top of page

Are You Sure?

Instrumentation: Alto Saxophone

Duration: 10-15'

Video from April 17, 2021

Performer: Donnie Robbins

Performer: Donnie Robbins

Program Notes: 

     Students today are given little reason to pursue a career in music.  Beginning in elementary school, kids are told that positions in the STEM fields will be fruitful careers.  This notion is pushed to the point where it almost seems foolish to pursue a career in anything else, least of all the arts.  This was my experience growing up, yet now in the Fall of my senior year of college, I am filling out applications to masters programs in music composition. 

     Are You Sure? explores the process I have gone through during the past few years in preparation for applying to grad school and continuing my musical career.  The title expresses a question I have asked myself constantly throughout college.  I have questioned what my job prospects will be, whether I will ever be good enough in an increasingly crowded field, and why I spend so much time doing something that has such an unknown future.  The title also conveys the ways in which I question myself as I strive to break farther and farther out of my comfort zone as a composer.  Every new compositional technique I have tried, sound I have created, and concept I have attempted to convey has been accompanied by an “Are You Sure?” 

     The piece moves through three main sections, each identified by a separate motive.  These three sections represent my sophomore, junior, and senior years, respectively, and they steadily build in intensity to represent the increasing busyness, stress, and frustration that has come as I have gotten closer to grad school applications.  The written material is separated by sections of aleatory, which further develop the main motives of the first and second sections.  The player is responsible for creating the musical arc in these sections, but they represent all the choices I have had to make as a composer over the last few years of my development.  With each new piece, a new world of sounds and techniques has seemingly been presented to me, and I have had to make sense out of all of them as I come closer to discovering my unique voice. 

     The world of music has no shortage of questions and frustrations.  Sometimes the hard work seems to be fruitless, and it seems like the paycheck might never come.  In truth, though, music is a field of unmatched satisfaction and gratitude.  With the struggle comes moments of joy and healing, and I hope that I can continue experiencing these moments throughout my life.

     This piece is dedicated to my colleague and friend Andrey Floryanovich.  As he prepares to pursue his own masters degree in music, I know he has had his fair share of “Are You Sure?”s.

Completed: February 2020; Revised August 2020

Performance History: 

April 8, 2021

Donnie Robbins, alto saxophone

Student Composers Concert

Comstock Hall, University of Louisville (Louisville, Kentucky)

March 6, 2020

Andrey Floryanovich, alto saxophone

Woodwind & Percussion Seminar

Davis Recital Hall, University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls, Iowa)

March 4, 2020

Andrey Floryanovich, alto saxophone

Isaac R. Smith Senior Recital

Davis Recital Hall, University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls, Iowa)

Recording History: 

April 17, 2021

Donnie Robbins, alto saxophone

bottom of page