Leading Tones Music had the pleasure of working with a student intern for the 2021-2022 academic year, and what a year it was! In December, we took our first-ever trip to The Midwest Clinic in Chicago. This spring, Hailey got to work on an exciting new project. Let’s have her tell us about herself and her work with Leading Tones…
Q: How did you find out about Leading Tones Music?
A: It was my second year at Winona State. Dr. Brooks presented to the Music Business Seminar asking for students to intern with Leading Tones Music’s first booth at the Minnesota Music Educators’ Association.
Q: What has excited you the most about working with Leading Tones?
A: Getting experience and exploring my curiosity in music publishing, exhibiting at a convention, and learning that process. After that first conference, from all of the research we had to do, I learned more about LTM’s mission and goals. That made me really want to support you guys and grew my curiosity. Seeing your commissioning projects going on and wanting to learn more about the backend with that.
Q: What instrument do you play, and have you played any pieces from the LTM catalog?
A: I play euphonium and trombone. I’ve played Renaissance Festival, Second to None, The Bamboo Tree Needs Water, The Tournament (<--I conducted this one!), Tango Corazon, Concert Overture, and I believe we did Flex Tango during the pandemic. My classmate also recorded The Coast in Winter. OH! And On the Banks of the Mississippi. That was a great piece. I’ve gotten to meet Jukka Viitasaari, Hanna Lehtonen, Stephen Mitton, Ian Deterling, Am’re Ford, Eric Xu, Spencer Brand, and Robert Pore over my years at Winona State University.
Q: What value do you see in working with living composers?
A: When a living composer comes and visits an ensemble, it’s such a cool experience that not many people will get unless you’re in an honor band. It was such a common thing at Winona State and every experience was so great to learn the composer’s inspiration behind each piece and being able to work with them on it.
When it came to performing Eric’s The Bamboo Tree Needs Water, I wasn’t as stressed because I knew his personality and he was a really nice person. I also became more focused on little details I had missed, such as articulation and style. I wanted it to be the best it could be!
Q: You are finishing your degree in Music Business, what made you want to go into this degree and what are some of your goals for the future?
A: I was originally Music Ed and got to a point where I realized that when I graduate, I would have a degree that just went toward education. I still want to educate, but I felt that the Music Business degree gave me the opportunity to learn more about how to be a successful musician and find different ways to make a difference. I’ve gained all of this knowledge on arts administration and event management through my courses. I came in with an idea of how it would be and it’s shifted more with the knowledge I’ve gained.
Q: Tell us about a highlight from your time with Leading Tones.
A: Definitely I would say the Midwest Clinic was really cool. Being someone that worked at MMEA for the first booth, it was really great to see how much the booth improved. There were also so many people to meet. I loved the energy at Midwest: I loved exhibiting and talking to so many different people from all over the country. Being able to experience that was beyond words. It definitely made me want to go back again.
It was really cool to see Carl Holmquist have his piece Second to None played at the conference. It made me realize that Leading Tones has a place in the field, and we have so many other cool projects in the works.
Q: What did you learn and what skills did you develop when preparing for the Midwest Clinic this fall?
A: I guess figuring out how to be more outgoing and reach out to people. I first thought I had to be at a certain level to be respected or popular. But I got to meet Steven Mead, the world’s best trombone player! I also learned how to be prepared for any scenario in a conversation. There could be people sending out different vibes as they walk by the booth, and being able to connect with people who seemed unsure about learning what Leading Tones is all about was important to do.
Q: This spring you finished a capstone project for your Music Business degree. What did the project entail?
A: The two major things from my capstone were (1) developing new commissioning collaborations and (2) contributing to Leading Tones by starting a YouTube channel. I felt like I had a lot of creative liberty to learn how to develop video content on YouTube, and it gave me a lot more confidence in my creative direction. I also reviewed new content from composers and learned a lot about the composition and formatting process.
Thank you, Hailey, for being an amazing colleague and a huge help at Leading Tones Music this year! We wish you all the best!
In March of 2022, Leading Tones Music was a big part of Puhallinpäivät (pronounced “POO-hall-een-pie-vat”). As composer Jukka Viitasaari explains, "Puhallinpäivät (literally "wind instrument days") is our annual band conference. It is held in different Finnish cities and features concerts and clinics, band music is sold, and so on. Very importantly, it offers like-minded people to see each other at least once a year.”
Marja Ikonen added, “It was very refreshing to see colleagues after two years. For me the event was special because it was in Jyväskylä! I studied and lived there 1997–2003 so it was great to see all the places after 20 years… All bands were good but Puhkupillit will always be in my heart! Puhkupillit was conducted by Lassi Takanen and Sini Korhonen - Sini is my ex student from Rantasalmi!”
Bringing people together was a powerful part of this year’s conference, as last year’s was completely online and Puhallinpäivät 2020 was canceled. Nevertheless, Leading Tones has had a strong relationship with the Finnish wind band community. We were featured in an online lecture at Zoom-Puhallinpäivät 2021, and Co-Owner Melanie Brooks made her first trip to Oulu for Puhallinpäivät 2019.
One interesting commonality between these works by Deterling, Holmquist, Lilliefors, and Mitton is that they include editions for both adaptable ensembles and “standard” wind band/string ensemble instrumentation. Leading Tones composers have a reputation of being forward-thinking in providing music that works for a wide variety of performing ensembles. This has become even more relevant and helpful during and after the pandemic.
To all of our friends in Finland, especially those who organized and attended Puhallinpäivät 2022, we would like to send you a huge KIITOS PALJON!
Thanks to the herculean effort by composer Marja Ikonen, Leading Tones Music has seven new adaptable scores for beginner ensembles! Ikonen’s prolific compositional output was praised in February’s SPOL magazine (Suomen Puhallinorkesteriliitto/Finnish Wind Band Association).
Composer Marja Ikonen is a nationally-acclaimed music educator in Rantasalmi, Finland, where she has received awards of Finland’s Teacher of the Year (2009) and Band of the Year (2014). She has written many arrangements and original works for musicians of all ages and abilities, combining creative pedagogy and artistry for beginners and advanced musicians alike.
Congratulations to Marja Ikonen on her well-deserved recognition and her new arrangements, published exclusively on Leading Tones Music.
Leading Tones Music and Chicago Public Schools Team Up to Create Solutions for Bands and Orchestras during the Pandemic
Online learning, limited rehearsal time, and smaller groups of performers pose a challenge to bands and orchestras this fall semester. Many teachers wonder, How can I find music to play that will actually work during these uncertain situations? Well, composers of all ages and backgrounds are working with the Leading Tones Music publishing company to create new opportunities for students in one of the largest school districts in the United States.
The Chicago Public Schools district serves almost 400,000 students, making it the third-largest school district in the country. Thousands of students in Chicago perform in bands and orchestras with the support of the district's Department of Arts Education, and a team of composers from Leading Tones Music is developing a catalog of over forty adaptable and mixed-level scores. This innovative new content will be available to musicians in Chicago and around the world. So before you dive into perusing these new scores, you may be wondering…
What is an adaptable score? It is a piece of music for bands and orchestras that allows any number and combination of instruments to play. If you only have three flutes, one saxophone, and one cello in the room, it will still be possible to play the piece. Other concepts such as improvisation and electronic music also can be used in adaptable scores. We recommend checking out the CRI (Creative Repertoire Initiative) website or Facebook page for additional resources regarding adaptable scores.
What is a mixed level score? It is a score where each part offers a simplified version that still fits into the melodic and harmonic structure of the piece. If your ensemble of three flutes, saxophone, and cello has two flute players who are not as advanced as the other, then they can choose a part that is more suited to their current abilities. Unfortunately, there are not many additional resources for mixed-level literature. Thankfully, you are here on our website reading this blog, because…
Leading Tones Music is the only publishing company that specializes in combining both the adaptable and mixed-level formats. Many such pieces already exist on our website, and the full catalog created for the Chicago Public Schools will be available by mid-September. Please see our Adaptable Music Catalogue for access to recordings and perusal scores, and feel free to email email@example.com with any questions or special requests.
In the United States and abroad, adaptable and mixed-level scores can be helpful during the pandemic and in “normal” times. Composers in Leading Tones Music and elsewhere are finding innovative ways to create opportunities for performers now more than ever before. This is just one example of how musicians of all ages and abilities are supporting each other during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the founding of Leading Tones Music in 2017, our mission has been to develop high quality inclusive and innovative repertoire for bands and orchestras. From mixed-level miniature concertos and chamber music to flexible-orchestration (“flex score”) ensemble music, our goal is to be synonymous with creative programming solutions!
It is important now more than ever before to consider innovative repertoire for your bands and orchestras. In the pre-vaccine era of the COVID-19 pandemic, music educators may be faced with restrictions on class sizes, unpredictable schedule changes, and limitations on viable performance options. While the how, when, what, and where factors of a “traditional” ensemble class may be in a state of flux, the Leading Tones Music team strongly believes that the why behind making music remains constant! We want to help ensembles of all ages program artistic and accessible music to connect with their communities, foster musical growth, and bring people together.
This spring, our composers participated in over twelve hours of outreach projects for music students and educators. They were hosted in a series of Zoom meetings to discuss their own “why” factors behind composing and performing music. We spoke with students and music educators across the state of Minnesota about the music profession, approaches to composition, music education, how to commission new music, and more! Special thanks to the Minnesota Band Directors Association, Christoph Dundas (Austin High School), and our participating Leading Tones composers:
Daniel Gordon, Dominic Dousa, Peter Meechan, Janne Ikonen, Jukka Viitasaari,
Stephen Mitton, Carl Holmquist, Spencer Brand, Daniel Kallman, Christina Rusnak,
Hanna-Mari Lehtonen, Ashlee T. Busch, and Erin Lilliefors
This summer, our composers are working hard to create content that can be played by any combination of instruments and by musicians of varying ability levels. Dominic Dousa’s
Walk along the Brook is a great example of our up-and-coming line of flex-score/mixed-level music. Both the advanced and beginner parts can be played together or separately without impacting the integrity of the music! Ashlee T. Busch’s Imagist Unenclosed also incorporates percussion parts to this format. Thanks to the hard work, creativity, and thoughtful craftsmanship of our composers, more flex-score/mixed-level pieces will be uploaded to the website throughout the summer.
Our latest Call for Scores will welcome new compositional voices to our team as we continue our mission to provide creative programming solutions for bands and orchestras. Stay tuned for more creative programming solutions for your ensembles in the weeks and months ahead!
Creative and Artistic Flex-Score Solutions for YOU!
Perhaps you’ve heard about “flex-score” music. Well, we want to debunk a few myths about it and let you know about a few new pieces that are on our website!
Stay tuned for more creative programming solutions on the Leading Tones Music website!
Spring Lake Park High School in Minnesota has a national reputation for innovation and inclusivity. They are also breaking barriers this spring by becoming one of the first high school bands to tour Cuba. Co-directors Nora Tycast and Brian Lukkasson have been featured on NPR, The Washington Post, and MPR thanks to their unyielding effort to program excellent music written by composers of diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. Their famous Composer Wall now features a talented composer from Leading Tones Music!
Before departing on their international trip, their March 4 concert featured a premiere performance of Sky Macklay’s X+X=?, an alto sax and French horn double concerto for mixed ability levels.
Like all Leading Tones Music composers, Sky Macklay was happy to share some personalized insights about her life, career, and composition strategies with the Spring Lake Park band students (video below). A nationally-celebrated composer of modern music, Macklay said of her concerto, “I really like writing music that uses math or processed-based composition, so I just thought of the simplest mathematical formula I could think of: adding. First, I introduced the themes in both instruments, and then I combined them in different ways: totally on top of each other, with shorter motives from each melody, and adding them together.” How about that for an interdisciplinary approach to music-making! Of the mixed-level music concept, Sky expressed, “I really like writing music that brings people together, so I’m really excited that this piece brings together a more advanced band with perhaps soloists who are more beginners.”
Band director Nora Tycast expressed that Sky Macklay’s personalized video clip “completely personalizes the composition for the students and for us [music educators].” Her band director colleague Brian Lukkasson agrees, "It is so important to get composers’ voices and stories in rehearsals and for students ‘meet’ the composers of their music. X+X=? is such a creative and intellectual piece that is also really accessible and enjoyable for students and an audience. That’s a tough balance to strike!"
Stephen Mitton is an accomplished composer, educator, and performer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He holds a master's degree in composition from Arizona State University and has written for a wide variety of genres ranging from contemporary dance to full orchestra. Stephen is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, and his string quartet, Caricatures, was recently selected as a finalist in ASCAP’s Morton Gould Young Composers’ Awards. He has received commissions from various performers across the country, as well as several groups and organizations in the American southwest, including the Arizona State University Bands and Orchestras, the Arizona State University BioDesign Institute, Utah State University, and the Arizona Flute Society.
Mitton is currently employed as an orchestra and general music teacher at BASIS Phoenix Central – a charter school in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. As an educator, he is passionate about sharing new music with young audiences as well as underrepresented groups. As a platform for this effort, he co-founded Leading Tones Music in 2017, which is an online publisher of pedagogical and mixed-level band and orchestra music written by living composers throughout the world.
Stephen is also an active performer, having received a bachelor’s degree in cello performance at Utah State University where he studied chamber music with the Fry Street Quartet. He has participated in master classes with such groups as the Emerson, Ying, and Brentano String Quartets, and has given performances with various chamber and orchestral groups throughout Utah and Arizona. Mitton is also the founder of the Logan Quintet, which released its first studio album of Stephen’s sacred arrangements in March of 2018. This album, as well as several of his other studio recordings, is available for purchase on iTunes, Napster, and other distributors.
Stephen has wholeheartedly embraced the movement to create more mixed-level music for bands and orchestras. As of December, he has become the most prolific composer of mixed-level concertos for adult and school-aged ensembles (3 concertos total: tied with Zachary Bush). His most recent composition, Heroes, was commissioned by Hinsdale South High School and Middle Schools. Their band director, Alex Baxmeyer, writes:
Claire's Waltz (2017) and Reverie (2016) were premiered and recorded with musicians from Arizona State University and the Harmony Project Phoenix. When asked about what excited him the most about the intergenerational performance collaboration between those two organizations, Stephen stated that he greatly enjoyed "hearing so much new music, meeting the soloists in person, and seeing the positive response from the community." Clarie's Waltz is for solo violin with wind band accompaniment and was written in honor of the birth of his first daughter, Claire. Reverie features solo clarinet with wind band accompaniment and is written in a poignant and romantic style akin to Tchaikovsky's Serenade Melancolique.
After writing his first two mixed-level concertos, Stephen firmly believed that experiences such as the collaboration between a university band and a nonprofit music school for young students can and should be duplicated. The premiere of Heroes on December 5, 2018 brought together musicians from different schools and grade levels. Alex Baxmeyer reflects:
Dominic Dousa (b. 1973) a native of Rochester, Minnesota, has been a member of the faculty at the University of Texas at El Paso Department of Music since 2004. He holds degrees in music from Ball State University (D.A.), Central Michigan University (M.M.), and Harvard University (A.B. summa cum laude), and in statistics from Iowa State University (M.S.), and has also studied composition in Prague. His primary composition teachers include Jody Nagel, David Gillingham, Craig Weston, and Milan Slavický. Dousa’s compositions have received performances at recitals, festivals, and conferences in the U.S. and in eleven countries worldwide. He has works published by TRN Music, Dorn Publications, and Grand Mesa Music. Blue Griffin Recording has released two CDs of Dousa’s chamber music, one of which has received critical acclaim in Gramophone Magazine and American Record Guide. Dousa has remained active as an accompanist and chamber musician, performing in numerous recitals with faculty, guest artists, and students, including presentations with his fellow UTEP faculty member, world renowned cellist and 2017 Grammy-award winner Zuill Bailey.
Janne Ikonen (b. 1975) is from Lieksa, Finland. As Lieksa is the host town of the world-renowned Lieksa Brass Week, his experience of brass and wind music started at a very young age. He began his musical career as the Lieksa Youth Wind Orchestra’s second euphonium player. He later switched to tuba and finally to percussion. His experiences with the LNPO and the Pielisen-Karelian music school were influential in the production of many of his youth wind orchestra compositions. Many of his compositions are created for youth orchestras, and his output for aspiring young bands is especially prolific. His featured piece, Shipman's Song gives young and accomplished bassoonists a chance to showcase their talents (and their instrument, which is usually not played by elementary school instrumentalists) to young musicians in the wind band. In addition, Ikonen arranged an alternative solo part for B-flat treble clef baritone horn, an instrument popular in Finnish brass septets and European brass bands.
Mr. Ikonen studied classical composing at the Sibelius Academy as a student of Erkki Jokinen and is currently finishing his master studies in music education at the University of Jyväskylä. In 2003 he graduated as a percussion player at the Conservatory of Central Finland, and in 2015 he graduated as a percussion teacher at Savonia University of Applied Sciences.
Mr. Ikonen was the conductor of the Jyväskylä University Symphony Orchestra from 1997-2000, the conductor of Ala-Keitele grand symphony orchestra from 1998-2000, the associate conductor of the Puhkupillit wind band from 1995-1998, and has worked as a guest conductor and clinician for several wind orchestras, including the Jyväskylä city orchestra, the Jyväskylä chamber orchestra, the wind band of the Finnish Air Force, and the Academic Brass Band. He currently is the conductor of Mikkeli Winds and the Rantasalmi Wind Band.
Mr. Ikonen has lived and worked in Rantasalmi, Finland, since 2003. He has instructed and directed several orchestras and ensembles and has worked as a percussion studio teacher in multiple schools and music institutes. His wife, Marja Ikonen, is a well-known composer, conductor, and educator, and their three children all play wind instruments.
Mr. Ikonen has played percussion in various symphony orchestras (e.g. the Finnish Philharmonic Orchestras of Kuopio, Jyväskylä, Oulu, Joensuu, Lappeenranta, and Mikkeli) and in several military bands. He worked as the sub-principal percussionist (sergeant) in the Military Band of St. Michel and is performing regularly with ensembles across Finland. During the last few years, Ikonen has been sought after as a performer and clinician in Estonia and Latvia.
Ikonen’s music was first premiered in 1996, and his first feature concert occurred at the 2003 Lieksa Brass Week. His works were first performed in the U.S. in 2012, during concerts in Lake Placid and Plattsburgh, NY. His music was also featured in concerts across Finland in 2013 and 2017. Most of his 200 works are composed for wind bands and chamber ensembles. Additionally, he has composed three concertos, three musicals, and many arrangements for different ensembles.
His works have been recorded by several wind ensembles in Finland. Two of his compositions have been filmed as a music video and can be found on Youtube.
Stephen Mitton is a full-time music teacher in Phoenix, Arizona and co-founder of Leading Tones Music, LLC.
This summer I had the great pleasure of visiting the peaceful, beautiful, and musical Nordic country of Finland! As a former conducting student at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, I was thrilled to catch up with friends and build new memories in the “land of the midnight sun.” Naturally, the trip also connected me with several Leading Tones composers and included a stellar concerto performance by talented young musicians.
The first destination on my journey was deep into the Finnish countryside, where a unique music camp is held every year for both adults and children. The Suomen Työväen Musiikkiliitto (Finnish is an impossibly difficult language--let’s just call it “STM”) music camp in Aitoo, Finland, hosted over 100 student, amateur, and professional musicians. The STM camp is unlike any band experience here in America. Bands are organized by ability level, not age. The bands range from the A-Orchestra, which performed music such as Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, to the D-Orchestra, which is a band that teaches complete beginners how to play a wind instrument in an ensemble. In each of the bands, adults sit alongside children and perform together throughout this 10-day-long intergenerational music camp.
I had the opportunity to study saxophone with Leading Tones’ own Daniel Gordon. I met Dan at the STM camp back in 2011. In a camp entirely comprised of Finns, I was shocked to discover that my saxophone teacher was an American guy who had busked across Europe twice with his soprano saxophone and studied with both Sigurd Rascher and Jean-Marie Londeix (two completely different ends of the classical saxophone spectrum). How did this guy end up at a music camp in the forests of Finland?! While that’s a story for another day, it goes without saying that we have been great friends for many years, and our time at the camp was a blast!
On the second day of rehearsals with the B-Orchestra, a gaggle of bassoonists stood in front of the ensemble and played Janne Ikonen’s concerto, Shipman’s Song. The soloists were comprised of teenagers and adults, all of whom had been studying the bassoon for around four years. For each of them, this was their first concerto experience. From the first rehearsal to the concert, the piece was a great success! Janne, who was teaching percussion at the camp, was very pleased with the performance.
The music of Marja Ikonen and Jukka Viitasaari was also featured in the STM camp’s final concert. The wind band scene in Finland is tight-knit; all of these composers attended the concert and supported the musicians. Janne, Marja, and Jukka are also incredibly popular composers in Finland. In fact, you will probably hear the music of at least one of the three Finnish Leading Tones composers at any given wind band concert. It was a delight to catch up with these three friends over coffee and pulla (Finnish donuts) at the STM concert.
My time in Finland also included many serene and reflective moments that were heightened by the natural beauty of the countryside. In what other place can you watch a lakeside “sunset” at midnight? In what other place is sweating in a sauna set at 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit!) not just a fun activity to do with friends but also a way of life? Where everyone’s favorite “candy” tastes like salted black licorice and the rye bread is darker than the midsummer evening sky, Finland is definitively a unique country.
My experiences at my dear friend, Hanna’s, family cabin at the lake will surely shed some new light onto my next performance of Marja Ikonen’s A Day at the Lake. My day around the bustling streets (and rollercoaster rides!) in Helsinki with my friends, Marjo and Risto, reminded me of the festive energy of Jukka Viitasaari’s Three Aspects of the Toddler Song. Finally, the vast forested landscape and the stoic tradition of sitting quietly in the sauna brought me back to the Shipman’s Song. Finnish traditions, cultural and musical, are certainly worth exploring. I’ve found that Finnish music sounds and feels just a little different than what I’m used to. With Sibelius’ masterworks and the scores of world-class Finnish conductors, what better way to embrace this country’s culture than through its music?
Melanie Brooks is the Director of Bands at Winona State University and co-founder of Leading Tones Music, LLC.