A new premiere and a residency: Hendrix College, March 4-7

CW: suicidality, anti-trans violence (brief mentions). Hi, y’all! I hope you’re all doing well. Today, I’ve got exciting news: I’m doing my first residency this upcoming week! This project has been in the works literally since last June, and I’m so excited about the piece that’s come to life from it and everything I’m about to do in the next week. Instead of packing to get on a plane in a few hours, let me spend a little time telling you all about it:

I’m honored to be spending the next several days at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas collaborating with the Hendrix College Wind Ensemble. Under the baton of Gretchen Renshaw James, we will be preparing and presenting my newest work for grade 3.5-4 wind ensemble, The End of the World (I’m Not Dying). This piece represents not just a chance for me to step back on stage and share a new part of me but also a much-loved opportunity to collaborate with another queer musician and educator on a topic near and dear to both our hearts. When Gretchen and I first began discussing what we wanted in the work, we both wanted to dive into some aspect of existing while trans in our current timeline, but we also wanted to avoid the work becoming endlessly dark. We thought it was important to include something akin to a call to action or a light in the dark, and although y’all will have to be the judge, I think we’ve done both.

This week is going to be truly extraordinary. Not only am I working with the Wind Ensemble, I’ll also be visiting classes in the psychology, sociology, film studies, and music theory departments to talk about countless facets of my identity and art. I’ll be giving a public talk about how my identity interfaces with musical decisions I make on Tuesday, March 5, from 4:10-5pm in the Mills Building, Lecture Hall B. (I’d love to see you, if you’re local!) And the week will culminate in the concert, on Thursday, March 7, at 7:30pm Central. At this performance, we will also feature new visual works from student artists in Hendrix’s printmaking class, which are responsive to the themes and material in The End of the World (I’m Not Dying). And if you live close by (however you define that), the performance is free to attend! I’d love to see you there—please do feel free to stop by and say hello afterward. I’ll be wearing red.

If you live far away or can’t attend in person, the concert on Thursday night is also available to watch via live stream. Please tune in! This piece is deeply personal to me, and I know Gretchen and the musicians of the Wind Ensemble have been rehearsing it with such care. It’s going to be a wonderful performance that I’m endlessly glad to be a part of.

Watch the stream: https://bit.ly/NotDying0307

And in case you’re cisgender, reading this, and worried that the piece won’t speak to you or you won’t understand it, let me put your mind at ease. The End of the World (I’m Not Dying) is about the people I lean on when things get dark—the vast majority of whom are cisgender. Do I absolutely adore being in community with other trans folks? Yes! Am I excited to do some of that this week? Hell yeah! But in many facets of my life, most of my support systems are cis, just like you. And this piece is particularly inspired by my partners and a few specific close friends, none of whom (to my knowledge) are trans. I promise, this work will not go over your head.

If you’re trans and reading this, I know so many of us have incredibly limited access to vibrant trans communities in person. As people we thought we could depend on turn their backs on us, each of us are constantly evaluating who we can safely depend on. Regardless of whether the people in your inner circles are cis or cisn’t, I hope you’ll find something in this work that tugs at your heartstrings somewhere. So many of us have longed for just one person to stick with us long enough to keep us alive—and this piece is about that feeling.

All audiences should know that The End of the World (I’m Not Dying) carries content warnings for suicidality and anti-trans violence (which you also saw referenced at the top of this post). I do not explicitly talk about these things in the narration of the work; they are referenced through metaphors and descriptions of emotions. That said, please do whatever you need to take care of yourself should you choose to watch the live stream or attend the concert. Your wellbeing is the most important thing.

And, folks, if you’re in the band world and the piece speaks to you, I’ve got good news: you can take home your own copy of The End of the World (I’m Not Dying) just days after the premiere! It will be available for purchase beginning March 10, 2024. And from March 10 through April 30, you can take it home for 25% off, no coupon code required. I want to help get this on your ensemble’s stands as much as I can, because I think there are a lot of trans kids out there who need a little extra reminder that they’re loved.

In the words of Mercury Stardust: You are isolated, not alone. We’re out here. And for all those who walk this dark horizon: we’re looking for you, too. Just stay.

Thanks for reading! If you learned something from this post and would like to tip me, head on over to my Ko-fi page. For more analysis and commentary like this in your life, check back again soon, and consider subscribing to my mailing list (at the bottom of the page or in the sidebar) for quarterly update emails on my biggest projects. To support the long-term work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @honestlyeris on Instagram.