Homer inspires musical composition

When I lived in Homer, my teachers, mentors and friends knew me as a pianist. Since leaving Homer, I became increasingly interested in composition, and when I discovered the vibrant world of new classical music in New York, I resolved to make composing my life’s work. 

I got a master’s degree in composition from the Juilliard School, and since then I’ve been creating music for orchestras, small ensembles, choirs and electronics, working on numerous freelance projects to support myself. 

Having traveled so far from my Alaskan upbringing — my father is still a Cook Inlet fisherman — I was shocked to realize, when I visited Homer in the summer of 2011, just how formative my early life in Homer has been. Maybe it’s the way people come to Homer and choose to create their lives, or the way they tolerate long winters and messy thaws for the briefest moments of summer sublimity, but something about Homer has given me the strength to pursue my art. 

I decided in 2011 to bring some of my music back to Homer, to contribute something to the culture that shaped me. I worked with a team of Alaskans — Fairbanks-raised violinist Andie Springer and flutist Katie Cox, and Homer-born consultant Kelsey Christian — to create the Wild Shore Festival for New Music, opening July 5 at the Bunnell Street Gallery. 

In addition to programming a collection of recent compositions by other composers that has made a strong impact on me, I composed a brand-new piece for sextet called “The Cosmic Hamlet,” an instrumental portrait of Homer life in two parts. 

The first part is Tides, with billowing music not just for the enormous ocean tides that so completely change the appearance of the Spit every six hours, but also for the spectacular changes in season, in daylight and even the abundance and price of fish that determine Homer’s lifeways. 

The second part, The End of the Road, is music on the people of Homer. It begins with an ambling motive that leads to a parade of characters (based on people I grew up with), followed by a sudden detour into the wilderness (which so immediately surrounds Homer), ending with a tranquil return to town.

Come hear the world premiere of “The Cosmic Hamlet” and more, at Bunnell Street Arts Center on July 5 at 7:30 p.m. after the First Fridays art opening, and in Halibut Cove on July 7. 

For more info, go to www.wildshore.org.