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State College, PA

(814) 867-9935

Rick Hirsch is a nationally-known composer, arranger and jazz educator living in State College, PA. Check out his music, book a live jazz band in Central Pennsylvania.

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News

Blue Band holidays

Rick Hirsch

Last Saturday (Nov. 24, 2018) marked the Penn State Blue Band’s final halftime show of the regular season. In the rain/sleet they performed three brand-new arrangements of mine:

  • Carol of the Bells (a la DCI!)

  • All I Want for Christmas (a la Big 10 dance feature)

  • Auld Lang Syne (a la too much champagne / Second Line vibe)

They’re standing still due to the field conditions (rain/sleet).

Tango time

Rick Hirsch

I just stumbled across a couple videos that made my day. Both are performances by high school jazz bands of Tonight, We Tango.

The first one features tango dancers (students and faculty!!) and the second features a soloist playing the accordion part on melodica, which sounds fantastic.

Sincere thanks to these bands and the many others who’ve embraced the joy of the Tango.

Arroyo High School Knights Jazz Band performs "Tonight, We Tango" at "2018 Spring Spectacular", Featuring Arroyo Dance Department.

Arlington Jazz Machine plays Tonight, We Tango.

PSU Halftime 9/1

Rick Hirsch

Here’s the first halftime show of the year from the Penn State Blue Band. They did a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald.

For this show I arranged Summertime (show opener) and It Don’t Mean a Thing (closer). In the middle is a smokin’ arrangement of That Old Black Magic that has been in their library for years.

Enjoy!

Small Town, Big Dreams premier

Rick Hirsch

One week from tonight the Hollidaysburg Area HS Music Department will be premiering Small Town, Big Dreams. This brand-new 7-movement suite was the result of a 3-year commission/residency.

Read this nice article about this project in the Altoona Mirror.

Here's the program:

  1. The Old Chief's Lookout—jazz ensemble
  2. Flying (from the Land of Bondage)—choir
  3. The Water Road—jazz ensemble
  4. New Dog in Town—jazz ensemble
  5. Paranormal Paso Doble—flute + rhythm section
  6. Industry in Motion—string orchestra
  7. Dream Big—all ensembles together!

The concert is free and open to the public:

Thursday, March 8, 2018 • 7pm • Hollidaysburg Area HS • Hollidaysburg, PA

Stretching oneself

Rick Hirsch

I recently completed a 7-movement commission for Hollidaysburg Area High School's music department. This suite is anchored by 4 jazz ensemble pieces, with 3 pieces for other ensembles between the jazz band movements.

These three other ensembles are (1) chamber string orchestra (2) SATB chamber choir and (3) flute + rhythm section a la Claude Bolling jazz suites.

This was my first opportunity to write for SATB choir. And only my second opportunity to write for string orchestra. Where to begin?

I've been at this long enough to have learned a couple things:

  • Make sure the music is playable by the musicians for whom I'm writing.
  • Music that is idiomatic for the instruments is more likely to be played better.
  • Know the cash register of each instrument or voice, and use it.

But, there were many things I didn't know about writing for a choir, because (1) I had never done it before and (2) I had never sung in one.

So I called up a couple friends who are choir teachers and picked their brains, asking questions like:

  • What makes a choir piece really singable?
  • What are common stumbling blocks and should be avoided?
  • What are some of the things that make a good choir piece sound good?
  • What are your favorite choir pieces written at this grade level? Why?

I did similar research for the strings, though I didn't have to ask quite as many questions since I had been through this before.

I borrowed a couple scores, reread the germane part of Don Sebesky's great book, and hoped for the best. And, I think they turned out pretty well.

If you'd like to listen to these pieces, you can download the scores and listen to the Finale All-Stars' performances below.

 

Choir:  Flying (from the Land of Bondage)

 

Orchestra:  Blair County Hoedown

 

Flute + Rhythm Section:  Paranormal Paso Doble

Hirsch down under

Rick Hirsch

I just received these videos from the fantastic Sydney Jazz Orchestra (Australia). The SJO is fronted by the wonderful saxophonist Tim Oram, who is also an exceptional writer in his own right.

Here are their recent performances of my arrangements of Silent Night and Christmas Time is Here.

By the way, I get a kick out of seeing band members playing a Christmastime gig in short sleeve shirts. ;-)

Silent Night

Christmas Time is Here

 

And while we're at it, here's a performance of Catch Me if You Can! from a few months ago. How about that for sight-reading? Great band.

Catch Me if You Can!

Half-off-Hanukkah sale

Rick Hirsch

2017 has been a challenging year for my family, but there were many bright spots as well, not the least of which was our youngest daughter's bat mitzvah. (Another bright spot is that this year is almost over!)

I am writing this post to thank you for your continued support and interest in the music I write. It really means a lot to me when I find other musicians getting a kick out of performing this music. And the significant growth I have seen in sales from my sheet music catalog (HirschMusic Publications) has also been comforting in a more tangible sense.

So, to mark the end of 2017 and offer a gesture of thanks, I am holding a Half-Off-Hanukkah (or, Chalf-off-Chanukkahsale. (info here)

For each of the next 8 days I will offer something different from my catalog for 1/2 price. It could be a single chart one day, perhaps an entire category of music the next. Basically, 8 consecutive 1-day sales.

Check out the sale(s) here

I wish you good health, peace, and prosperity.