Greetings friends. You may have noticed that I haven’t updated my blog in quite a while, although chances are you haven’t noticed at all since a lack of updates would mean there really is no reason to visit this page (it’s a vicious cycle, I know). As you can guess, I’ve been quite busy. However, seeing as several months have gone by since my last update, I figure it’s about time I let you in on what’s been going on, and oh, just you wait for the moderately interesting tales I have to tell…
Nothing makes you feel like more of a badass than putting together a grad school application. You write up a curriculum vitae with every major accomplishment you’ve ever made, organize all of your best work into an impressive portfolio, get your colleagues to write letters about how awesome you are, and you feel pretty darn good about yourself. “Look at all this ridiculously impressive stuff,” you might say to yourself, “Why, when they see this, these schools are going to be BEGGING me to go there!” You send off your application, fantasizing about the plethora of acceptance letters that will inevitably begin flooding your mailbox. You wait. Then letters begin arriving that begin thusly:
Dear Mr. ___________,
We regret to inform you…..
Well crap. Any number of things can follow this opening statement. Some schools let you down easy, some just tell you flat out that you suck. Occasionally, you’ll just get a postcard with the following image on it:
What I’m saying, in a very roundabout way, is that every grad school I’ve heard back from thus far has replied with either a “No” or a “Meh” (translation: wait-listed). There’s only one school I haven’t heard anything back from yet, which makes me a bit nervous since this particular school is my #1 choice. My guess would be that they’re either taking their time to put together an exemplary acceptance packet, or they’re still searching for the words to tell me just HOW MUCH they think I suck. Let’s hope it’s not the latter.
Anyway, I don’t really have any grand philosophical point I’m trying to make here, other than perhaps “Applying to grad school is aggravating and I don’t much care for it at all, sir”. I just needed to vent in an online forum where I could offer a few cheap laughs to the unsuspecting reader. You know the feeling. But let us not dwell on unpleasant things, let’s move on to the insanity that is April for me! YAY!
So every weekend in April, I have either a performance of some kind or a major premiere of my work, and sometimes both. Let’s have a look, weekend-by-weekend, at what’s going on.
SATURDAY APRIL 2nd
Premiere of For My People at James Madison University
Okay, so this isn’t a premiere of my own composition, BUT I’ve acted as choral arranger for the fabulous NYC-based composer Randy Klein with the grand finale of his Lineage song cycle, which will be performed with the JMU Chorale and soloist Aurelia Williams. Randy will be at JMU this weekend to play for the premiere, and it’s sure to be a fantastic concert (hint hint, if you’re reading this and you’re in the Harrisonburg area, GO SEE IT). I must say that this project with Randy has turned out to be a most excellent collaboration; I’m like the Sondheim to his Jule Styne, only with less getting-yelled-at-by-Ethel-Merman. Some getting-yelled-at-by-Ethel-Merman, of course, just not as much of it.
SUNDAY APRIL 10th
Premiere of The Darkest Day at Heritage United Methodist Church
Thus spake the Lord: “Let there be ROCK!” And lo, He saw that it was good. The second weekend in April brings about the premiere of my Lenten rock opera, The Darkest Day, based on the seven last words of Christ. A lot of people have asked me if it’s going to be anything like Jesus Christ Superstar, to which I reply that it’s going to be more like Queen meets Iron Maiden meets Dream Theater, with a dash of Slayer and quotes of Gesualdo and Stravinsky. Doesn’t sound much like your typical church program, does it? Rest assured, it isn’t. I’ve sat it in on a few rehearsals, and the band sounds INCREDIBLE. I know I’m biased, but take my word for it when I say you DO NOT want to miss this concert. Oh, and did I mention that IT’S FREE?! Yea, because it’s free. So you really have no excuse not to be there. Also, kudos to my brother Wes for designing the awesome poster up top.
SATURDAY APRIL 16th
Madison Singers Spring Concert at James Madison University
Even though I’m an old (graduated) person, I’m still a-singin’ with the Madison Singers of JMU this semester, and our spring concert is coming up. There will be Ravel. And Vaughan Williams. And their pieces are quite cool. And I’m really struggling to come up with anything clever and/or funny to say for this one, so just be there, okay? Also, JMU alumni choir will singing Moses Hogan’s “Walk Together Children” since this will be Dr. Walder’s last concert here. So… yep. Be there.
SATURDAY APRIL 23rd
The Senior Cabaret of Elizabeth Butler at Lynchburg College
It’s nice having absurdly talented friends, especially when they put on sweet concerts and ask you to be a part of them. I’ll be singing the roles of Sir Gallahad in “The Song That Goes Like This (from Spamalot), Olive’s Dad in “The I Love You Song” (from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), and Henry in “Light” (from Next To Normal), as well as tickling the ivories for a piece my own musical Originals, “I Only Needed You”. Oh, and once again, FREE CONCERT. Seriously people, free awesome concerts. Go to them. I mean it.
THURSDAY APRIL 28th & FRIDAY APRIL 29th
Too Many Sopranos at Sweet Briar College
To cap off this crazy month, I’ll be singing the role of Nelson Deadly in Sweet Briar Opera Workshop’s production of Edwin Penhorwood’s “Too Many Sopranos”. My voice teacher runs the program there, and at asked me at the end of last summer if I’d be interested in performing a role for a young Tenor where I would get to dress up like a Canadian mountie. Obviously, I said yes.
So, as you can see, April is going to be just the teensiest bit busy for me.
I have one more tale with which to regale you, not for any particular reason other than I think that it’s cool. I was in NYC recently and met for lunch with a man named Tom Murray. Tom is a pianist and music director who has worked on a number of shows on Broadway, including Sondheim’s Sunday In The Park With George and A Little Night Music. So how do I know him, you might wonder? It turns out he took piano lessons for many years as a kid with my grandma, so he’s an old family friend. And now he’s working on Broadway. His current project? Music supervisor for the Broadway production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, starring… *drumroll*… Daniel Radcliffe. Not only that, but he’s also acting as Dan Radcliffe’s personal music director, working with him about an hour every day on musical interpretation. So we had a lengthy and insightful discussion about the theater business and being a Broadway musician, but what I’m basically trying to say here is that I KNOW A GUY WHO WORKS WITH FREAKING HARRY POTTER. Hot damn. Perhaps Dan Radcliffe is looking to collaborate with an up-and-coming young theatrical composer of his own age bracket to put together a hot new Broadway show… ? Eh, probably not. Anyway, it was also mentioned during the course of this conversation roughly how much Dan is making per-week to be in the production, which I shall not mention on this blog both for liability reasons and because once I heard it I was forced to excuse myself from the room for a moment so I could go punch a small child in the face. Basically, it’s a LOT of money. But I suppose that’s what you get for being young, talented, famous, and British.
Anyway, if you stay tuned, I’ll make more of a conscious effort to update this blog regularly in the future. Sound good? Good. Peace out!
James K. Ballard
A sometimes insightful, hopefully entertaining look into my career and everyday life.