The Stars of November


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A powerful and emotional work for Bb Trumpet and piano.

It is dedicated to Jonathan Paul Bruce Yaskowich, who was diagnosed with Potter’s Syndrome while still in the womb and, heart-rendingly, came into this world stillborn. The piece explores the myriad of emotions that his parents felt during the time before his birth. The central musical mechanic is a repeating middle C, anchored between the treble and the bass clef; between two worlds, as it were.

It opens repetitively and consistently, emulating a heart monitor as clustered chords stack above and below, surrounding it. The first section moves into alternating 7/8 and 5/8, exploring the excitement and joy around welcoming a new life into the world. But, as the section continues, the music reflects that something is wrong, mingling between hope and dread.

As the rhythmic C returns, it becomes displaced in the beat and we get a better sense that the tragedy will be unavoidable. The section following begins to explore acceptance–not immediately, but over time. The last section is, unmistakably, about letting go.

On a personal note, this piece was written while my wife and I were expecting our second child, so as an expectant parent, there were some very difficult emotions to confront while composing. I remember communicating with Danielle, one of the commissioners and relative of Jonathan Yaskowich, near the middle of 2021 and she mentioned that it was around that time of the year that the family learned of Jonathan’s Potter’s Syndrome diagnosis, and that he was about the same age as my baby. There was a parallel timeline running in the calendar, as my daughter was born on October 29th, just a few days shy of November when Jonathan was born. Being a parent exposes you to all of these new parts of life that one previously hadn’t experienced before and emotions that weren’t previously available to you—emotions of all kinds and range, from the highest highs to the lowest lows. To live in the space of the darkest place a parent can imagine was outrageously difficult to say the least, but I could leave that place, whereas Jonathan’s parents could not—that was, and is, their lived reality. My heart breaks for them, so I feel grateful to contribute to their life, and to their child’s short life too, in the only way I know how: To share their story with music.


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