"There are no two points so distant from one another that they cannot be connected by a single straight line -- and an infinite number of curves."

Composer Lawrence Dillon has produced an extensive body of work, from brief solo pieces to a full-length opera. Three disks of his music are due out in 2010 on the Bridge, Albany and Naxos labels. In the past year, he has had commissions from the Emerson String Quartet, the Cassatt String Quartet, the Mansfield Symphony, the Boise Philharmonic, the Salt Lake City Symphony, the Ravinia Festival, the Daedalus String Quartet, the Kenan Institute for the Arts, the University of Utah and the Idyllwild Symphony Orchestra.

Although he lost 50% of his hearing in a childhood illness, Dillon began composing as soon as he started piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1985, he became the youngest composer to earn a doctorate at The Juilliard School, and was shortly thereafter appointed to the Juilliard faculty. Dillon is now Composer in Residence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has served as Music Director of the Contemporary Ensemble, Assistant Dean of Performance, and Interim Dean of the School of Music. He was the Featured American Composer in the February 2006 issue of Chamber Music magazine.

Visit Lawrence Dillon's Web Site

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Monday, July 25, 2005
can't be beat

From time to time, composers are called upon to pick up a baton, get in front of an ensemble and lead a performance. Some put a great deal of time and study into becoming effective conductors, others just wing it. I fall somewhere in between.

One of the most important moments in conducting a performance is how you start the ensemble. A ragged beginning, or the slightest uncertainty, can poison an entire performance. As a student, I was given all of the usual tips about how to start an ensemble effectively – checking around to make sure everyone is ready, imagining how you want the music to begin, keeping your eyes out of the score, etc.

But there’s one trick I wasn’t taught, a trick I stumbled upon accidentally, a trick that my last post about MIDI reminded me of. Here it is: instead of just imagining how you want the music to sound, try imagining yourself singing that first sound. As you raise the baton for the pickup, inhale as though you were going to sing the first note – a deep breath for a powerful attack, a delicate breath for delicate music. With the first beat, exhale, and the sound you imagined will be ringing in your ears – the musicians will breath with you, grasp exactly what you are looking for and give it to you with a single voice. I don’t know why it always happens that way, but it does.

Breathe with the music -- works like a charm.