Cabrillo 2019!

I was incredibly fortunate to spend last week in Santa Cruz at the perennially prosperous, always extraordinary Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, as a Composer Fellow in their prestigious Conductors/Composers Workshop. With 3 composition fellows, 6 conducting fellows, 14 odd auditors and associates, and the incomparable Kristin Kuster, Cristian Măcelaru, and Octavio Más-Arocas as faculty, the workshop is a fruitful laboratory space for both current experiments and future collaborations. I so enjoyed the process of working with my two conductors, Toby Thatcher and Alvin Ho, who brought to our work together an amazing curiosity, energy, and attention to detail that truly benefited both the piece and all involved. Additionally, the orchestra is incredibly unique at Cabrillo. With all the musicians donating their time and talents, it’s clear that every single musician clearly cares deeply about hearing contemporary voices, crafting music brilliantly, and being true to the intentions of the composer. Their questions are clear, their demeanor kind, their feedback insightful, and their playing phenomenal! I feel so grateful for the encouragement and sincerity shown by their interaction with me. Authenticity can be hard to come by in this field; as Cristi is fond of saying (and I paraphrase), “only knowledge brings humility, because the more you know, the more you realize there is to learn”. I hope someday to achieve the wisdom and beneficence required to attain and promote such a mindset.

Photo credit: R.R. Jones

Recap of Summer 2019 (or most of it, at least)

So!  Over the past six weeks, I have been in a total of ten cities… which is a bit much to handle the summer before starting college, but completely worthwhile in terms of the experiences I have had, the friends I have made, and the knowledge I have gained. 

At the beginning of June, I had the distinct pleasure of being a participant in Fifth House Ensemble’s Fresh Inc Festival.  Adventures here included (among many others):

  1. having my piece for three horns, presumably dogs do not reflect upon thinking itself, premiered by Parker Nelson, Momo Hasselbring, and Jonathan Thomas in a literal spaceship (The Golden Rondelle, Racine, Wisconsin)
  2. performing Bartok and Prokofiev violin duos with my awesome roommate Claire Niederberger
  3. swing dancing in Milwaukee and tap dancing at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside
  4. presenting an education show for elementary-schoolers in which we taught the kids about graphic scores and John Cage (my kind of music class!)

Then I ventured off to Minneapolis for the 5th Anniversary Next Notes Showcase, the rare award ceremony in which I participated as both composer and tap dancer simultaneously!  Stay tuned for a new video recording of all that is solid.  It was fascinating to see how the space completely changed the piece.

Directly from Minneapolis, I flew to Fort Worth for an intense but revelatory week of working with Maestro Miguel Harth-Bedoya and members of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.  I am incredibly grateful to the musicians whokindly donated their time and talent to my education.  My understanding of what it takes to be a conductor grew exponentially in the five short days I spent learning from the Maestro and the orchestra.  Feeling very motivated to apply these principles to further studies!

After that, I had the opportunity to spend two and half weeks in Italy, performing and studying at the soundSCAPE Festival (or what they called quite aptly a composition & performance exchange).  After a few days spent in Roma and Firenze soaking in the experience of visiting Europe for the first time, I joined such luminaries as George Lewis, Michael Lewanksi, and the FLUX Quartet in Cesena for the festival, at which I conducted two student pieces, had a premiere of my own with FLUX, played violin on 4 pieces for participant-curated concerts, and exchanged music and thoughts with talented performers and scholars from all over the world.  A lot of great music in a short amount of time!

Now I’m off to the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, where my latest piece for chamber orchestra, change is the only constant, will be premiered by the festival orchestra with conductors Toby Thatcher and Alvin Ho next Tuesday, July 30th, as part of the 2019 Conductors/Composers Workshop.  Friends in the Bay Area are invited to attend the concert, which is free and also features two other works by my colleagues Annika Socolofsky and Costas Dafnis!  Hope to see you there.

June Recap!

I can’t believe we’re already halfway through June! Tempus fugit, as they say. These past few weeks have been jam-packed, from violin recitals to tap performances to presenting performances, premieres, and sound installations across venues in the Milwaukee and Chicago area at the Fresh Inc Festival (including what may have been an actual flying saucer). I’m off to Minneapolis and Fort Worth for the remainder of June now. More to come!

A fond farewell (for now) to the Utah Symphony

Red pants + Mahler 1… all signs point to an NYO 2017 flashback! Only fitting that my last Utah Symphony concert before moving to Philly would be so close to home. I learned to read scores (which I now write and lead!) by borrowing them from the University of Utah library and bringing them to concerts such as these. I really owe a debt of gratitude to this fantastic orchestra. It has changed my life in ways it can’t even fathom.

Onwards and upwards for the both of us!

The importance of a teacher

When your dad decides to try out his new camera while you’re practicing Beethoven Concerto… really putting the papa in paparazzi!

Looking forward to performing the first movement of this great work on Sunday at my last studio recital in Salt Lake. I am incredibly grateful to my teacher, Yuki MacQueen, for absolutely transforming my abilities as a player and musician. The progress I have made over the last three years with Yuki would have been inconceivable to my younger self. She has helped me prove to myself and the world that I have not only the determination and diligence but also the inherent capabilities to be a musician (provided I put in the blood, sweat, and tears, of course). I look up to her and consider her one of the most important friends and mentors in my life. I appreciate her dry wit, not-so-gentle jibes, and ultimately forgiving attitude. I am proud that our training will have come from the same alma mater! Another Curtis success story… 🙂

April in review!

OK~ lots to cover in terms of an update!

I had a great time navigating the Harvard campus on crutches during Visitas last weekend (that was not meant to sound nearly as snarky as it did!). A beautiful place populated with many beautiful minds (and fortunately also many ADA-accessible ramps!). However, I came to the decision that a conservatory is the better environment for me at the moment; therefore, I am happy to announce that I will be attending the Curtis Institute of Music this fall to study composition. I will of course continue to dance and play violin, and will also pursue serious conducting study. I am looking forward to the move to Philadelphia and creating a network back east. The Philly orchestra has a fantastic line-up for next season. A special shout out to their women-in-music initiative, which ensures that the number of female composers and conductors featured this season will be greater than 0, the number programmed in most of the orchestra’s previous seasons. 😉

Having completed 2.75 out of 5 pieces for this summer’s events, it feels great to put the finishing touches on a string quartet that’s been quite irksome for the last 4 months! Onward!

Speaking of moving onward, time has been flying by. Last week, I successfully completed another rotation around the sun. Here’s to many more!

Happy writing/leading/playing/etc. Hope the lovely spring weather is proving motivating for everyone!

-Maya

On the merits of winging it!

Pictures from a fantastic concert last night with Red Desert at the Utah Museum of Fine Art. FLUXUS, In C, Feldman, Oliveros, and Devin Maxwell proved to be an artful program which engaged the senses in extremes of quietude and opulence.

In my opinion, it is important for a holistic musician to have the experience of creating while performing. So often as composers, the actual creation happens solely intellectually, over a long period of time, and ensconced in centuries-old power dynamics and expectations. Similarly, as classically-trained players, we spend our hours recreating and recreating, frustrating our imperfect and ultimately constructive inclination towards failure and variation as we learn to perfect and repeat at will the motions of a piece, almost forgetting about its content at a certain point. While I disagree with many things about both Terry Riley and FLUXUS, I believe they provide an important platform for the performer and audience alike to experience instantaneous creation and the fleeting, beautiful, imperfect moments of solidarity, expression, and even brilliance that occur when music-making is not goal-oriented but instead moment-driven. I would encourage my fellow concert musicians to take a lesson from Jazz and improvise as much as possible! Playing this kind of music increases and expands the facility of perception and is invaluable for anyone who thinks in terms of and creates meaning with sound.

Food for thought! In the meantime…

Play/lead/write on!
Maya

Late March 2019: the ever-expanding world of new art and interdisciplinary collaboration!

I’ve had a whirlwind of a week, spending a few days in Philadelphia, then a week at YoungArts Los Angeles. It was so inspiring to be surrounded by some of the best artists of my generation and challenged to push my interdisciplinary inclinations even further. I learned so much about other art forms and enjoyed thinking about ways to integrate them into my practice as a musician and creative artist in the future. Almost too much talent gathered together at the beautiful UCLA campus! There was definitely something very special in the air.

I was also very happy to be reunited with old artistic friends. Shout out to Nico, Ben, Gracie, Scott, Karlie, and Tiffany! It was exhilarating to be able conduct my new (like 3-weeks-old new!!) piece commissioned for the 2019 LA Winners in Classical Music, and I so appreciated the musicians’ willingness to experiment with some unusual ideas (and to sacrifice their knees to hours of bombardment with tuning forks!). Pictures below.

Another bit of news worth mentioning: I was selected as one of three emerging composers to participate in the 2019 Cabrillo Conductors/Composers Workshop (friends in Santa Cruz are of course invited to attend the concert!). This is an incredible honor for anyone at any age, and especially exciting an opportunity for me, being on the younger end of under 30. I’m so excited (and a little intimidated, I’ll admit) to be able to work with the Festival Orchestra, Kristin Kuster, Cristian Măcelaru, Octavio Más-Arocas, the amazing other fellows, and the accomplished composers-in-residence. I will be writing a new piece very quickly, so wish me luck! In fact, I really should be writing music and not this blog post, so that’s it for now.

Best wishes and happy writing/playing/leading/being creative to everyone!

Maya

Week in Review

Thanks to the Tribeca Ensemble for a great performance of a new piece for string quartet and electronics last week! It isn’t too often I find myself playing the following instrument:

Enjoyed a thoroughly devastating Tchaik 6 with Utah Phil this week as well. Between the emotional exhaustion of this piece and the physical exhaustion of In C (next month!), I’ll be ready for the ensemble musician Olympics… #goingforgold (with artistic integrity, of course).

Meanwhile, the universe offers up a humorous moment of inspiration…

SPCO Week in Review

Pictures from a massively successful week with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Tito Muñoz!! Thank you to the SPCO for their warm welcome and unbelievable playing. #legends…

Plus, reviews are in:

For one all of 17 years old, Maya Miro Johnson is an astonishingly confident composer, judging from her piece that was premiered Friday, “wherever you go, there you are.” It’s a sparse yet involving work in which a sheet of metal stroked with mallets roars like a lion and moans like a whale as it engages in dialogue with offstage strings. Atypical sounds emerge throughout the work, leading me to believe that Johnson has an admirable imagination and a promising future.”
-Ron Hubbard with the Twin Cities Pioneer Press

Taking a bow on Friday night
Pre-concert discussion with Lembit Beecher
Pre-concert discussion with Lembit Beecher
Post-concert pic with Tito and Devin, one of my most important mentors and friends and a great composer in his own right! 😀