Today I’m sharing with you my attainment of a lifelong goal…to write a symphony. How did I do it?
I said, “Yes“, to a very scary opportunity.
After reflecting a bit on my life, that courage to say, “Yes”, to scary opportunities is what has gotten me to where I am today. I am of the mindset that if I want to do something, I do it. (Note: I post the goals attained below as examples only, I don’t normally share this stuff but it will help me make the bigger point I’m trying to make.)
I wanted to bench press 350 lbs…I worked out like a maniac and attained my goal. (Oh, and for all you weight-lifters out there, I also weighed in at 138 lbs when I benched 350.) That’s one of the reasons I won “Strongest Man on Campus” at the U of A back in the day.
I was upset with my level of cardiovascular fitness and the fact that I didn’t really like running…so I bought a book on how to run a marathon and 6 months later I ran my first marathon.
I wanted to be a flamenco guitarist…so I moved to Seville to study flamenco, worked my booty off while living there, then worked my booty off even more upon my return to the US to make a living doing what I absolutely love to do.
I saw the Bourne Series and fell back in love with martial arts (I really wanted to be a ninja when I was a kid!), so I searched the internet, found who taught the type of martial arts shown in the movie and now 6 years later I have worked hard enough and long enough, consistently enough and diligently enough that I’ve been promoted to a black belt, or it’s equivalent, in 2 distinct martial arts. Crazy!
Now to the symphony…I got a call from the Chandler Symphony Orchestra asking me to compose a symphonic work that could be presented for the Arizona Centennial Celebration concert they were presenting. Had I ever written a symphony? No. But I took their request for me to write one as a validation from the universe that I am supposed to write a symphony. It’s been a dream of mine since I was 19 years old and a world I still had barely dipped my toe into. So, I said, “YES!”.
A year earlier I composed a Marimba Quartet with Flamenco Guitar work for the amazing percussion department at SOU and at that time I thought I was crazy to even attempt it…oh, the sleepless nights! But I did it and the ensemble loved it! So that gave me the confidence to take it up a notch and compose a symphony. What an amazing opportunity for me to dive into composing for orchestra.
Writing the symphony…well, now we get into real personal stuff. Because this piece was to debut at an Arizona Centennial Celebration (which is of special importance to me because of my heritage, more on that later), I wanted the work to feature a guitar that would be the voice of Arizona’s Mexican heritage. So, I started with guitar, my strength!
I noodled on guitar and came up with, what I believe, is a fantastic melody. A heart-wrencher. My own measure of when I know a musical idea is good is when I can feel it in my heart…literally! I get that feeling like falling in love, or when watching a super-emotional part of a movie, a feeling like I’m going over a precipice. When I get that feeling with my music I know I’m onto something. Well, you can’t plan that and I was lucky enough to find a melody like that and I ran with it.
Then I had to build the symphony…how did I do it? I just started! That’s the key…START! I try to put my mind’s negative thoughts aside and push ahead (much easier said than done!). If I get stumped or have a question, I leave it until later. I get everything out of me as fast as I can until I don’t have music pouring out of me. Then, it’s time to go back and fix, change, edit, arrange, develop further, question, reflect. Usually, then I get in another flow and more music starts coming out of me…then I flow with it, let it come out unfettered, just get it down. When it ceases, I either take a break, or I return to one of my trouble-spots in the composition.
Amazingly, things started filling out, the symphony began taking shape and as it did, my confidence grew. There were a lot of things I had to fix and tweak, but I have to say that when I turned the final draft in to the Jack Herriman, conductor of the Chandler Symphony Orchestra, the piece was done. What a sense of accomplishment to hand over a piece of work and know that it’s done. Especially in an artistic endeavor, that is a true blessing!
Setting a goal to lift a particular heavy weight, or run a certain distance, or earn such & such amount of money is very easily quantifiable. You either attain it, or you don’t. When your goal is of an artistic end, then when is the finish? I can go on and on about this, but I mention this only to illustrate my joy, my sense of peace at reaching the “end” point in the composition. That’s a VERY COOL FEELING!
Well, if you’ve read this far, you probably want to hear it…luckily for all of us, I have a fantastic fan (Marie Elena Pavlet) that shared a short video where she took excerpts of the World Premiere of my first symphonic work entitled, “Viva Arizona“. I was able to perform with the Chandler Symphony Orchestra as they played my composition to a packed house of 1,500 people with other patrons sitting in the lobby listening to the concert!
You’ll also hear excerpts of my new guitar piece, “Tierra“, which I debuted in Sept. 2011 at the La Guitarra California Festival.
What a learning experience and now I can’t WAIT to write my next symphony!!
Have a beautiful day, and remember to say, “Yes” to those scary opportunities sometimes!
Chris Burton Jacome
Flamenco Guitarist & Composer