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This can be viewed on YouTube -


Twisted Spruce Rag was composed in the summer of 2020 as part of the Twisted Spruce Symposium. Having registered as a composer for this symposium, I was randomly paired with an amazing young guitar virtuoso, Stephen Brew. As this was during the COVID 19 Pandemic, the symposium was held virtually with Zoom meetings. Stephen and I had never met and I live in Colorado; Stephen in New York.

The symposium composition competition was designed to promote a collaboration between the
composer and the guitarist to create an original guitar solo composition. Each pair was given four
weeks to complete the task and submit their final score. Then the guitarist had four weeks to prepare and submit a video of their performance of the piece.

Upon being informed of our pairing, Stephen and I discussed (on the telephone) our musical interests and decided to watch samples of each other’s YouTube videos. We could thus find some mutual area of interest – to select a style or genre for the piece we were about to create. I had just completed recording two videos of guitar solos I had composed in Scott Joplin style, which I was about to upload to my YouTube channel. When I watched Stephen’s video of his guitar quartet arrangement of “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin, it became clear to me where our common ground lay. During our next phone conversation we talked about our mutual interest in 19th and early 20th century American music – Scott Joplin in particular. I was quite impressed with Stephen’s tasteful and interesting arrangement style, including the level of virtuosity he infused into his arrangements, and capably performed in his videos. His “Civil War Suite for Classical Guitar”, in particular, made me realize how fortunate I was to be paired with Stephen.

So it was decided; I would write another original guitar solo in Scott Joplin style. Stephen would then process it through the “Brew Blender” incorporating his arrangement style into whatever I created. Realizing that this was a competition with some very capable participants, I made a conscious effort to write a demanding piece to show off Stephen’s virtuosity. In every section, he would take what I created and elevate it far beyond my expectations. What I envisioned was a piano piece in the style that Scott Joplin would have written. Stephen took it one step further to become what a banjo playerof that era might have done with a Scott Joplin tune.

This was the stage for the construction of Twisted Spruce Rag where Stephen and I were in almost
daily communication via telephone and e-mail. We submitted our final score at the very end,
meeting the deadline after a very busy four weeks. Then Stephen worked even harder for the next
four weeks to master the very demanding piece that we created, and record the video to submit for
the competition.


In the end, we were honored to receive the 2020 Collaboration Prize by the prestigious panel of

Twisted Spruce Rag by Jim Bosse and Steve Brew

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