2018 in Review!

I promised a year-in-review post, so here’s a quick rundown of this year. Meant to post this last night but I wanted some time to review it before I sent it.

This has been an eventful year and I’m sure I’ve missed some things. It has felt incredibly long. I tried to hit the highlights of things, especially things that have built into where I am now.

I purposefully kept this list brief and dry because it’s so long and I don’t want to drown it in emotion forever and ever.

So without further ado: a brief list of what I did this last year.


Auditions for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at The Players Theatre Company.

Trip to New York to tour a college, including seeing performances of Sleep No More and Come from Away. Thanks to family friends, I was able to get onstage at Come From Away after the performance. Spent the night with my friend Michael Williams, and sadly missed his roommates Ryan Jacobs and Austin Jacobs.

Saw snow in Ithaca, NY!


Pop Show, Solo & Ensemble with choir students.

Piano Solo & Ensemble.

Continued Rehearsal for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.


Performances of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Players Theatre Company

Trip to Phoenix, AZ to visit Arizona State University, where I have applied for my master’s degree. I’m looking forward to auditioning in February of this year. I stayed with friends Dale Sakamoto and his wife Jayna.

Hatched the idea for The Woodlands Chamber Music Project along with John Paddie.


UIL Concert and Sight Reading

Rehearsals with Stageworks Theatre for Bonnie and Clyde (sadly, I was replaced on this show, as I was unable to play the score well enough on short notice.)

Rehearsals with Stageworks Theatre My Shot Cabaret.


Pop Show

Performance of Stageworks Theatre My Shot Cabaret.

First “The Woodlands Chamber Music Project” recital. It was the same night as the above, so I was unable to attend it.

State Solo & Ensemble with a number of band students.


Auditions for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers with the Players Theatre Company.

Performance with “The Woodlands Chamber Music Project”


Trip to the Grand Canyon (see Instagram for more detail on this one).

Continued Rehearsals for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Performance with “The Woodlands Chamber Music Project”


Final rehearsals for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Performance with “The Woodlands Chamber Music Project”


Performances of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Short & Sweet Choir Concert


Men’s Choir Performance at MWHS Football Games

SHSU Men’s Choir Showcase

Trip to Shenandoah, VA to tour Shenandoah University where I have applied for my master’s degree. I’m waiting on feedback, as I submitted just before they went on winter break.

Began rehearsals for [Title of Show] at Iconotheatrix.


Performances of [Title of Show] at Iconotheatrix.

Hired as organist at Advent Lutheran Church. This opportunity came about thanks to meeting with Scott McAdow, who judged my students back in the spring.

Submitted application to Arizona State University.


Merry Mustang Show & Auction

Christmas Services at Advent Lutheran Church

Thanks to all of my friends and family for their support during the past year. I’ve tried so many cool things and some have been successful and other haven’t. All of them were opportunities for personal or professional growth, so I’m thrilled to have had them.

I’m also incredibly grateful for the new friends and colleagues I have met in the last year. I have met so many talented actors and musicians through my travels and expanding my network. I have worked with committed, talented amateurs at the theaters and at school and at church. My heart is full of love for those who have given their art into the world during 2018. Let’s do it again in 2019!

100 Days of Practice: Day 1 Comments

So, I’ve decided to get on the #100daysofpractice bandwagon.

I have plenty to work on, especially as I’m now a resident organist at a church, plus preparation for grad school auditions (more on this during my “Year in Review” post on Monday).

But there’s a rather unique twist to mine: I’m a multi-instrumentalist, and at least one of my instruments is not easily available for me. I have only limited access to the organ, so I can’t practice it every day.

My understanding of the challenge is that I should be putting in daily, consistent work. So I’m broadening my definition of practice to keyboard skills in general. So I will make a point of describing what I’m doing each day, but be prepared for a lot of pictures of one of my organs, or of the many and various keyboards and pianos I have access to at school.

I won’t post to this site every day, but I’ll be posting to instagram, so follow me there if you want to see all the details.

See you on Monday for a year in review!

The Best Laid Plans


It’s been a bit since I wrote here. In fact, from what I can see of my publication dates, it has been almost a month. A lot has happened in that time. Here’s a quick run-down:

  • Thanksgiving 2018. I had actually scheduled a post for this day, but I never finished editing it for publication. The gist of it was this:

I am thankful for my loving family and friends, for the actors and musicians I’ve worked with over the last year, and for the incredibly fortunate life I have to to be able to do this and to pursue it.

  • Church Organ at Advent Lutheran Church. This has been a big focus of my life in recent weeks. As I begin working regularly, I’m having to spend more time developing skills and picking up repertoire for Preludes, Postludes, and Offertories. This was quite a challenge at first, but I’m finding that my pace has increased as I’ve gotten familiar with the instrument.

  • Application to Arizona State University. I submitted my application on the afternoon of November 30, just before the December 1 deadline. I am still waiting to hear back. One of my references sent me a copy of her recommendation letter and I was really honored by the glowing terms she used to describe my work.

  • Magnolia West Choir Concert. This past Thursday was our annual “Merry Mustang Show and Auction” at MWHS. This concert is a huge undertaking, as it is one of our main fundraisers for the year. In addition to the longest concert of our year (about an hour and a half), we present a silent auction of gift baskets made by our students (and constructed by the head director), and a live auction of decorated Christmas trees by parents. All of this money goes toward student scholarships. It’s a genius idea, and I’m always excited to see how it goes. This year was quite stressful, as we seemed to be a little behind the curve on things. The two days leading up to the concert I didn’t even have time to stop for lunch between paperwork and rehearsals.

  • Pride and Prejudice at Fourth Wall Theatre Company. I returned to my favorite local professional company to see “Pride and Prejudice” in an adaptation by Kate Hamill. I still haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on comparisons, but my two companions were intimately familiar with it and seemed to have a good time. It took some liberties with the plot in the interest of time and comedy but it was, as always, well-acted and exciting.

  • Application to Shenandoah Conservatory. Last night, a friend helped me re-record the interview portion of my application to SU. I’m hoping to edit that together with video of myself leading rehearsals so that I can submit in the next few days. I know it’s well ahead of their January deadline, but I’d rather be done with it so I can enjoy my holidays.

Upcoming events are of course Christmas 2018 and New Year 2018-2019. I have Christmas eve services at the church that I will put on the calendar as soon as I have sorted out the repertoire. I need to make a Christmas list to send to family this weekend. I need to start making plans for the new year.

Oh and I need to continue to post here regularly…

The King of Instruments

Next week, I will play my last service as a substitute organist at Beautiful Savior/Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. For almost exactly two years, it has been a privilege to help lead worship.

Tonight I played my first service as resident organist at Advent Lutheran Church, where I will play regularly until at least April of next year. Due to a scheduling change, I stepped in on short notice for the Thanksgiving evening service.

For some readers, this may come as a bit of a surprise. I talk a lot about musicals and choral music here, and playing piano. But organ is not a regular topic. So here’s some backstory.

First Interest

My most adventurous year of college (academically) was 2012, spring of my sophomore year and fall of junior. That was the year I joined a few new choirs, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity, and explored the idea of organ lessons.

My first semester of organ was actually spring of 2013, with Dr. Joyce Jones. Dr. Jones was the retiring professor of organ at Baylor, after about 40 years there. I was incredibly lucky to work with her for a semester, and I learned a ton. I spent more time practicing the organ than any other instrument for that semester, and I was able to play a Bach prelude and fugue (my first!), and a great chorale prelude by Pachelbel.

That fall, after Dr. Jones retired, I returned to organ lessons with Dr. Isabelle Demers. We focused more on manual technique, and I played some more colorful pieces under her instruction, including my own transcription of the overture from The Phantom of the Opera in full costume for the Baylor Organ Studio Halloween Concert.

I took a break from the organ after that. My course requirements were heavier, and I didn’t feel like I had the time to focus on it. Besides, it wasn’t something I would have much opportunity to do.


Jump forward to spring of 2015 as I was finishing out the year at Pasadena High School, and looking for my next step. Through a family friend, I found out that Judy Kutach, at Living Savior Lutheran Church in Montgomery, TX needed a substitute for a service over the summer. We met up, and I became a regular substitute for her (a few times per year).

The following spring, she recommended me to Lee Roeder, who played at Beautiful Savior/Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, who asked me to come in and substitute for her. She has employed me about once per month on average since then, sometimes on consecutive weeks.

I’ve also substituted for Dave Englert, who is organist at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Spring. Dave has also become a source of knowledge for me, and I hope to take some lessons with him in the spring of 2019.


Things really started stepping up during the summer of this year. On the recommendation of a friend, I went into an interview to take over organ duties at The Woodlands United Methodist Church, which is a major church in my neighborhood. However, I cordially withdrew after discovering it was a full-time position. As exciting as that opportunity would be, I couldn’t make that change in direction.

In the fall, Lee approached me about taking over for her, as she is preparing to retire. Since this is a smaller church, I was excited for the opportunity. The church was willing to keep considering me, even though I may move for grad school. But they moved slowly with the interview/review process.

Out of the blue, Scott McAdow at Advent Lutheran sent me an e-mail. He heard me accompany band students at their UIL Solo & Ensemble competition back in February. He approached me about taking over for their organist, mostly because he knew my piano skills. He actually didn’t know any of my organ background.

I met with Scott and played some of my typical substitute pieces, plus showing that my piano skills are as good or better than what he remembered me. (Actually, my audition for him was the same day as my first rehearsal for the production of [Title of Show] that I wrote about recently.)

He moved more quickly than Beautiful Savior/Our Redeemer and offered me the position pretty much on the spot. After conferring with Lee, I withdrew from consideration for her position and have already begun duties at ALC.

This week, at Dave Englert’s advice, I joined the American Guild of Organists, and I have watched many of their “Lessons for the New Organist” YouTube series. I’ve been reading through back editions of The American Organist, their monthly magazine. Dave has advised me to look at some of their certifications, as it will build my skills. I think it will also be useful to lend me some legitimacy, in the event that I am looking for an organ position while in grad school.

I will spend some of my thanksgiving break working on building up my weaker skills (pedals) and I will start lessons with Dave in the spring. I’m excited to take on this new challenge!

Bach, Beethoven, Chopin

Next week is a big one for me! During my Thanksgiving break from school, I will be making an audition video.

I’ve never done this before. In preparation for my undergraduate audition, I prepared an audio recording for two schools, neither of which invited me to audition. But I’ve never done a video, and I have never auditioned on piano.

How did I get to this point?

Over the last year, I have been preparing to apply for my masters degree. My few years of teaching have been amazing, but I discovered a passion for musical theater, and for musical life outside the school, too. I decided that I wanted to try my hand at music directing at a professional level.

Since I’ve always loved being a student, the idea to apply for a masters degree seemed obvious. I visited schools, talked with professors, and have a short list of schools I’m applying to this winter. All of them require videos of leading rehearsals and performances, and all require some degree of piano competency.

This last part worried me the most. I enjoy playing piano, and especially accompanying, but I’ve always been a kind of “journeyman” pianist: competent but not particularly stellar. But I needed to build my classical piano skills, so I enrolled in piano lessons for the first time since 2011.

Working with my teacher was an intense experience. Sometimes it was exciting, sometimes I left lessons in tears feeling inadequate. But the results speak for themselves. These days, I feel more confident than ever at the piano, and I’ve noticed some serious increases in my manual dexterity and ability to be expressive at the keyboard.

This audition video is meant to represent my ability to play as a kind of concert pianist. They are looking for three things, essentially: technical skill, expressiveness, and memorization. The program should represent a variety of piano styles, so my teacher advised me to choose works by Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin.

My first selection, chronologically, is the Prelude and Fugue in C Minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 847, for the curious). It’s the first one that I memorized, and it’s been a lot of fun to practice. I’ve never played a fugue on the piano before, though I did play one on the organ.

The prelude is surprisingly challenging. The hand shifts on the page are not complicated, but the harmonic progression is not very obvious. It’s loaded with seventh chords and chromatic progressions. The whole thing is a virtuoso showpiece, including an incredible progression of sequences toward the end that is a minefield.

The fugue is such fun to play. Although it’s a minor key, it’s somehow sprightly and witty. As with all fugues, it’s filled with sequences and scale passages, but it’s fun and exciting to play. It can be rendered with extreme delicacy, or aggressively, and it works either way. I have a tendency toward the delicate side, which has caused my teacher some annoyance. On a heavier touch piano, the delicate notes don’t sound if I’m too light.

The next piece on my program is two movements of Beethoven’s Sonata in F Minor (Op. 2, No. 1). The first movement is actually a kind of revival for me. I played it my senior year of high school, along with the third. Both of these were part of my senior recital back in 2010, and I’m sure my mom has a recording somewhere.

The first movement has been surprisingly challenging to revisit. Because of my new teacher, my mechanical approach to the keyboard has changed, and I had to almost begin all over again. I knew how it should sound, but the act of making the sound was completely new. There’s some nearly choral writing in spots, but there are other sections that could only be performed on the piano.

The final movement is both the most technically challenging and most interesting movement I’m preparing. It’s noticeably more complicated than any of the other movements, mostly by virtue of the perpetual motion triplets in the left hand. The middle portion is challenging because it is so completely different from the outer sections. It’s got longer note values, and a completely different harmonic motion. I tend to rush this portion. But it’s also got some incredibly orchestral writing. Specifically, I can point two three distinct motives and tell you what instruments they have (strings or flute/clarinet, trombones, and horns). The faster outer sections are purely virtuoso pianism.

The final work I’m preparing is a nocturne by Frederic Chopin. My teacher suggested Op. 72, No. 1 in E minor. According to Wikipedia, this was the first nocturne Chopin wrote, but it was only published after his death.

The challenge of this piece comes from the interlocking polyrhythms in the two hands. The overriding motive is triplets in the left hand vs. regular eighth notes in the right. In the second half, this is expanded to trills and ornaments as complicated as 11:3 in one measure.

The mechanical challenge for me with this piece was to get comfortable with large stretches in the left hand. My teacher showed me how to stay close to the keys and use the flexibility of my hand to help connect places when it’s too messy to do with the pedal. It’s really fascinating, and I have noticed my hands are significantly more flexible than when I began this.

Well, this is a lengthy post, but I hope it gives a good idea of what I’m working on. These pieces have been really fascinating, and I hope to be able to take this new knowledge on to other pieces. It’s been delightful to play and I hope the recordings next week go well.