Describe your inspiration for composing the piece.
I'm a very introverted person, and when I was younger, I always found myself drawn more towards the company of animals rather than other people. I have always become very attached to every pet that I've ever adopted, and, honestly, to every animal I come in contact with. (I'm that weird guy that spends time with someone's dog or cat at a party rather than with people.) Because of the incredible bond that I've developed with my pets throughout my life, I've always had a tough time dealing with their deaths. For me, and for many other pet owners, losing a furry companion can feel equivalent to losing a loved one. The Bridge is my attempt to combine all of the feelings and emotions one would experience during the process of losing a pet: discontent, contemplation, and devastation. There are also moments of relief and positivity... the feelings that one would feel knowing that an older or sick pet is no longer suffering. Writing this piece was very therapeutic for me, as I wrote it throughout the mourning process.
What is the overall conception for the piece (for example, is it programmatic or abstract? Is there a specific formal structure, color, or musical device you employed?)
The Bridge is a programmatic piece based around the legend of The Rainbow Bridge. The Rainbow Bridge is a place in the afterlife where departed pets' health is restored as they await their owner's arrival. When the owner passes on, his faithful companion is said to be waiting for him at the Rainbow Bridge, and they cross over together. This piece covers everything from the moment the owner realizes his pet's time on Earth is coming to an end. In short, The Bridge follows this timeline (in the program notes, I refer to the pet as my first dog, Riley): the owner saying goodbye to his best friend, Riley passing away and then regaining his health at the Rainbow Bridge, the many years that follow, and the day the two are reunited and cross the bridge together.
What are some of the goals you strove to accomplish in writing the work?
I wanted to write a piece that not only helped me process the loss of a pet, but would help others through the process as well - either through performing the piece or by listening to it. I wrote it at a Grade 3-3.5 difficulty level because I wanted middle/high school level students to experience and project the emotions used throughout the piece. Yes, I could have had an easier time incorporating all of the emotions listed above into a more difficult piece, but thinking back to when I was in middle/high school, the emotions portrayed in this piece were very tough to process or talk about at that time. Hopefully students who have experienced loss can use this work as an outlet to help them through a tough time.
What do you hope your audience ultimately take away the most from hearing your work?
I hope that the audience is taken on a complex, emotional journey that ends with a feeling of optimism and peace. Everyone deals with loss in one way or another. I hope that listeners can empathize with the owner in this story - if not with his specific storyline, then at least with the array of his feelings that are portrayed as he deals with loss. I hope that they leave the performance with a positive outlook on life and death - and a greater appreciation for their furry friends!