Liaisons, Sondheim and Baseball


A couple years ago I was approached by virtuosic pianist Anthony De Mare about a wonderful project called Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim From The Piano. Liaisons is a project celebrating the music of Stephen Sondheim. The enthusiasm of Anthony and his team was extremely inspiring, and what started out as a small celebration turned into a project including 36 composers from all corners of the music world.

I recently received the final CD in the mail and it made me really stop in my tracks. As I stared at the cover, at the ECM New Series logo, I realized a full circle moment in my musical history occurred.

Early on in my musical journey I was extremely in to jazz. I was a deep listener of jazz and focused all of my time on trying to become a jazz musician. Many great jazz records have been put out by ECM, and those records greatly influenced my musicianship. But even more specifically, my (very brief) time at college was spent studying jazz, but one day everything changed. I was walking down a hallway and heard the most incredible music I had ever heard. I stopped in my tracks, walked into the classroom, and walked straight up to the teacher who was in the middle of teaching a classroom full of students! I asked in a fevered pitch: "WHAT IS THIS MUSIC?" The music was Arvo Pärt. I had never listened deeply to classical music - it had just never found its way into my life. At that moment, it entered my life like a ton of bricks. It was everything I wanted from music - drama, space, complexity - it was just incredible. I walked straight out of the classroom to the record shop, bought the record, and quit school the very next week. I wanted to focus on music on my own, and find my own footing in this wild new world!

To see my name on the cover of Liasons with the ECM New Series imprint, along with great Jazz composers like Wynton Marsalis, and Classical music greats like Steve Reich, it totally blew my mind.

Beyond all of this, it is so incredible to be part of a project celebrating such a unique and glorious mind like Sondheim's! As a teen, I was really into baseball and was pretty good at it believe it or not, but I started to get super deep into music when I was cast in a high school production of West Side Story. I started skipping baseball practice to go to musical practice, and realized I was going to have a lot more fun playing music than baseball. In a roundabout way, Sondheim is partly responsible for my quitting baseball (Thank you, Sondheim!). I certainly would never have made a living from baseball, so it was a good move.

So, what seemed in the beginning to simply be a request to write a new arrangement of a song for some music enthusiasts, ended up bringing back and tying together all of these individual moments from my musical history! Thank you Anthony de Mare, Rachel Colbert and, of course, Stephen Sondheim!

By the way, my arrangement was just premiered in NY at Symphony Space, with Sondheim in attendance! It was reviewed in the NY Times.

For more information about the Liaisons project, check out an interview with me and some of the other composers for the project here and buy your own copy here.