRITE! It was a beginning, an 'in' to starting the composers life. Really, it was the only path that I had going forward.
I was in the 'B' group when I was accepted and was the precocious guy who ate up EVERYTHING. Amazed and feeling fortunate to be in such a great environment, I went to every class every week, even started going to the "A' classes. I wrote; I learned; and on the reading sessions, I was excited to listen to not only what I wrote-- performed by some of the top musicians in NY-- but to soak in and learn from what my colleagues and friends were doing too. When I was chosen that first year for the year-end concert at Merkin Hall and Jim McNeely and Manny Abam informed me that the next year I'd be in the 'A' class, it was incredible. In subsequent years, while officially in the 'A' class, I still went to the 'B' classes too. Soon there were four more concerts, including a finalist for the BMI Award, MANY more compositions, and through it all my musical voice developed and deepened. Jim and Manny would always say that the Workshop did not teach you how to compose, but rather helped you find your own way to what you wanted to say in music. For me, I was the guy in the Workshop always talking about Steve Reich and John Adams, not Thad or Basie. But you know, Jim, Manny, Mike Abene, and Burt Korall, not to mention the other composers, all made me and my music feel welcomed. This was one of many great things about being in the Workshop: you could bring a composition or idea into class that was quite left of center or something that was a straight-ahead swinger and Jim, Manny, and Mike would approach it with openness and clear-eyed questions and analysis of what you are trying to do and suggestions on how to make it more of what you want (or less of what you don't want). Not to mention Jim could read every score on the piano, which was ALWAYS impressive! The Workshop influenced some of the things I did after leaving: I started a composer federation Pulse (all composers from the Workshop; originally, myself, Darcy James Argue, JC Sanford, Joshua Shneider, Jamie Begin, Yumiko Sunami, Bill Apollo Brown). And while I didn't attend many concerts after leaving, nor kept up much with the composers that came after (although I reviewed one concert in 2009), I am happy and proud to know I was a part of continuum of composers, musicians, and music that has such a wonderful linage. Who knows what the new BMI Workshop will be, but those of us who know what the Workshop was, will lament for those that come after, who will miss out on something that was unique and special.
So Jim, I am one of many people who owe so much to you and the Workshop, and I know that thank you can't fully convey the appreciation we feel, but I'll say it anyway: Thank You. Thank you for taking a chance on a me all those years ago, thank you for your incredible musicianship and leadership, thank you for providing a forum where composers could find themselves and the music within, thank you for your support of all of us throughout the years. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Here's a recording of my final concert in the BMI Workshop, a finalist for the BMI Award, this is a performance of "Into All the Valleys Evening Journeys", which eventually became a part of my composition, Vipassana, for my own ensemble Numinous. Featuring Mike Rodriguez on trumpet.
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.