This article’s organization:
  • Recordings
  • Thank You
  • Who I met
  • What I did in Vienna
  • What I learned in Vienna
  • My Future Goals


During my two weeks in the Vienna Summer Music Festival of 2019, I had the pleasure to work with the Viennese contemporary music ensemble, PHACE, who kindly learned and premiered my piece: “RESTITUTION.” So grateful to have had the opportunity to write for such talented and genuine people! Watch the recording below if you’re interested.

The world of contemporary music owes a debt of gratitude toward one of the biggest advocates for new music, Irvine Arditti, who has worked with almost every renowned Darmstadt composer and has spent his life leading a string quartet that performers around the world. It was a humbling opportunity to have Arditti perform my piece in his Masterclass to help in my compositional studies. I learned a great deal from him, including how even the greatest of musicians appreciate good music puns!

Thank you!

Before I go off and describe my adventures in Vienna, I have to make it known that I wouldn’t have been able to afford such a trip without the generous support of my friends, family, and community. During every lecture, concert, and opera I attended, I couldn’t shake how grateful I felt to have such an opportunity to experience music and culture in such a way. 

So a big thanks to:

My wife!

My own family!

First Church of Christ, Science of Newport

Christina Barton

Batley family

Phra Blakely

Bourgeois family

Challenger family

Cowan family

Changiz Dadrass

DiVerde family

Micaela Erhard

Hadsall family

Michael Hilford

Hubbard family

Jones family

Lutz family

Madelon Maupin

Ramp family

Rashidian family

Rodrigues-Zahn family

Gretchen Sheetz

Catherine Tibbitts

Valentine family

Andy Zanca

Anonymous donors as well!


Vienna is an amazing hub of music, art, and general cultural advancement. Vienna is known for the most amazing composers in the Western world of music. 

This includes:

  • First Viennese School of Music
    • Joseph Hadyn
    • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    • Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Second Viennese School of Music
    • Arnold Schoenberg
    • Alban Berg
    • Anton Webern
  • Third Viennese School of Music (?)
    • Helmut Lachenmann
    • Georg Friedrich Haas
    • Wolfgang Rihm
    • Etc.


Traveling to Vienna with the knowledge that almost all “great” Western composers have at one point lived or learned in Vienna was quite a humbling experience. So this trip was exactly what I needed to feel inspired and reacquainted with my direction in music. 

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who helped get me to Vienna this past June (2019)! It will be an experience I will remember forever in my music education and it’s thanks to all of you, for making it happen. Thank you!

Who I Met

With many lectures, masterclasses, and concerts, I had the opportunity to meet an amazing array of inspiring musicians from Vienna, from around the world (UK, South Korea, Japan, etc.), and around the US (New York, Boston, West Virginia, Colorado, San Francisco, Utah, etc.).

Lecturers, Private Teachers, & Professionals:

Irvine Arditti

Pierluigi Billone

Diogo Carvalho

Dirk D’Ase

Ulrich Drechsler

PHACE Ensemble

Reinhard Fuchs

Clemens Gadenstätter

Justin Dello Joio

Dr. Michael Polo

Dr. Ana Szilagyi

Simon Vosecek

Oliver Weber

Peers within Composers Forum:

Christian F. Bloquert

Savanna Butcher

Nich Capsimalis

Zade Dardari

Melika Fitzhugh

Harriet Grainger

Dai Haraguchi

Jesenia Jackson

Sunbin Kim

Omri Kochavi

Young Jun Lee

Hannah Lipton

Chris Shelton

Andriy Sovetov

Brendan Sweeney

Meilina Tsui

Brianna Warner

Simeon Westbrooke

Sasha Yakub

Chonglian Yu

Zheng Zhou

Each and every composer/lecturer from the VSMF faculty had their own philosophy and personal approach to composition. Opinions might have differed, but the one thing that stayed consistent was their strong, life-long passion for music. If it wasn’t the complexity of the topics, it was their passion that I found truly inspiring.

During one of the first days in Vienna, a lecturer mentioned how much we in the composers forum could learn from each other. After a few days, it became increasingly apparent just how true that was – each and every composer involved in VSMF had amazing stories and such an inspiring work ethic. It definitely normalized how “strange” we all are in our musical ways. 

A few times during the trip, I noticed a few of us would be shopping for groceries while humming or whistling random “original” tunes. I’m sure it drove the locals crazy to hear!

What I Did in Vienna

Starting on the first Monday of this two-week program, we had multiple lectures and presentations everyday with concerts, museum tours, and walk-abouts in between. With so much information and exposure to culture, I took as many notes as I could, jotting down quotes after ideas after names and dates. It was so much information that I could spend weeks just reviewing my notes!

Some of the most notable places I visited include:

Albertina Museum and Art Exhibitions (main exhibition by Hermann Nitsch) 

Brahms Saal in the Musikverein (attended a concert with Artis Quartet)

Belvedere Palace and Gallery (to visit “The Kiss” by Klimt)

Composer’s Gravesite (including Beethoven, Mozart, Ligeti, Schönberg, Schubert, etc.)

Sacher Hotel (had the original Sachertorte!)

Schönberg Museum (a building entirely dedicated to Arnold Schönberg’s life work)

Schönbrunn Palace (attended a summer concert)

Secession Building and Art Gallery

Vienna’s National Library

Most of our time was spent in lectures and presentation in a building off Stolberggasse, so there were many things I wasn’t able to do in Vienna! I treated my time there more as a cultural business trip than a trip for tourism. My goal was to learn and participate in every opportunity presented by VSMF and I’m glad I did. The lectures and masterclasses were invaluable to my music education – but someday I will return with my wife and explore the city more in depth!

During the two weeks, I was fortunate enough to have two private lessons with Oliver Weber and Justin Dello Joio. Though I didn’t compose much while in Vienna, I did learn A LOT and found a new sense of motivation for my own studies now that at home.

What I Learned in Vienna

Music is one of the only arts that takes time to experience. A pre-decided duration pulls the listener into the moment and presents challenge of abstract decoding on a different level than language or visual arts might (not better or worse, but different). 

Visual art has a depth found by looking closer. “Auditory” art has depth on a perpetually abstract level that’s only noticeable when listening closer, which, like visual art, is very dependent on perspective. But listening closer takes time, just like looking closer. 

New art will thrive if the general population learns to take the time in “appreciating details” on a different level (much like appreciating good wine). I’ll be careful in qualifying this “theory” in saying it is definitely subjective and my own perspective may change (in other words, take these words with a grain of salt!). One lecturer said “good” art gives an experience without the need for thought – so who knows! It’s all subjective. And to tell the truth, I can’t really decide what makes good music “good” other than, perhaps, genuine purpose and passion behind the music.

Some other amazing quotes I’ve taken from the trip:

  • Oliver Weber:
    • “Most important tools are your ears.”
    • “Take things away rather than add.”
    • “Why does the orchestra not have a digital/technology section? In today’s age?”
  • “Keep in mind, humans have to read the music! Notate what’s easiest to read.” – Reinhard Fuchs
  • Irvine Arditti:
    • “I don’t like vibrato.” – Xenakis
    • “A joke between Cage and I was, ‘How do you continue music with no tradition or history in America?” I would ask him. ‘How do you further new music when tied down by so much tradition and history in Europe?’ he’d always reply.” 
  • “Cannot decide on a picture frame without first having the picture.” – Debussy (said by Dello Joio)
  • “I explore as much music as possible, even that which I don’t like.” – Justin Dello Joio
  • “The final frontier of music is organizing that which we can’t hear.” – Dr. Michael Polo
  • Clemens Gadenstätter:
    • “Mankind created art to broaden our abilities and possibilities in a non-existential situation. Art must broaden our horizons.”
    • “Composition is about bringing a sound into context or perhaps a new context.”
    • “We live in a polyphonic world, always.”
    • “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” – Gustav Mahler; Clemens in reply, “We’re here to work on the burning.”
  • Pierluigi Billone:
    • “A music ensemble is like a body. Everything is connected. All energy goes somewhere, even hidden energy.”
    • “Art is the balance between spontaneity and intellectualism.”
  • Ulrich Drechsler:
    • “Music is empty space with a little information.”
    • “Perfect music is silence.” – Alexander Knaifel
  • Dirk D’Ase:
    • “Life is an exciting playground! Don’t just focus on music – life is not just music.”
    • “You can’t learn how to be inspired. You have to teach yourself inspiration. Dare to listen to yourself.”
    • “A good composition teacher teaches students to have their own voice, not just to imitate their own style.”

Without writing pages upon pages about what I learned, I will say that after listening to so many opinions and words of wisdom, the biggest take away for me is that “good” music always has a purpose, but perspectives will always be subjective. But out of respect for the individual who dedicates so much time into creating said “music,” our judgments should respectfully stay subjective (since it will never truly be objective). 

If music has purpose, then it has value. And if it has value, than it has quality. 

There will always be differing perspectives, but genuine purpose and passion is a consistent factor in all fine arts. From what I’ve found.

My Future Goals

Now that I’ve jump-started my motivation with this Viennese experiences, I have already begun the next steps in my music career.

My next goal is applying for a doctorate. Currently, I plan to apply to USC, UCLA, and Julliard. I’ve begun writing a new orchestral piece for my submission and I have already scheduled private lessons with the internationally acclaimed Justin Dello Joio.

With more time devoted to studying, writing, and listening, I have everything I need to apply for a doctorate in music composition. 

And no matter what, I will never forget how grateful I am to my wife. I would not have pursued composition five years ago if she hadn’t encouraged me to pursue my dream. A big thank you to my other half for always being so supportive. Thank you!


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