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Performed by players from the Butler School of Music in Bates Recital Hall at the University of Texas – Austin


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“Every person has experienced grief. It is both a universal experience, and yet, so deeply unique and personal. The Heart of Grief is my own personal grappling with this duality and its seemingly unending cycle. I shaped The Heart of Grief around two basic ideas: the sound of a heartbeat and the cycle of grief. The heartbeat motif grew from a conversation with my friend, Rachael Forbes, about the loss of her mother. She mentioned that the one thing she missed the most after the passing of her mother was hearing her mom’s heartbeat. I took that idea of the heartbeat, and its subsequent disappearance, and made it the basis of the entire piece – writing it as both an actual heartbeat and a musical gesture that the instruments play.

I also shaped the piece around the Kubler-Ross grief cycle: Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. A basic truth about grief is that each person experiences these stages differently: some skipping stages, some stalling and repeating stages, or some only experiencing one profound stage. Dawn Ellis, who has been twice widowed, explained how the cycle of grief was both similar and starkly different the first and the second time. I wanted to write a piece that acknowledges how the cycle of grief varies from person to person and even from event to event. I wanted to capture the life-altering journey of grief and its painful yet poignant remembrance of those we love. To quote Rev. Richard Allen Farmer, ‘There are some griefs, some deaths rather, from which we never recover, and neither should we ever expect to. Some people leave a hole in your heart, and it’ll never be covered over.’

I want to thank Rachael Forbes, Dr. Dawn Ellis, and Rev. Richard Allen Farmer for letting me interview them and share their stories. Without them, The Heart of Grief would have never existed.”
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Duration – 20 minutes


Written as a Masters Thesis as partial fulfillment of a Master of Music at the University of Texas at Austin


Premiered on May 5, 2019 by players from the Butler School of Music in Bates Recital Hall in Austin, TX