Here’s a blast from the past. This song is the very first song I ever put to paper and was the song that won me a composition scholarship to attend The Master’s College. The Awakening is based on Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows – one of my favorites growing up.
The entire song was actually inspired by one short sentence in the book when the character Mole pops his head up above ground and sees the world for the very first time. I was captivated by the idea of what it might be like to see every day things like the flowers and the trees for the first time and how magical that would be. Originally, this song was entitled Mole Discovers the Wide World, but was later changed to The Awakening.
The recording you are listening to is by the Grace Baptist Symphony Praise Orchestra under the direction of conductor Lisa Hernacki. The recording was done by Scott Weber and the tenor voice you hear is James Phillipps.
The Awakening was quite a journey for me and was, in a sense, the first time I felt that my eyes were really opened to the world of composition. As stated previously, this was the first song I ever notated as, while I had written several songs prior to this, I just never did anything with it. My very first version of this was honestly, quite terrible, but somehow Lisa Hernacki saw potential and encouraged me to work on it.
Since I knew nothing about how to write for orchestra, she lent me her college orchestration book for me to read. While I didn’t have enough theory to understand half of the book, I was determined to learn as much as I could and took a lot of notes. As I was just about to audition for a composition scholarship at The Master’s College, Lisa offered to have the orchestra play the piece during one of the rehearsals and we would record it for my audition.
While it sounded incredible on my speakers, the first time we played my revised piece sounded absolutely terrible – and not at all because of
the players. I had written things out of their range, everyone was playing at the same time, and there were too many lines going on at once. I learned a valuable lesson that day: the sequencer will always lie to you.
With the recording set for next week, several of the orchestra members (including Jeff Boltinghouse, Stan and Lisa Hernacki, and many others) took me under their wing and each showed me how to write for their instruments. This was one of the most wonderful teaching experiences I have ever had and, in one week, the piece transformed from a catastrophe to the recording above.
While my composition style has definitely grown since then, it still holds a very special place in my heart. A huge thank you goes to all of the people who helped with this song as, quite frankly, this was what helped me decide to start the journey I am on today of becoming a composer!