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It’s a wonderful feeling to finally hold a completed score in your hands.

Okay, I realize I haven’t posted since July.  Much has happened, and while I could go on for a whole post attempting to recount these last few months, I’m going to cut to the chase…

I’ve just finished my first orchestral work, “Out of Ashes.”

I realize that I announced a solo piano album by the same name, and that’s because, initially, I was simply trying to orchestrate the title track.  Being a junior Music Composition major now, I thought it would be good to have a piece for orchestra in my portfolio.  But “Out of Ashes” became so much more than an orchestration exercise or an addition to my portfolio…

I quickly learned that, if you really want to write for orchestra, you have to write for orchestra—you can’t just cut and paste piano parts into different instruments.  Thus, my piece for orchestra bears very little resemblance to the solo piano work for my piano album.

You see, there are so many more textures and colors available in an orchestra than on a piano.  You can do so much more, if only you know how to take advantage of it.

And that’s why my favorite composing medium is no longer piano, but orchestra.

Wait a minute…  Did I just say that?  I, the person who spent her entire senior year of high school composing, recording, and editing a solo piano album?  Whose compositional output was 70% solo piano until a year ago?

Truth be told, in some ways, all composing to me is my “favorite composing.”  Any time I sit down in front of empty measures and fill them in with notes from inside my head is a time that I feel I’m satisfying my calling in life.  But I’ve discovered that orchestral music simply does something to me on a spiritual level that I can’t explain.

So there is much to say about the process of writing and finishing “Out of Ashes,” but I can’t possibly fit it into one post.

Suffice it to say that I’ve never written anything else like it, and it makes almost nothing I’ve shared so far seem representative of my present composing abilities (except perhaps “Agitato” and maybe a couple other pieces).

It’s still hard to believe that I’ve finished something that was over a year-and-a-half from the initial inspiration to the final measures of the full version for orchestra.  It took more time, willpower, and soul than I believed I could give, but I pulled it off.

I learned a lot through composing “Out of Ashes,” not just in terms of technical abilities with orchestration and tonality and more ways to develop themes, but in terms of the creative processs in general.

I learned (even more so than ever before) that composing can be both my greatest torment, and one of my greatest joys—yet I can’t live without doing it.

I learned that sometimes, you seem to make leaps and bounds in your abilities as a composer, but even when you don’t seem to be getting better, every bit of composing and studying is pushing you towards your goals.

I learned that there will always be that critical voice in your head telling you that you’ll never finish or that you’ll never write anything “good enough,” but 99.999% of the time, it’s wrong, and you have to keep going to show who’s boss.

And finally, I learned that plain coconut butter makes the best 3 AM snack, when you need some real food but don’t want to stop composing to go to the kitchen…

So now what do I do with myself after all of this?  Keep composing!

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About Shelby Rawlings Blalock

I'm a 21-year-old composer, pianist, music producer, audio engineer, and GRAMMY Camp 2012 alum. My neoclassical, self-produced piano album "Airborne" is available now on iTunes.

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