Posts tagged #Chicago Afrobeat Project

The Road Warrior

I'm excited to tell you about a project that's been on the books for the past two years, but it wasn't until last fall that I began putting it together while traveling on the road.

This is my most recent composition project, The Road Warrior, which is a band piece commissioned by my childhood music director, Toni Slepak, for Caruso Middle School.

Last fall, I was traveling with Chicago Afrobeat Project on an east coast tour with legendary afrobeat drummer and founder of the style, Tony Allen. We played venues in Grand Rapids, Pittsburgh, New York City, Ithaca & Boston, and the rhythms I was feeling during that run from playing in that rhythm section was very inspiring.

I was also very inspired by having long trips on the road constantly in motion between cities with nothing but my Macbook and a basic version of Garageband installed on it to make music. Since all of my good sound libraries and pro software were far far away on my studio computer at home, I embraced my mobile limitations and set up a basic instrumentation in Garageband.

I was feeling a lot of percussion ideas and used a piano improvisation I recorded at home before leaving on tour as the framework for approaching the melodic themes. But I wanted to play these parts, and without a MIDI keyboard, I had to use my QWERTY keypad as the virtual band controller!

Jamming on a keybad in the back of a moving van surrounded by my bandmates is quite a different approach to composition than I'm used to. But it gave me a lot of different ideas than working from home on my piano, so with that, I composed The Road Warrior as a testament to my process.

As fall changed to winter, I began notating and arranging this road trip Garageband sequence for concert band. I then delivered the final score and parts to Toni just before winter break and 2015 was amongst us.

Now the band kids at Caruso Middle School are hard at work learning the music I composed for them, and this brings me full circle now that I'm making some guest appearances at their morning rehearsals.

Toni Slepak is retiring this year and it's an honor to give back to her and the school that gave me my first organized band experience as an electric bassist in the early 1990's. Walking down the same halls I did 20 years ago and visiting the same band room I used to spend my early mornings is a truly wonderful feeling that humbles the teacher inside of me.

I will be conducting the premiere of The Road Warrior at Caruso Middle School for their spring band concert on Sunday, May 17th, 2015 at 2:00pm. The performance group will include CMS band students grades 6-8 joined by alumni, teachers and parents.