Tell us a little bit about yourself–your family, other interests or hobbies, etc.
My husband and I live in McMinnville, Oregon, and are still going through the transition phase of life from a blended family with six kids to now just one left at home. There are only so many days that you can eat the same leftovers! It is nice to not run out of hot water in the mornings, though. I work part-time for the County Commissioners’ Office and on-call for the local high school and middle schools, where I get paid to do something I love – accompanying choirs, small groups, and individuals for concerts, contests, musical theater, and other performances. I never run out of opportunities to put my musical talents to use in church settings, but it’s great to work with other people and genres of music in the schools and community. When I’m not working or composing, I enjoy hiking, pickleball, volleyball & wallyball, riding bikes, reading, watching TV late at night with a bowl of ice cream, and trying new recipes. I’ve also recently been learning to tune pianos with long-distance guidance from my mom, who has been a piano tuner and teacher all of her adult life.
What advice would you give to an LDS composer just starting out?
I still consider myself a relative newcomer in the composing world, but I’ve found that there are some REALLY nice composers out there who are eager to encourage you and answer questions. So reach out to some of the musicians you admire with a personal message and learn from their experience. As a new composer, I’ve learned a lot from even just listening to and playing a lot of different music from different composers. I’ve played the piano my whole life, but once I started composing music myself, I found myself looking at music with a different perspective and getting ideas that I could try incorporating into pieces of my own. I don’t want to get into a rut of having my music all start to sound the same, so I try to keep experimenting with different styles and not always just stick to the expected when it comes to chords, rhythms, song structure, etc. When I was just starting, I also found it very valuable to have a more experienced musician listen to each piece as I finished it and give me feedback, both on the composition itself and on the sheet music notation.
How long have you been a musician?
I started playing the piano as a young child under the loose direction of my piano teacher/mom. I always loved to play and didn’t do much in the way of structured lessons, but it was great to grow up in a musical home with a mother who introduced me to a lot of great music. Some of my best memories of my childhood are playing piano duets and accordion duets with her. Maybe if I’d studied more music in college (I was a math major), I would have discovered my interest in and talent for composing much earlier, but I’m glad that that world was finally opened up to me about five years ago through one of the high school music teachers.
What instruments do you play/are you a singer?
Piano has always been my main instrument, but I’ve also played flute, accordion, organ, and violin to varying degrees. I enjoy singing in groups or at the piano in the privacy of my living room, but you won’t catch me singing in public unless it’s with a least a few other people – no solos!
What role does music play in your life?
Music plays a huge role in my life. As a listener, I’m a huge fan of lots of genres and love to discover new music to add to my collection for my running playlist or for when I’m working in the kitchen or driving. Sacred music is probably the #1 way that I feel the Spirit, too, so I can’t imagine life without that. Music is also the best way I have to express my feelings, so when I’m writing or performing a piece, I really focus on connecting to the music and letting it be an extension of me.
Who are some of your musical influences?
William Joseph, Jon Schmidt, David Lanz, Pink Martini, Dr. John, and the great classical composers.
What is one of your favorite (or your favorite) composition you have written? Why is it your favorite?
One of my favorites is “Over the Mountain” from my “For All Ages” book. It’s based on the children’s song, “The Bear Went Over the Mountain,” but since I don’t have a lot of personal experience with bears, I shortened the title and drew on my own experiences of hiking and running and the physical and mental challenges that go along with that, as well as the exuberance and joy that come when you reach the top of the mountain or the end of whatever hard thing it is you’re doing and can say with a big smile on your face, “I did it!” Then, of course, you keep going and take on whatever challenge is next. I really enjoyed using the music as an art medium to paint a picture of that whole range of emotions from start to finish.
What struggles have you had either in composing or in being a musician?
One of the struggles of being a composer is finding an audience for my music, especially since my desire is not to be a performing artist and go around doing concerts, but to connect my sheet music with the pianists out there who might enjoy playing it. You can’t just submit sheet music to the big-name publishers for consideration, it turns out. Approaching local music stores hasn’t gotten any response, either. Having a website is one way to get it out there, but then the challenge is in how to get people to find you if they’ve never heard of you before. I appreciate the sense of community that LDS musicians have in supporting each other and providing links to each other’s websites as a way to help the word get out. Patience and perseverance is a struggle in many aspects of life, and music is no exception! My primary motivation for composing is the sense of joy and accomplishment and growth that it brings to me, although knowing that it has touched the life of even one other person makes it that much better.