About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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Soloists are dangerous in any church choir! Their voices frequently do not blend with those of the other singers to form a rich, integrated tone.
— Roger Wagner

Why I No Longer Compose
published 28 August 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski

914 Naive ROM TIME TO TIME, friends inquire why I no longer compose substantial vocal works. When I say “substantial,” I mean lengthy pieces for advanced choirs.

Once upon a time, I did write such pieces, and they were occasionally performed by serious ensembles (e.g. the Philadelphia Singers). There are actually a number of reasons I could give, but one is preëminent: I realized I cannot compete on the level of the true masters.

Yet, it’s always fun to discover early works. I recently came across an SATB version of the Veni Creator Spiritus, written for one of my composition classes. Some fellow students recorded it with me:

      * *  Veni Creator Spiritus — Jeff Ostrowski (early 2000s)

The piece certainly leaves a lot to be desired, but I have a confession to make. I actually enjoy the section midway through, starting at “Imple superna gratia.”

THE TRUE MASTERS OF THE PAST are known to all serious musicians: Morales, Victoria, Marenzio, Bach, and so on. With regard to the present, there are still true masters among us. Kevin Allen & Melanie Hadley Lina come immediately to mind.

Anton Rubinstein once said to the young Josef Hofmann: 1

            “Let those who wish to play on my level do so … if they can.”

To the masters living today, I say: “If you can survive in such an environment … do so.”   However, I don’t see myself joining that club anytime soon because—as I’ve already explained—there’s too much I lack.

I struggle mightily to comprehend the exceedingly transitory nature of our modern lives. “Here today, gone tomorrow” seems to describe perfectly the ephemeral world of 2014. When I observe our beautiful children, I realize that God is, indeed, the True Artist.


1   Hofmann was possibly the world’s greatest child prodigy, up there with Felix Mendelssohn & Camille Saint-Saëns.   Speaking of Hofmann, I find this 2008 exam—from one of my high school students—extremely interesting!   Do you see why I say this?