The beautiful campus of Atlantic’s host, Colby College

Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself traveling all over the place to study at a couple of summer music festivals.  I was at the Fresh Inc Festival in Wisconsin for two weeks in June, and it was so good that I haven’t been able to figure out how to sum up the experience in one post.  Hopefully I’ll do that soon, though.  At the moment, I’ve just finished my first week at the Atlantic Music Festival in Maine, and it’s been amazing.

When I say “music festival” to some people, they imagine that I’m talking about loud rock bands and lots of drugs and wild partying, but these classical festivals I attend could hardly be farther from that.  In my world, the music festivals I speak of are the places you go as a young composer to sharpen your skills, make connections, and study music intensely without the burden of homework and day-to-day chores that I have during the school year.

At the other festivals I’ve done, our schedules were always jam-packed from morning to night, but so far at Atlantic, we composers have had a lot of free time.  Most of the day, there are only a couple of things scheduled, such as an hour of composition seminar, sometimes a lesson, another optional seminar in the afternoon, or a concert every few days.  The campus here is beautiful, the people are great, and we don’t have to cook anything—it’s been a much-needed retreat!

While it might sound tempting to kick back and do nothing on this “vacation,” I’ve found myself feeling inspired by all the talented musicians and composers that are here, and by the serenity of rural Maine.  And so, I’ve been doing a lot of composing—in fact, the most composing I’ve willingly done in a really long time.

It’s hard to not feel inspired by scenery like this.

To make a long story short, I’m starting to find a way past the artistic burnout that’s plagued me for the last year.  (Why I’d become so burned out is a topic for a whole other post.)  This week, I’ve gone back to piano composing, and I’m writing new pieces for my solo piano album.  I’m not trying to make anything ground-breaking with these compositions—I’m just writing them because I’m enjoying doing so and hoping that others will enjoy them, too.  It’s felt very freeing.

Being here at the festival has given me the opportunity to remember that the sheer love and joy of music is why I started and decided to pursue composing in the first place.  I’ve realized that, ten years later, it’s still possible to enjoy composing just as much, if not more, than I did in the early days.  When I began writing music as a kid, I wasn’t thinking about creating a breakthrough work, building a portfolio for graduate school, or trying to write something as good as my last piece—I just composed because I loved composing.  This week, I think I’ve rediscovered some of that innocent love for my art that’s been hard to feel for so long now.

Honestly, if I went home now, having rekindled my passion for composing and meeting all these great people would make it already worth it, but I still have several weeks to go!  I can’t wait to see what these next weeks will bring…