Make a Ruckus

In which nice and pretty and accessible are none of the words with which to describe Daniel Wolfert.


To my dear reader,

Introducing the eponymous musical piece on my March 2016 composition recital RUCKUS: A Recital of New Music by Daniel Wolfert, I forewarned the audience that it might be unappealing to some. The piece, I told them, was long-winded, confusing, and oftentimes purposefully ugly. The piece, I told them, was not nice or pretty or accessible. The important thing to remember, I told them, was that I wasn’t there to be nice or pretty or accessible. I was there to make a ruckus.

Walking away from my last concert with the Adelphians Concert Choir – the mixed voice musical ensemble I have been a part of since the beginning of college – I cannot help but feel relieved to never have to sing in it again, but also unsurprisingly dissatisfied. Looking back on my time here, I cannot help but feel that my successes – among them, my recital itself – have primarily been unrelated to, or even in spite of, the School of Music.

I spent the first two years of college studying with a voice teacher that was widely disrespected by the other students, and was responsible for teaching me so ineptly that I was in almost constant pain from singing by the end of my sophomore year. When I finally informed the head of the vocal department of this, she kindly moved me to a better teacher for the first semester of my junior year. The next semester, however, that teacher was on sabbatical, to be replaced by an old-fashioned vocal professor that clearly considered me a second-tier vocalist. Although that teacher left and the second teacher returned for my senior year, this still only gave me three semesters with someone that had any interest in me and my voice. I am leaving college feeling exhausted and insecure in my own vocal abilities.

I’ve spent the past five semesters studying composition with a teacher that taught me well, but due to the design of the school, was unable to give me the opportunities a school that catered to composers might. He certainly meant for the best, but the response from the school concerning my compositions was one of general disinterest. In spite of the fact that I was one of the few students in the School of Music creating contemporary classical music, I was not given particular interest or time by the students or faculty, and have never received any sort of recognition for my contributions in this regard. I am leaving college feeling disregarded and unappreciated.

Perhaps this is a question of games. Belligerent and irascible child I am, I have never felt I have succeeded in the School of Music because I have little interest in playing by their rules. Do not misunderstand; I have learned a great deal from the School of Music. But if this is the game, I have no desire to play it.

I am not here to play games. I am only here to win them.

I am not here to make nice. I am only here to make a ruckus.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Bit by Bit Putting it Together

For the first time in a long time, Thanksgiving break offered an uninterrupted half week of free time. I used a lot of it to revisit some musicals I hadn’t worked on in a while. I submitted my first musical, a couple years old now, to a festival and will hear back about it during winter break. But I also made progress on a short musical now almost three years in the making.

For a bit of background, I composed a ninety-minute musical in high school with my brother, which I was lucky enough to see performed as a staged reading. We started collaborating on another musical after that which was going to be full length but we trimmed it to a short, basically sung-through musical in keeping with my brother’s one-act play on which it is based.

I wrote many of the songs my freshman year of college and continued to add and tweak them basically until now. To perform it, the show would have to be scored or recorded somehow, and I didn’t have time to assemble another full piano vocal score like I did for the first one (while certainly an experience, it is extremely time consuming). So this time, I decided to look into some digital recording, which would not only handle a lot of the scoring for me but would also allow me to quickly orchestrate the piece for more than just piano.

I’d forgotten how entertaining digital recording is. In fact, I got so wrapped up in marveling at what my computer instruments could do that I quickly went  too far and produced some very complicated orchestrations. They say less is more with most orchestrations, but each song was a tad fast and a tad too dramatic, especially compared to most other arrangements I’ve heard. Of course, the anecdotal feedback I’ve received on my music is that my songs are already very energetic pieces and I need some mellower ones. What can I say – I’m a sucker for drama.

In any case, they made for some rather entertaining demo tracks, and since they’re just song demos, I’ll have plenty of time to polish them. At least I have started recording my second show. And even though I hadn’t composed anything new in a while, I was quickly getting accustomed to the formerly mysterious world of computer orchestration.

Then, just as I thought I had no more song ideas, a flurry came to me out of nowhere. That’s not entirely true – I’d been working on a ten-minute musical but hadn’t figured out how to put it together, and finally I came up with an outline for several different songs and an opening number. I guess hearing some new instruments and sounds was enough to get back into the swing of composing again.