2020 Vision: My 2019 Retrospective
December 31st, 2019
Hello everyone. I want to take one more look back at 2019 for what I had going on, before we jet off into the future with 2020 (vision), and I outline what my 2020 will look like as a musician, as a composer, as an artist, and as a person. I’m also writing this at 5:30 in the morning, on vacation in Austin, with nostalgia goggles fully on my head. Just a disclaimer.
Alright let’s go.
2019 was an immense year. I always find it slightly funny that by the time we get to the end of the year, one of the most common jokes that is made is to look back at the year as something to be just absolutely done with (2019 was just the worst, 2019 was the most tiring, 2019 was *insert grand statement here*). And it makes sense to be fair; most people are justifiably done with the year by the time December rolls around (and with it the holiday season), and are looking to the next year as a time of change. And the cycle goes round and round. To those people, I say more power to you and you are absolutely right, cause you know what, I am also one of those people.
But 2019 wasn’t the worst for me exactly in that way. In fact, it was one of the most incredible years of my life, both public and private. Incredible in the sense that incredible things happened, both good and bad. Since this is my blog, and I honestly don’t feel fully equipped in my world weariness to comment on the current 2019 political socio-economic climate or current world events (things that *legitimately matter), I’m going to use this space to talk about what my 2019 was like. First what was public.
My Public 2019
At the composer's coalition concert in winter of 2019
2019 was a year of getting things done for me, if I were to sum it up correctly. As I’ve already said, I’m writing this at 5:30 in the morning (and also getting over one of the worst colds I’ve had in awhile), this may not come out super coherent, but I’m going to try to list some of the things, in no particular order, that have happened to me or I have done publicly as an artist in 2019:
1. My album.
In July of 2019, I released Life Story, my first ever full-length album. If you’re one of the people who has found my blog, then you are also most likely one of the people who has found my album (mostly because it is one of the things I post most about on social media sorry not sorry). So you will probably already know how much this means to me, I won’t elaborate too much. But yeah, this was a big one. Check out the Life Story tab on my website for more about it (cause there is a LOT more than just the music to the project, but I won’t spoil the surprises if you don’t know).
click the picture to go
2. I started writing more music.
This sort of goes with my album, as the album is made up of all my own original music, but I also wrote so much more than just the album that I haven’t publicized as much. Film scores, electronic music, contemporary jazz, folk music and more. I just started writing and I haven’t stopped really, and writing music has become one of the greatest loves of my life. Some of the music is on my page under the Music tab and My Compositions (hopefully I find a better name for that tab).
3. I learned how to actually produce music.
I’ve always dabbled in audio/music production techniques, but not until this year did I really learn how to do it in some semi-capable capacity. I’m probably going to talk more about this at some other point, but I’m not sure if many people are aware that I mixed my album as well as composed the music for it (though I did not record or master it thankfully). It has been so liberating to learn more about music technology, as it gives me a great sense of joy to be able to not only compose music, but be able to realize it all on my own as well.
working on Life Story
4. I graduated college with two bachelor’s degrees.
This was a thing! College is crazy. But after an average of twenty plus credits multiplied by eight semesters later, I now have graduated with a bachelor’s in Music Performance (Jazz), and a bachelor’s in English (Literature). So two very functional degrees of course (just a joke), but an accomplishment I have absolutely no regrets about and am so proud of. If I had told my ten year old self that he would have a music and english degree, he probably would have been stoked. I loved band and was CONSTANTLY reading. I feel like my life is just a constant attempt to do right by the younger version of myself somewhere in there still(that’s a 5:30 in the morning sentence if I ever saw one, but who’s really gonna be reading this). Hopefully this isn’t my final stop with school since there is still more I want to do, but I’ll take it for now.
5. I turned in my undergraduate thesis.
While my thesis was maybe one of the single hardest things I have EVER done in my entire life (not an exaggeration), it was absolutely worth the effort from me. If you’re in Barrett and want to drop because of it, don’t do it. Especially if you have an idea that you believe in. For those who don’t know, my thesis was directly related to the album I released, and it was on the link between narrative and music. You can find all fifty pages of it on my Life Story tab under Research.
happy tired alex
6. I composed music for two short films.
While I’ve been writing and studying film scoring for a little while now, it wasn’t until fall of 2019 that I received the opportunity to compose for actual films, which happened! And was super cool, and just an incredible experience that I am absolutely hoping to continue in the future. I love writing for film, and working with the director’s on their visions for their films.I did get to see one of them at the ASU Fall Film festival for a limited release, and that was an incredible feeling to hear my music in a theater for a movie on a big screen. As of writing this, the films are not released online yet, but maybe when they do I will update this list. For now though, my scores are released on my soundcloud and bandcamp(tba)!
7. I won a Downbeat award for outstanding music composition.
This was magic honestly. I don’t like talking about it too much because it feels very hoighty-toighty to say or whatever, but I was so proud and excited when I learned that my composition, Journey, written in fall of 2018, had won an Outstanding Composition award for the Downbeat Magazine 42nd annual student music awards. I had absolutely no concept that I would get any recognition when I submitted it, but it was so amazing to have my work honored like that. I checked the judges list, and there were names like Darcy James Argue on there and John Daversa. Just imagining composers of their caliber listening to Journey and finding something half-worthwhile in it makes me really happy. And it has given me a lot of confidence and courage to keep working on my music as honestly as I can. Validation isn’t necessary, but it is nice to have sometimes. If you’d like to hear Journey it is available on my album, Life Story, or you can hear the version I submitted back in December of 2018 on my YouTube page (it is from a different recording session).
this was a highlight
8. I started seriously learning other instruments.
This is absolutely going to be a blog post at one point on multi-instrumentalism (and the way it is viewed both positively and negatively, LOTS to say there), but I’m really proud that 2019 was a year I took steps towards becoming a multi-instrumentalist. While I love playing trumpet, it has honestly never been enough for me to satisfy myself creatively, so I used 2019 to both re-learn how to play piano (my first instrument), and pick up new ones (like the guitar, if you see my instagram stories). While I know I have ways to go to get better with both (and I want to learn more as well), I feel so, so much happier when I have the space to stretch out on more than just trumpet. And I think that’s more important to me than anything else.
9. I created my website, blog, instagram and became serious about social media.
I think I’ll make this one last. This was something that I knew I wanted for a while, and I’m glad that I finally have all of this online space to put myself in for a little. I know I have a long way to go, and there are so many things I want to do in the future to get better about all of this, but I feel like in 2019 I laid the groundwork for all of that with this website and all of it. Really glad I finally did it.
Okay that’s probably good there. While you may be reading this and be thinking Alex is really stroking his ego here, you may be right, but I think there is a more important reason I’m writing all of this out. And that is the reason for combating insecurity, self-doubt and more, struggles we all face and struggles that are especially more prevalent as an artist.
I have consistently struggled with feeling like I have accomplished nothing, and writing out something like this helps me see that that sentiment isn’t true, or at least it makes it easier to believe that it is not true. It is so, SO important that we look back and take stock of the things in our lives that we have done up to this point, and make a note of all of it, good and bad. You have accomplished more than you think, and what might be small to you might be huge to someone else and their life.
(This is Alex from editing at this point, but if you follow me on a small tangent I think it’s important to elaborate on this, you can skip ahead though if you’d like.
When I finished Life Story, even though I had a lot of really nice feedback from people, some I hadn’t even heard from in years, the best moment of it all was actually two, both from my parents. It was maybe a week after I got the CD’s and had given one to my Dad, when I get a call from him after I get done teaching for the day, and he tells me that not only does he genuinely love my album, but he’s listened to it three times in a row already. That was an amazing phone call, especially since I was so deep in insecurity right after I released it. I thought if Dad liked it, then that’s all that mattered to me in the end.
The other moment is a little sadder, but I need to provide a little background. In July of 2019, very close to when I released Life Story now that I think about it, my dog, Maggie, passed away. She was the family golden retriever, and we all loved her so much. I was particularly really close with her as she was the first dog I knew all the way from being a puppy. It’s admittedly really hard for me to even talk about this day, but around when the album released, we had to put Maggie to sleep very suddenly. She had been feeling really ill out of nowhere, and my parents and brother took her to the vet while I had to go teach, even though I wanted to go with them as well. My mom called me about halfway through and told me that the situation was really bad, and I needed to get over there as soon as I could, so I left work and went over. I won’t get into detail, but Maggie was ultimately too sick for her to even get off the vet table, let alone come home even with pain meds.
We walked out of the vet that day without her, and it was one of the hardest days I’d ever had in my life. For my family too. The drive home was tough, as we all took seperate cars so we couldn’t really grieve together until we all got home. I remember I put on some music and just did my best to get home as quickly as I could to be with them.
About a week later if I remember it right, the subject came up again and my Mom was talking to me about that day. She told me that on the way home, she put on my album and specifically the song, Angel, which is the first track of the album. Angel is a song about grief and the trauma of losing someone close to you, so when my Mom told me she specifically put it on after that I didn’t know what to think. She said it made her feel better, and while at the time of composing Angel, I obviously had no way of knowing it would be this source of comfort for my Mom months later, but it makes me feel like it was worth it. That is the essence of why I make anything, is to hopefully express a little of myself or express a little of life’s experience into music, so that someone else can listen and take away something from it. Especially the people who matter most to me.
Okay tangent over.)
My Personal 2019
honestly, I just like the picture
Privately, 2019 was a year of reflection for me. It was a year of introspective growth (yes I know how this sounds), a time of really reflecting on myself and understanding my purpose and path I want to be on, as an artist and a person. I owe that to the fact that 2019 was the single hardest year for me in my life, personally, I’ve ever had.
I don’t talk much about my mental health struggles, and I really should try more (as we all should), but this year was one for the books for me. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, particularly social, and some depression and irrationality, but this year a lot of those problems became worse. I probably won’t mention details ever on my blog, but people who know me personally know what I’m talking about. But as difficult as it was, it was also a time I really focused in on all of it and worked on it, really. It becoming worse, in a way, was a blessing because it made me want to make it better. I know this will be a blog post as well eventually, so I’m not going to talk too much about it here, but over the last couple of months I have been receiving psychotherapy treatments for my mental well-being which have IMMENSELY helped me. Focusing on my mental health and just my health in general was a big thing for me at the tail end of 2019, and I can confidently say going forward in 2020 I feel so much better and so much more confident in my ability to do everything. But if you take away anything from this, it is to please, please save time for yourself. Focus on yourself and understand when you need to take some time to heal. It’s important and it is alright to do.
Okay, one more thing. I want to look to the future. If 2019 was a year of introspection and getting things done, 2020 is going to be a year of learning for me. Also of trying new things, seeing what works and what doesn’t, of creating more, and of gathering more information than I ever had. I want to practice harder than I ever have, I want to listen to more music. I just want to learn. I know I need to take the year to do that. I think learning is an interesting subject to talk about, as I believe there is a lot of learning to be had while doing (I learned a ton while making my album), but that kind of learning is also more fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-I-need-to-get-this-done-now learning. I want to take my time in 2020 and plug all the gaps in my knowledge about playing music, writing music, creating music and more so that when I sit down to create my next big expressive project, I’ll feel that I have adequately grown as a person.
Before I talk about that, I just want to make a short list of things to expect from me in 2020:
-Much more music
Film Score Projects
-New video series for my YouTube page
Essays on music
-New blog stuffs
Continue the music showcase
Personal blog topics outside of music
Educational blog topics
-More regular social media postings
-The creation of a couple different groups with music that I’m interested in pursuing
And so much more, because even if I try I’m not going to be able to plan everything about 2020 now (well, hopefully).
What’s Next for Me
sort of inspirational art for Journey
Okay now to talk about my next big project with my name on it. I know if I sit down to write it now, I’ll essentially just create Life Story 2 (electric boogaloo?), because Life Story was the embodiment of everything I had learned up to that point about creating. So I don’t want more of the same, I want to evolve what I will do next. And that’s not to say I don’t know what it is, I know EXACTLY what my next album(s) will be. Some of the music for them actually already exists if you know where to look. But I need to grow first to fit the mold of that project, and that’s what 2020 will be for me. Hopefully whatever this next project will be, I will find a way to fit it in to 2021. But I’m really excited for it, and I hope when I do get around to bringing it to life the way I want it to exist, I will be at the place, both musically, technically, personally and creatively where that will be possible.
Alright everyone, thanks for indulging me a bit. I encourage you all to look back at 2019 with a careful eye; find the ups and the downs, take into account your struggles and your successes, and learn from it all so that 2020 can be a year of new possibility (or continued success) for you too.