soaring leap // eric whitacre workshop

Eric Whitacre did not know how to read music, thought he was going to be a pop star, and went to college for no greater reason than that was what everyone else seemed to be doing. After being convinced to join college choir to meet girls, Whitacre was blown away when he heard Mozart’s Requiem for the first time and was brought to tears.

It was something he had never experienced before. Something sacred. Something that he would never forget. Something that he would continue the rest of his life aiming to do – to reach and connect people through music to that something he couldn’t find words to describe. Inspired by this he continued his education at Juilliard where he earned his Master’s degree in music and is now one of the most famous composers of our time.

I first heard Whitacre’s choral music when I was going for my undergraduate back in ’05. When I completed my first choral composition Search Me I was curious what Eric Whitacre would think of it and sent it to him. He enjoyed the piece and encouraged me to focus on getting my piece performed rather than spending my time trying to get it published. He mentioned that once pieces are performed, those who hear and like it will want to publish it for you. So, I stopped licking envelopes and continued composing.

Hearing your music performed is one of the most unique experiences I think a person can have. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the choir sing the opening phrase of my piece. I was deeply moved and humbled as my composition became alive through the collaboration of voices.

A few weeks ago, I happened to be on twitter the same moment that Whitacre tweeted about a workshop he would be leading in Houston, TX. I quickly learned that the workshop Soaring Leap was for composers, conductors, and singers. I fit all three descriptions and couldn’t pass it up!

Picture courtesy of Charamy Vicoy

The workshop was truly wonderful! My eyes were wide open not wanting to miss anything! It was an intimate and priceless few hours. I think back to  Johann Sebastian Bach’s admiration of Dieterich Buxtehude’s music. Bach’s journey was a 250 mile trip on foot to “learn one thing and another about his art”. I think of the music performed around Schubert’s friend’s (the Schubertiads) living rooms and of Nadia Boulanger’s at home salons where her students would perform and be influenced by the top musicians of that time.

When Whitacre was speaking I was taking notes in my composition journal, when he was conducting I was watching the expression in his face and hands communicating to the choir, and when he was instructing other voice parts I considered them equal to my own and listened attentively.

Eric Whitacre invests in his fans and protégés do not go unnoticed. During the first break I was quick to introduce myself. I reminded him of our brief correspondence years before and thanked him for his reply and encouragement. He asked what I had done since and was truly engaged in my story. Again, humbled.

Photo courtesy of Charamy Vicoy

I will be sharing more insights and lessons from the workshop this month including Whitacre’s use of breath in sculpting music, awareness of audience, use of text or silence to enhance the music, creative process to start a composition, thoughts on tonal and atonal music, and the sacredness of music found in intelligent design.

Eric Whitacre inspired me to challenge myself to compose better quality music and have it performed again. My last commission was two years ago. It’s time to contact choirs and musicians to have me compose for them – even if it’s for free. I need to stop hesitating and find the opportunities waiting for me!

Written in my composition journal.

I sincerely thank you, Eric Whitacre.


karla adolphe // indie folk composer

I happened to come across Karla Adolphe’s music by chance on Pandora and I had to find out who she was! I love when Pandora pleasantly surprises me like that…. anyways – I quickly highlighted, copied, and pasted the song title in my search bar and I ordered the album immediately!

When listening, it seems like this passionate young woman is sitting across from me with her guitar, telling stories of her life, and God is in every equation. I want to sing with her!

Her voice is strong, soulful, and nurturing.

The song that I heard was, “You Are Mine” based off of Isaiah 43:1-2.

The album Enter the Worship Circle, Chair and Microphone, Vol. 3 was recorded in the mountains of Woodland Park, Colorado with just her voice and guitar or piano.

I can testify how remote Woodland Park is for I had driven there several times when we lived in Colorado. Beautiful.

The songs are based off of scripture and Karla does an incredible job of including personal poetry to make a unique work of sacred art. This if by far one of my top five albums.

The concept is simple yet the message is powerful.

She wants Jesus to be intimate and personal for anyone listening.

She hopes for them to know their Savior. He knows us already.

Her latest album, Honeycomb Tombs,

 is for a more specific audience and mission: to bring comfort to those in grief.

After the death of her friend’s daughter, Karla brought comfort to the grieving family with music.

She has extended that gift to us on this inspired album. A true gift is given freely – click here to download the album for free.

Did I just say “free”? Yes, but if you are ever so kind, you can pay $5 to help with her project.

One of my favorite things about this album is that she allows the person greiving to mourn.

Sometimes Christians can get in this habit that we need to hold it together, not cry, and certainly not let us be known as vulnerable. Lame…

Jesus cried when Lazarus was dead even though he knew he was going to raise him from the dead… he saw how sad Lazarus’ sisters and family were…. he grieved with those who were grieving.

Romans 12:15, Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Flying Low 

And the earth was filled with wonder
See the birds they are flying low, flying low
Ocean heaves and pulls me under
Wake up love, wake up love, wake up love

And the stars refuse to be under cover
Set the dimmer switch down to low, down to low
Sky splits open with crashing thunder
Wake up love, wake up love, wake up love

I know I’m alive 
Raised from the dead inside 
Breaking out of honeycomb tombs
Growing gardens out of my wounds

I know I’m alive…