Music: “Buried Hopes”

Buried Hopes was written for a short video, in which a person remembers her childhood dream to play the piano and wishes to bring the joy of music to her own children. The original composition used in the video ends with a “question mark” chord to segue into a contented jazz tune for the second half; I have altered the ending of the standalone piece to sound more “final”. In this form, the piece depicts a person who has had a lifelong dream of playing the piano, but now wonders if it is too late to learn. (Let me reassure anyone who wonders this: it is never too late.)

Listen to this piece directly on SoundCloud

Music: Pathfinder

I saw a person sitting in the air, high enough to see the curvature of the planet they were above. The person manipulated images that floated in front of them, which depicted various scenes from the planet. This person evidenced an intense curiosity, as if seeking something very specific within the images. Not finding it, they eventually dismissed the images as the planet receded from view. What was this person looking for, and will they find it?

Listen to this piece directly on SoundCloud

Music: Dragonfly Dreams

For this composition, I saw a mystical dragonfly glowing an iridescent blue, flitting about a field on a sunny day. Suddenly, the day turns to night, and the dragonfly finds itself in a dark, mysterious forest with dangers lurking everywhere, and where even the laws of gravity do not apply. As it is about to be eaten by quickly-growing, carnivorous vines, daylight abruptly returns as before.

Shortly thereafter, the scene shifts again. The dragonfly now glides above the clouds, as though it is being carried along by currents in the air. It leaves wakes of bright color as it dances, and begins a bold nosedive. Suddenly, the environment twists into the forest from before, and the dragonfly again finds itself in danger. As the darkness nearly swallows it, the peaceful daytime and the vast field suddenly return. The dragonfly resumes its flight as though nothing has happened. Perhaps it simply had a series of waking dreams?

Listen to the piano version directly on SoundCloud

Listen to the orchestral version directly on SoundCloud

To My Third-Grade Teacher: Thank You

To my third-grade teacher: thank you. I don’t know where you are, or if you’re even still teaching. Whatever you’re doing, I hope you are very happy and have many joyful years ahead of you.

I was a quirky kid. I am now a quirky adult. I didn’t often pay attention in class, I hated doing homework, I didn’t always do well on tests, and I wasn’t very social. (In fact, I was downright awkward.) My mind traveled paths that no one else would have even made sense out of, and this is probably because they didn’t make sense.

Everyone else solved their math problems. I drew rocketships. At recess, everyone wanted to play kickball (which I did sometimes), skip rope, or just plain run around. My friends and I imagined we were space explorers on a distant planet, fighting off vicious, monstrous space aliens bent on our destruction. Everyone else was interested in sports. I was interested in robots, monsters, and anything having to do with space. Everyone else listened to you as you spoke to them of the real world. I listened to my muses speak to me of my own universe.

I was a terrible student. You really put up with a lot. And yet, you never discouraged me. You never judged me. You even called me creative. Somehow, I even passed your class.

One day, you gave me a book of science-fiction stories to take home. I read them all. And then, I read them again. And again. And again. I devoured them like a meal that constantly regenerated. I thanked you over and over while everyone else was silently reading their books. Each time, you politely said, “You’re welcome. I’m glad you like them.” My classmates probably thought it was odd (and it definitely was). To others, this book was strange. To me, it was an inexhaustible treasure-trove of pure imagination.

It inspired me. I wrote some of my own stories. And then I wrote some more. And more. And more. Over the years, I created an entire universe inside of my head, complete with characters, backstory, epic events, heroes, villains, ancient technologies, war, peace, joy, sorrow, and redemption. This continues even to this very day. You didn’t just give me a book of fun stories to read. You gave me a spark. You lit a fire. It has burned every waking second since then, and I hope it never goes out.

I’m not sure what you saw in me. I’ve heard stories of teachers telling students to “come back to the real world,” “pay attention,” “get out of your bubble,” “come out of your shell,” “stop entertaining these silly fantasies of yours,” or any other of innumerable ways to silence a world that they simply did not understand (I’m not sure I understand it myself). I don’t know where you got your nearly bottomless patience. I don’t know why you put up with me for as long as you did. Truthfully, I’m curious about why.

But whyever you did it, the result was extraordinary. You didn’t merely teach me or entertain me. You inspired me. I have become a musician, and brought joy to people through my music as well. I now consider it my fundamental language, and I use it to inspire others. And every time I see a student who is like me, I remember you. I remember the patience you showed. I remember how inspiring it was to read those stories. I remember your encouragement to me, and I try to pass that along to my own students. I teach them music that they enjoy, and I see the same light in their eyes that I remember in my own when I discovered I could express my inner world.

So, to my third-grade teacher: thank you. I hope to see you again one day, but even if I don’t, I hope you know the gift you have given me. I hope that you know the joy you have brought. And I hope that you, too, have found a way to express your inner world.