CANVAS TRASHED letter to composition teachers

Hello all! I hope this finds you doing well, making great strides toward summer.

As you may know via Facebook, I’ve been running an educational concert series for the last ten years. It’s called Canvas ( We’ve done all sorts of cool collaborations between music and art, history and even science. Everything gets tested in our home theater “lab.” Our most impacting programs go out to performance venues, schools, community centers, etc.

I’m working on a program for next month called “TRASHED: reduce. reuse. remusic.” We’re bringing in an environmental science professor to give some PSAs about the life cycles of our stuff and what we could and should do about it. 

In parallel, I’m going to talk about how musical ideas can also be reduced, reused and recycled in composition. It should be great fun! Our audiences are typically non-musicians who would more likely darken the doors of a club than a concert hall. So for them, learning about sonata form, for example, is a unique experience.

The springtime is busy for students and teachers. I’m well aware of this. But I have a fun - and hopefully not overwhelming - opportunity for composition students to participate in this from afar, should they be interested.

I’ve written a short (four measure) melodic idea. What might happen to said idea if it were to travel to various conservatories in the next few weeks, to be reused and recycled by five or six young composers?

trashed excerpt - Full Score copy.jpg

The ask? 

  1. To write sixteen measures (or more, should they feel so inclined) that employs the four measure idea in any technique that the student wishes. He or she just needs to be able to communicate how and why they “reduced, reused or recycled” the original.

  2. The instrumentation is violin, cello and piano. They may use one to four of those instruments. Whatever they wish. 

  3. Whatever they write should be considered simply an excerpt of what a larger piece may be; they needn’t feel pressured to make an entire arc or musical statement in only sixteen measures. 

  4. There’s no need to break any records for Most Complicated Sixteen Measures Ever Written. Due to budget restraints, our rehearsal time will be limited. :)

  5. Please begin the excerpt in the original key but feel free to modulate.

  6. Tempo, mood and modality is up to the discretion of the composer. 

  7. Scores are due May 5th. Please send pdfs of full scores and part/s to me at

  8. NOTE: If a student feels so inclined, they are welcome to submit a short video of themselves explaining what they did. Nothing fancy required. A video taken by phone would be fine.

The gain?

  1. Excerpts will be performed live in Los Angeles on May 19th. 

  2. Composers will be credited at the performance and on our website.

  3. Composers whose pieces are performed will receive a stipend of $50.

So what do you think?

Would you be willing to share this with your students? Let me know if you have any students in mind. I hope we have reason to work on this small but fun project together.

All the very best,