Growing Young

New Ulm, Minnesota
26 August 2017


This past June I had the privilege to meet with several seniors at Orchard Hills and talk with them about their lives and what it was like when they were teenagers. I wanted them to “grow young” again in their minds; hence the title of today’s program. My intention was that through a series of interviews I would not only learn more about those old times and how people lived eighty years ago, but I would also learn what was important to them; what made them happy, what scared them, what made them who they are today.

I was specifically interested in the German-American heritage here at New Ulm: what it meant back then, and how it resonates today. During the interviews with these lovely people, who shared such amazing insights into their lives, I had a personal revelation. I came to understand that I was having a conversation with my grandmother who had passed away when I was just teenager. In order to achieve my goal of writing stories about the lives of these seniors from Orchard Hill, they needed to get to know me so we sat and talked over several weeks. I learned about each of them and their backgrounds and they, in turn, asked many questions about me and my background. Magic happened when these 6 people started to become my grandparents.

Our conversations were recorded, yielding many wonderful hours of conversation on tape that needed to be transcribed. Bunny Hanson came to the rescue doing this critical work for me. My next step was to turn the transcriptions into theatrical pieces. This is where another good friend of mine from New York City, librettist Marianna Mott Newirth, stepped in to help me finish the libretti. Music theater is always about a collaborative process and I am so appreciative to both Bunny and Marianna for all our good work together.

I am immensely grateful for the stories my new grandfathers and grandmothers are sharing here today. They have helped me grow as a composer, allowing me to discover a fresh new approach to creating unique theatrical pieces. They have also helped me to grow as a person because I have learned so much from them about the world we all come from. Growing Young connects different generations here in New Ulm, and connects me with my forbears through the voices of many different and wonderful people.



Press Coverage

30 April 2017 Visiting composer working with The Grand this summer
11 May 2017 Public encouraged to meet New Ulm composer-in-residence
27 May 2017 Grand’s visiting composer looking for storytelling students
26 June 2017 How Soundtracks Are Made and Why They Affect Us
26 July 2017 Film scoring
30 July 2017 Resident composer back at Grand for final stage of project
2 August 2017 Live at the Grand: Musical Acts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
3 August 2017 Composer tells an audience how a soundtrack is made
7 August 2017 Musical tales, stirringly told
21 August 2017 Growing Young, Growing Wise to premiere in New Ulm
27 August 2017 Composer’s work focuses on New Ulm stories
7 September 2017 Artist: never be complacent

My biggest thanks goes to the McKnight Foundation and the American Composers Forum. The McKnight Visiting Composers Program has provided me with an opportunity not only to thrive and try new and different things in my works as a storyteller and composer but also provided me with the opportunity to become part of a community that made me feel at home. Even more importantly, this experience helped me to understand more about myself and where I come from as a German-American-Cuban soul. I depart now not only as a grown composer and artist, but also knowing that I have gained an additional family of like-minded people with whom I have so much in common. There is no greater gift — at least in my mind — than knowing a place where you belong and where you can be yourself. Then “the sky is the limit” in what you can do and achieve. So thank you for the opportunity to feel at home here. What you have provided me with is truly an experience of a lifetime that has already changed me in so many ways.

Supported in part by the American Composers Forum through the 2016 McKnight Visiting Composers Program