for concert band | 2015
The story behind Urban Sunrise is unique among my pieces, and I think fun. While almost all of the music I write is "absolute music," meaning there is no inherent program or story, I always approach each piece with a particular set of goals I want to accomplish, and that usually involves setting a clear atmosphere for the audience and performers. The goals and atmosphere are often a direct result of who is commissioning me to write the piece and why.
In the case of Urban Sunrise, I was commissioned by the University of Georgia to write a piece for their 2015 Midfest Band Festival, and the piece was to be played by the middle school honor band assembled for the event. I knew I wanted to write a high-energy piece for this occasion and that I wanted to challenge the students. The hosting conductor and I decided that the piece would be unnamed until after they had rehearsed it, when the students would then suggest a title. This was a fun exercise for me because it allowed a group of musicians other than myself to decide what they felt was being projected in the music (and because naming a piece is always the hardest part of the process for me).
The title they chose was "Break of Dawn" because for them it evoked the feeling of waking up before the sun to embark on some exciting and unknown adventure. I loved the idea. I can certainly relate to this feeling, and it gets at exactly what I wanted to accomplish: create an adventure for the students who were about to play a piece that no one had ever performed before. I decided to change the title to Urban Sunrise (they said I could!) first of all because there is a Michael Jackson song called Break of Dawn (though maybe that would work in my favor) and to clarify that this piece is about the bustling morning energy of an urban setting, not the serene sunrise of the countryside.
The recording below is by the University of Arkansas Symphony Band, Benjamin Lorenzo, conductor (live recording).