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The Third Year

String Orchestra | 4'00" | Intermediate | 2023

People often say, “Had it not been for (insert name here), I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am today.” There are those people in your life who see a spark within you and, rather than letting it go unnoticed, they do everything in their power to help foster that spark so it will bloom and grow. Such people come in many different varieties. They could be your parents, your best friend, or even one of your teachers. What’s important, though, is that they are there and willing to help.

For me, one such person was my middle school band director, Sonya Williams. Dedicated to her, The Third Year is my way of giving thanks and showing gratitude for everything she did for me under her tutelage. She even went as far as giving me the first music-writing software that I still use today, albeit many updated versions later. First written in 2008 with her guidance, I decided to revisit this piece and give it the makeover I thought it deserved after many years of collecting dust. And at the request of my dear friends and colleagues Victoria Enloe and Bill Scruggs, the orchestra directors at Peachtree Ridge High School (GA), I transcribed the original version for wind ensemble (completed in 2021) for string orchestra and piano to be premiered as part of their performance at the 2023 Georgia Music Educator’s Association In-Service Conference in Athens, Georgia.

The piece opens with a nine-note motif initially stated by the entire orchestra and almost immediately echoed by the upper strings with a slight alteration. This idea becomes the basis from which all melodies of the work are derived and expanded. Transitioning through a tense and dissonant sustain, the subsequent section of the piece takes on a more playful, innocent nature. Being in the home key of D major, the piano creates what I call the "innocence ostinato," which supports the melodies throughout the piece. Once the 1st violins state the primary theme in its entirety, the entire violin section, with assistance from the cello and viola, transitions the music to the relative minor key of B to symbolize the discomfort felt during times of personal growth. Followed by a reprise of the innocence ostinato, the next section of the piece directly modulates to the key of A minor, with hints at F major. As the melody weaves ideas from previous sections, the music builds and intensifies until it reaches a quasi-apex. Through this third return of the innocence ostinato, the work develops into a long-sustained B-flat major chord with an added concert E at the loudest dynamic played thus far. After a brief interlude by a string quintet, played by the clarinet family in the original version - Ms. Williams’ primary instrument - the work ends with a short codetta led by the upper string family in the key of F major; colored by the piano.

- program note by Jonathan P. Kochik

Premiered by                 

Commissioned by                 

January 27, 2023
Peachtree Ridge High School Chamber Orchestra
Victoria Enloe, Bill Scruggs, & Bernadette Scruggs, conductors

Peachtree Ridge High School Chamber Orchestra
Victoria Enloe, Bill Scruggs, & Bernadette Scruggs, conductors

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