“Ballad of Dull Knife” is one of the first songs I wrote that ended up being on a released album (around 1995). It is about the Cheyenne chief Dull Knife (Morning Star) and the emotions I imagined he might have felt as his lands were being taken away.
Update: After working in my scores with these different chord fonts, I prefer Norfolk Chord ASL Standard for all layouts (Full Score, Piano/Vocal, and Parts)
Getting the right chord font for notation software is a big deal for the player that has to read the music on the fly. Often I’m orchestrating scores for shows that I am working on and I need the fonts to be intuitive. When a score is laid out well visually then it’s a pleasure to play through scores for rehearsals and performance. I can’t waste a split second trying to differentiate a chord marking. It needs to be crystal clear.
For 2021 I’m revisiting my full-length musicals to update score layout and orchestrations. Here’s a compilation of workflow and tips from music composition sketches to final scores and parts for musical theater. An ongoing project.
The endless debate on which notation software to use seems to now be centered on Finale vs. Sibelius vs. Dorico. I’ve been using Sibelius since 2007 and I love it, while at the same time I feel a little shame that I haven’t mastered Finale. Here are some of the reasons why I’m once again sticking with Sibelius (while also feeling ashamed).
In my writing room I have several printed promps that hang in front of me. One of these is:
SONDHEIM THREE RULES
1 Content Dictates Form
2 Less Is More
3 God is in the Details
All in the services of CLARITY, without which nothing else matters.
In the seven promps that hang in my writing room, these three short rules by Sondheim are the ones that I put that most importance on. “Less Is More” can be simply interpreted as “Don’t Do What You Don’t Have To Do”, or don’t write what doesn’t need to be written. “God Is In the Details” can be simply put as “Do your homework, work hard and uncover every needed nuance and needed detail.” But for me, “Content Dictates Form” is the one that keeps coming back to alternately reward me and slap me in the face.
“Content Dictates Form” is the rule that I keep discovering over and over again. Let me share with you the mistakes and successes I have had with this rule.
Scroll down and you’ll see a list of all my writing reference books that I use for preparing new musical theater works. I’ve read each of these books cover to cover and some I have read many, many times over and over. I do have some favorites in this list but I’m not listing them in any particular order because what you get from each book may be wildly different than what I learned from each book. We all have “holes” in our knowledge which is different for everyone. For me, these books helped fill in the holes of my knowledge with a deeper understanding of structure, character arcs and story development.
A couple of these books I’ve had for many years but most of these I read in 2018-2019 in preparation for my fourth original musical. This latest musical was widely considered by audience members to be my strongest musical theater work yet. I put the credit to many factors, but mostly it came down to really, really hard work and understanding the content in these books at a gut level.
So I earned a couple degrees: Bachelor of Professional Studies from Berklee College of Music and a Master in Arts Leadership and Cultural Management (MALCM) from Colorado State University. I actually just finished these in the last couple years so I’m what they refer to as a “mature learner”. Was it worth it? In short, yes. Does anyone really care? Not really.
Both my degrees were earned online. One of the reasons I didn’t finish my degrees many years ago is that in my line of work you often get a call for a tour with a short window of prep time. If I was back in a brick and mortar school and I got the call for a gig then I would have had to turn the gig down (or drop out of school to do the tour). I didn’t want just any degree. I wanted a degree I felt proud of (or at least wasn’t embarrassed by). There is one well-known online university that I didn’t want to sign up with because every time I imagined writing down the name of the university, well, it was not a feeling of pride. No, I won’t mention that school name because I’m “nice”.
On Thursday January 30, 2020, the Historic Lincoln Theatre will show Pray the Gay Away® the musical on the big screen. This event is free and open to the public. Join us as we celebrate the cast and crew that brought this new theatrical work to the stage at the very same Lincoln Theatre. Doors open at 6:30pm and showing starts at 7pm. Open festival seating, first-come first-served and it’s free!
We will have some limited edition merchandise for sale to benefit our local chapter of Skagit PFLAG and the writer, Conrad Askland, will be on hand to meet audience members.
Pray the Gay Away® the musical sold out at the Lincoln back in November 2019, so this is your chance to see it if you couldn’t get tickets back then. We felt so bad turning so many people away when it sold out, so please join us! PTGA brought the painful world of gay conversion therapy to the stage that was a hit with audiences.
It all started in Skagit County at the Lincoln Theatre. Join us for a celebration of the cast and crew that brought this show to the stage.
All shows SOLD OUT! Pray the Gay Away® the musical Nov. 8-24, 2019 at Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon, WA. I am thrilled at the overwhelming support and ticket demand for my fourth original full-length musical.
Thank you so much to our Pacific Northwest audiences for supporting this show and its mission. Its become bigger than we ever could have imagined. We are in a whirlwind with all the comments and social media buzz coming in. It’s overwhelmingly beautiful.
We do know one thing: audiences are hungry for the experience and message of this show. It is obvious that somehow this show needs to reach more people. We have confidence the people of the Pacific Northwest will find a way to make that happen. The Great People of the Pacific Northwest. You are the best!