Joining Mesquite Symphony Orchestra: Composer-in-Residence

The Mesquite Symphony Orchestra (MSO) recently welcomed its first composer-in-residence, Kevin Day. Selected by Music Director Felix Torres, Day will begin his residency with the start of the 2019-20 season for a two-year term through July 31, 2021.

Day is an American composer, conductor, and multi-instrumentalist from Arlington. He graduated in May 2019 from Texas Christian University with a bachelor of music in instrumental performance, and will be pursing a master of music in music composition at the University of Georgia in fall 2019. His award-winning works have premiered throughout the United States and South Africa.

How do you feel about being the first composer-in-residence for the Mesquite Symphony Orchestra?

I was really shocked when I got the call, and I definitely wanted to accept the position and be a part of the MSO’s season. It is truly an honor and I’m very thankful that I get to work with such an amazing group of musicians and Maestro Felix Torres for two years. This will be my second orchestral residency, and so I’m looking forward to presenting new orchestra music to the city of Mesquite.

What are you looking forward to about the 2019-2021 seasons with Mesquite?

I think what I look forward to the most is being able to hear music that has been in my head (and on my computer) come to life. I also can’t wait to collaborate with Maestro Torres and the MSO, and figure out ways to improve the performance of each piece. Hearing your music live, compared to hearing midi on a computer, is drastically different. You find out quickly what things work for an orchestra and what things don’t work so well, once you hear your music performed live. I know from experience that collaborations like these help me as composer to grow and learn from the people who are actually playing my music, and are able to give feedback on better ways to execute different passages. I enjoy collaboration very much.

What can people look forward to?

I think that people can look forward to hearing a variety of exciting, new works for orchestra that are all very different from each other. These works span from 2018 to now, and so the MSO will be premiering four new compositions of mine. They span in styles that incorporate elements of classical music, latin music, romanticism, minimalism, jazz, and cinematic elements. The MSO will also be performing a jazz-classical crossover piece of mine, Manhattan Nights, that was the grand prize winner for the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra Young Composer Contest and was premiered back in 2017. I hope that people can look forward to having a great listening experience at these concerts.

What drew you to the field of music?

Music has always been a huge part of my life, even when I was a little kid. My initial contact with music was through my parents, Darrell and Enora Day. They served in our home church (Life in Christ Family Church) as praise & worship leaders/ministers, and so I was always being taken to various music rehearsals and services. My father was a former Hip-Hop producer and DJ, while my mother was a gospel vocalist. Both played a little bit of piano, and showed me how to play a few songs when I was younger. My dad showed me how to create my own beats when I was six on a sequencing program called “Fruity Loops”, which was how I started writing my own music. My parents love for what they did is what drew me in to want to be more involved in music growing up.

Having graduated from TCU what made you decide to pursue your master’s at the University of Georgia?

UGA had been on my radar for quite a while. I was invited to the school back in November 2018 for a guest composer residency, and was blown away by how nice the people were in Athens. The Hodgson Wind Ensemble with conductor Cynthia Johnston Turner performed my band piece, Dancing Fire, and did a spectacular job on it. I also got to interact with the composition department and really enjoyed the atmosphere of the campus as a whole.  It reminded me a lot of being back home. After my residency, I chose to apply to UGA and ended up getting into graduate school for music composition. Months later, I was selected for a graduate assistantship that would pay for my graduate costs and living, and so I gladly accepted it. I will be working with composer Peter Van Zandt Lane and conductor Cynthia Johnston Turner for my masters. I can’t wait to get started in August and make the move to UGA!

What instruments do you play?

Euphonium, Tuba, Piano (jazz), Bass Guitar, Drums, and I sing.

Who has been influential in your music career?

I have mentors that are professional composers and they have been influential in my development as a writer. These composers are Gabriela Lena Frank, Julie Giroux, John Mackey, William, Owens, and Frank Ticheli. They all have helped me in some way shape or form with decisions and have helped me to find my voice as a composer. Others that have also influenced me are all of my professors, colleagues, staff, and GA friends at the TCU School of Music. All of them have encouraged me immensely to follow my passion, they continue to support my work, and I am very blessed to have them in my life. The music of Tchaikovsky, Mahler, John Williams, Michael Giacchino, Frank Ticheli, David Maslanka, Johann Johnannson, and Ólafur Arnalds have also influenced my writing. I can always go back to their works for inspiration.

Outside of the orchestra, are there any other types of music you enjoy and/or enjoy performing? If so, what are they?

Outside of writing classical music, I enjoy performing jazz, fusion, and gospel music on the piano/keyboard. There is always an energy and fun that comes with playing this music and I enjoy playing it with friends very much. I listen to a wide variety of music all of the time. I enjoy listening to pop, rap, jazz, contemporary Christian, and gospel music in my spare time. I also like indie/alternative music, soft instrumental music, and listening to movie soundtracks.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists at the moment?

Kendrick Lamar, J.Cole, RY X, Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane, Robert Glasper, Tyler the Creator, X Ambassadors, Hiatus Kaiyote, Sia, Mac Miller, Flying Lotus, Anderson Paak., Novo Amor, Snarky Puppy, and Ed Sheeran.

Is there a musician/composer you’d like to work with? If so, who?

I would love to work with composer Eric Whitacre, if I ever got the chance. I have always been fascinated with his music and would love to see what his composition process is like. I absolutely love the sound of choral music, and so I would be interested to see how he creates the sounds that he does.

What was the very first concert you attended as an audience?

I got to see Snarky Puppy live back in 2015 with a group of friends and it is still one of the best concerts I have experienced.

What was the first concert you participated in?

Elementary school choir concert.

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