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Commissioned by Joseph Nibley – 2014
duration: approx. 20′
Speaking as a living composer, I think one thing we all hope is that our music will resonate with younger musicians. Therefore, it is especially gratifying when a young musician takes such an interest that they devote a good portion of their study to our craft.
In September of 2013, Joseph Nibley contacted me with the idea of doing his doctoral treatise on my music for trumpet. After many discussions, the result came to be a lecture recital that would contain several of my works, including a newly commissioned work written strictly for the treatise and concurrent recital tour. I had written my first trumpet sonata in 2001, and he and I both agreed that an interesting piece might be a second sonata, composed 13 years after the first.
Joe came to my home in the early summer of 2014, so that we might get to know one another. He interviewed me – as expected – but also revealed quite a bit of personal information about himself. While he was speaking, the new sonata began to take shape in my head. With his permission to share, Joe related the following:
“After a number of life-changing events–including the loss of people very dear to me–I found myself at a crossroads. I realized that I had been suffering with some severe emotional and mental maladies and, after some close friends came to my aide, I decided that I needed to get professional help. Through the experiences that followed I now find myself nearly finishing a doctorate in music, pursuing a career I genuinely feel passionate about.
I keep thinking to the words of the Robert Frost Poem “The Road Not Taken,” where Frost writes (and I’m paraphrasing): “Two roads diverged in a wood and I/I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference.” People don’t tell you the path will be hard as you’re blazing your own trail. But it’s the days and times with little glimmers of hope and moments of tranquility that give me peace and keep me going through the otherwise tempestuous times. And while I have experienced more heartache and intense emotional pain than I before thought possible, I have also felt more hope for the future than I ever have. My spectrum of emotions has grown exponentially, and, for the first time in my nearly thirty years of life, I feel like I am finally learning who I am.”
The work that immediately came to mind during the conversation was one that would describe my understanding of his life up to that point: Pain, Sadness, Perseverance and Tranquility. (The 4th movement was added as an afterthought, at Joe’s request – for which I am grateful). The movements highlight many aspects of Joe’s playing that he spoke to: strength and endurance, flugelhorn playing, jazz influence and technique (the 3rd mvmt is entirely dedicated to this sensibility), and lyricism. Given that he is still a student and still therefore in “official learning mode”, I may have even thrown in a couple of things to stretch him a bit…
My sincerest thanks goes out to Joe for investing so much time and resource into this project. It is truly one that I will point to as a compositional and personal highlight. And I hope that more young (and older) musicians find the sonata to be of interest for a long time to come!
Jim Stephenson; September, 2014