On Whose Shoulders We Stand

for concert band | 2019

All of us have had mentors, teachers, or heroes we’ve never even met who have shaped our lives in important and profound ways. Our successes and achievements do not occur in a vacuum. They are usually enabled by someone who has gone before us and paved a way, someone who has taught us a skill or a way of thinking that empowered us.

On Whose Shoulders We Stand was commissioned by the family of Dr. John Taylor in honor of his retirement as band director at Friends University. As Dr. Taylor’s family shared with me about his life, it became clear that he has had an enormous impact on many generations. He is a teacher who has taught teachers who have taught teachers, and so on. He has come alongside others to help them in their journey. The care and mentorship he’s invested in his students is deeply appreciated, evidenced in the way they fondly talk about him. The impact of his life and career is immeasurable.

I wanted these ideas to shape On Whose Shoulders We Stand. The music gathers momentum from a single clarinet melody, growing into a full texture as other instruments are brought along. I wanted to capture the sense of nobility and groundedness that a wise and caring mentor projects. I wanted to evoke the joy and beauty that meaningful relationships create. And I wanted to give the melody to the tubas at some point since that is Dr. Taylor’s instrument.

While this piece is dedicated to Dr. Taylor, it is a grateful celebration of all teachers who give so much of themselves for the success and growth of their students.