Archive for December, 2013

New Lullaby Project Celebrates 7 Years!

New Lullaby

In December 2006, I received the first commission for the New Lullaby Project from David Leisner titled, Disturbed, a Lullaby.  At first I thought that the project would not last with such an ominously titled first New Lullaby, but I was wrong.  The New Lullaby Project ( has proven that it will live through all parts of life’s successes and failures, including a house fire, injuries, and multiple moves.  Many of the early lullabies written during the early period of upheaval have a darker tone as if the composers wished to commemorate the personal trials and tribulations I was going through.  Needless to say, the obligation I felt to the many composers who entrusted their dots on the page with me kept me going through many a sleepless night.   

A Youtube channel for the New Lullaby Project features an interview and 18 videos of New Lullabies:

I had originally planned for the New Lullaby Project to run its course in a year or so with  New Lullaby, a CD featuring 14 New Lullabies by 13 composers, recorded in 2009 at Futura Productions and released in 2010, but as I kept receiving New Lullabies from composers I kept premiering new works.  New Lullaby garnered very positive reviews in Classical Guitar Magazine (UK), Audiophile, Fanfare and more.  One of my favorite quotes:  “This is not some godawful Classics-for-Baby CD, something new has been attempted here…” (Fanfare)

And then this from author and friend Glenn Kurtz:

New Lullaby CD 2010

New Lullaby CD 2010

New Lullaby is a beautiful, perceptive, and evocative performance that earns and deserves your rapt appreciation. Most of all, however, it felt to me like a courageous exploration of a mood or a state that is rarely identified, and these days all-too rarely enjoyed: attentive peacefulness. 
– Glenn Kurtz, author of ‘Practicing, A Musician’s Return To Music’

I knew a few of the composers featured on the CD prior to the project, but The New Lullaby CD also attracted the attention of many more new composers.  Since 2010 I have premiered New Lullabies by 23 composers, with some living as far as Australia and Poland.  I have also received another 20 or so by composers throughout the world…I know I have much practice and many performances to give!

Studying, practicing and performing so many new works by different composers challenged me as a musician and person in ways that I did not expect.  Each composer writes in their own voice with their own idiosyncrasies and understanding of the guitar, musical notation and symbols, and I have had to learn to decipher their dots and line and search for their voice in the music.  I could just play the notes of each piece and call it done, but I believe that happens all too often and is one reason new music gets a bad rap by musicians and audiences.  I could also make the works fit my personality, but I believe the performer should not overshadow the composer’s voice, which also means the composer must have a voice.  Luckily, all of the composers who have submitted New Lullabies are alive and well, and willing to discuss and collaborate on their compositions.  Sometimes this means re-voicing chords, adding or subtracting a section on occasion a whole new lullaby.  Occasionally these discussions are heated with disagreements about notation or intent, but all of them are extremely fruitful for both parties, at least I hope!

Some of the New Lullabies require unusual scordatura (alternate) tunings of one or more strings on the guitar, which has made my ears and tuning flexibility improve greatly.  Most notably Shhh by Ryan Vigil (6-E-flat, 4-D-flat, 2-B-flat), Cradle Song by Kevin Siegfried (6-C#), Whispering into the night by Kathryn Salfelder (4- D#), Ed è Subito Sera by Ken Ueno (1- D ¼ sharp), and Sui-huo by Kota Nakamura (5-G).  On two occasions the performer is asked to hum, whistle or sing: Berceuse by David Vayo (all three) and Cancion de cuna by Hayg Boyadjian.  Whistling and playing is an endeavor the conservatory did not prepare me for!

My intent with the New Lullaby Project is to expand the repertoire of the guitar, create beautiful music that demonstrate the guitar’s versatility and natural gifts, that are also approachable by the general public.  On a professional level I also wish entice composers who are intimidated by the guitar and its idiosyncrasies, it’s not a piano, to write for it, for Who is Afraid of a Lullaby?   The first couple of composers to submit New Lullabies were actually guitarists who are composers, but only six of the 36 composers whose submissions have been premiered to date have a background in guitar.  I find this to be one of the greatest success of the New Lullaby Project.

I have received New Lullabies inspired by Adam & Eve’s first night of sleep (Lynn Job), a leaky roof (Jonathan Feist), a television gone to snow (Eric Schwartz), a Cheyenne lullaby (McDonald), a newborn child (Michael Veloso), death (Jacob Mashak) and even exhaustion (Patricia Julien).  There are 12-tone lullabies by Mashak and Julian, and contrapuntal lullabies by Leisner and Alan Fletcher.

One of the criticisms, besides lullabies are for kids, which is just not true, is that some of the lullabies are not what many consider music to fall asleep with.  I let each composer be inspired by the project in their own way.  Some saw the composition as representing the process of sleeping, others the transition from one world to another, others the desire for sleep and some a piece that one should not hear the end of as the listener is sleeping, and even one wondered if we, as society, deserved such a simple lullaby as Brahms wrote as are world has changed.  Also, not each dance composed in the 20th-21st century is meant to be danced to either:

In a New Hampshire high school

In a New Hampshire high school

One of the joys of the New Lullaby Project is that it has taken me into colleges and universities across the country to work with young composers on writing for guitar.  Residencies at University of Nevada Las Vegas, CSU Bakersfield, Wheaton College, The Boston Conservatory, Tufts University and Boston University have garnered over a dozen New Lullabies by composers who see the guitar as an important instrument in their music education and future professional careers.  As many can attest, this has not always been the case in music circles.  I do not take credit for this change, but I am happy to be a part of it.

New Lullaby Concert, 12/10/11, Francine Trester, Hayg Boyadjian, John McDonald, Martin Schreiner, Demetrius Spaneas, Patricia Julien and Jacob Mashak

New Lullaby Concert, 12/10/11, Francine Trester, Hayg Boyadjian, John McDonald, Martin Schreiner, Demetrius Spaneas, Patricia Julien and Jacob Mashak

One of my fondest memories of the last few years of concertizing and including New Lullabies in my programs is my December 2011 New Lullaby Project Premiere Concert in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the complete program featured New Lullaby submissions, and five of the 12 pieces performed were world premieres.  With many of the composers in attendance, it was a fascinating night of music.

In Littleton, New Hampshire in April 2011, the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire sponsored an early evening family program featuring my New Lullabies.  I arranged the program so that each half had 4 New Lullabies followed by a dance, where many of the participants actually got up and danced.  Over 50 Parents and kids of All-Ages (newborn through H.S.) came and packed the hall, with many of the young-ins in their pajamas.  With kids sitting just a bit away from my feet, I had a rapt audience like I had never experienced.  Milk and cookies were served and it was good.New Lullabies in Littleton, NH

The future of the New Lullaby Project is exciting!

In New Lullaby Project premiere queue:

  • Scott Scharf, Chicago
  • Colin Homiski, London/Boston
  • Frank Warren, Boston
  • Marc Giacone, Monaco
  • Anton Tanonov, St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Pamela Marshal, Boston
  • Ricardo Odriozola, Norway/Spain
  • Stanley Hoffman, Boston

A few of the New Lullabies are now published and available to the public.  Three of them by Jonathan Feist and Francine Trester were recently selected as required works by the MA-ASTA youth and senior division 2014 competition!

Plans are in the works for another CD of New Lullabies.

To ALL of those who have supported and participated in the New Lullaby Project, I thank you for making the last 7 years extremely satisfying and beautiful.  And to the MANY friends made through the sharing of music, I am eternally grateful for your trust and friendship.  I look forward to sharing more music with audiences, students and colleagues over the next 7 years.  Stay tuned!

Jonathan Feist & Aaron on Jonathan's pond

Jonathan Feist & Aaron on Jonathan’s pond

*A complete list of composers, reviews, videos and articles can be found at

Find the New Lullaby CD at:




Buy an autographed copy directly from the Artist: