My Torch No. 1 for Trumpet, Trombone, Piano, and Strings
Writing a composition on the greyhound bus would not be your normal way of doing things. But in 2003, that is how I wrote my piece, Torch No. 1 for Trumpet, Trombone, Piano, and String Orchestra.
On my way to Wildwood, NJ, from New York City, I took my small notebook and started to jot down some musical ideas. At first, I wanted to (and did) use words to describe the musical feeling of my potential new piece. What did I want to convey, how long I wanted the piece to be, and what orchestration would I use, were my questions needed to be answered.
At first, my thought of Iosif Andriasov’s Passacaglia for Trumpet, Trombone, and String Orchestra came to mind. I wanted to write a piece that would be easy to include that piece and mine in a concert program. Having the same orchestral instrumentation would make it more likely that both could be included on one half of a program. Wanting to include myself in the process as a performer to make it easier for the other musicians to interpret my thoughts, I added a piano part to the score.
I already wrote a Second Piano Sonata that same year. For the most part, the theme of my Sonata dealt with politics. As a continuation to an important subject matter, I wanted to write a composition that dealt with my ability to not waver in my beliefs. This is why the musical theme in Torch, No. 1 moves steadfastly towards the flame. The flame is a metaphor for many who were against my thoughts in the Sonata. As time turned out, I was happy with my decision.
I created a midi version of Torch, No. 1 to share with people. Luckily, conductor/flutist Tigran Arakelyan loved the composition and wanted to give a World Premiere in Seattle, WA. I flew in for the two performances and shared my ideas with Tigran, who was asking many questions and was extremely polite and caring. The respect he showed towards the composer was genuine and wonderful. More musicians should adhere to this. Nobody knows what I am trying to write. So many questions should be asked.
The two performances were wonderful, and I was really grateful for such an opportunity to showcase my piece without me having to perform in it. After the performance of my Torch No. 1, I wanted to create an orchestration that would be more easier to assemble. Hence, I made a version for String Quintet instead of the String Orchestra.
Members of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra loved this composition and invited me to perform the piano part with them. I was honored and had several rehearsals before we performed twice in San Francisco and Berkeley. Those performances and rehearsals were magnificent. Listening to this composition, I really feel like we are the Torch, No. 1 making waves.
I am sharing Torch, No. 1 performed by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra members and I at the piano. If you like this article, subscribe to my blog.
To purchase the score, visit