Revisiting David Bell

I recently interviewed David Bell again for a new book of poetry for adults that I’m completing. I found the interview below as moving now as when I first read it. In the New Year, may we all, to use David’s words, express our imagination more completely.

David Bell1. How did your interest in music begin?
I don’t remember that my interest in music ever began, it just always seemed to be there. As a kid I would make up little songs on the piano and sing in choir, and later in grade school I played the trumpet. But, looking back on it, music seemed more like something diverting or amusing, like just another toy to be played with for a while. There was a moment in 8th grade when I was playing in band and we were just playing, not rehearsing or worrying about rhythms or notes but just playing, and that was the first time that I was exhilarated by music. Then in high school I discovered “Classical” music and I was hooked.

2. Why?
I had been exposed to Classical music before, going to occasional concerts and hearing it on the radio or tv, but sometimes things come into your life when they are supposed to. A teacher in high school gave me a recording of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and I was thunderstruck by its combination of power and grace; it was so energetic and dramatic (much like the hard rock I was into at the time) but it also had these wonderful moments of quiet simplicity and depth. I discovered just how much expressive power music had listening to that work for the first time and I knew then I wanted to create music like that; that passionate and expressive and communicative.

3. Have you always thought of yourself as creative?
I never had that word for it, and even now creative makes me slightly uncomfortable because it has connotations beyond simply “creating something”. But I always knew that the way I looked at the world and the way I expressed myself was slightly different than the way others did and it took me a long time to accept that that was ok. I think that difference was that I had a little more imagination, or perhaps that I indulged my imagination more than others did, and I expressed my imagination more completely.

4. What were key challenges to becoming a composer?
My biggest challenge was, and remains, overcoming my fear that my music wasn’t (isn’t) good enough. For me, writing music is expressing a piece of my soul and an intimate act that is exposing a part of who I am. But there’s an equally important piece that’s about sharing it with others, which is scary because it invites judgement and criticism not only about the work but also about me. It’s rewarding in so many ways, but it is a challenge.

Cover page

Title page from David’s composition. (Click to see larger image.)

5. Are you a reader? If yes, is there a connection between your reading and composing?
I have always been an avid reader; it’s probably easier to list the categories I don’t generally read than all those I enjoy. There’s a huge connection between my reading and my music! For works that are set to words, the connection is more obvious in that the text is either the inspiration for the music (as in the case of Adobe Odes) or influences the expression of the initial musical idea. For other works, the creation of a consistent yet diverse sound world, large or small, or the use of a specific stylistic language, or the expression of a scene musically all come to me through ideas I pick up from reading. Language and music are similar in many ways, especially how deeply they can both express emotions, ideas, stories, and our shared humanity (although perhaps music has an edge there!).

6. You are also a choir director. What do you most enjoy about that role?
What I like best about directing a choir is the collaboration between myself and the singers to make the music come alive. I like taking what’s written on the page and creating a shared experience for the singers and eventually also for the audience where everyone is part of something much larger than themselves.

7. What is your favorite time of day?
My favorite time of day begins before dawn, when the stars are still out and everything is silent and still. Then, as light gradually creeps into the darkness the silence is also gradually interrupted by birds, insects, and whatever else is waking up. The world gets lighter and louder until the sun kisses the horizon. Alas, I don’t often get to experience my favorite time of day with evening rehearsals and such, but it’s a real treat when I do.

8. What are you working on now?
Currently I’m working on a few different projects: a violin and viola duet based on a friend’s novel, a cuatro (Puerto Rican folk instrument similar to a guitar) chamber piece with two violins and cello, a commission for a choral piece, and a commission for a Native American flute piece.

You can find out more about David at his website.

Listen to David’s composition “Ode to Tea:”

Apply now for an ALSC Día Mini-grant

Have you already started planning for your big Día Turns 20 Celebration? The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) will give 20 libraries $2,000 each to help support their Día celebrations this year. These mini-grants are made possible by a generous donation from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. ALSC members in public libraries within 20 miles of a Dollar General retail or corporate location are welcome to apply. Start thinking about how your library would like to celebrate 20 years of connecting children with diverse books and apply now!
Dia turns 20

Special Videos to Celebrate Día’s 20th Anniversary

We are excited to share these wonderful short Día video spots created by Día Dynamos Christy Vasquez, a retired librarian and Thom Eberhardt, a retired screenwriter. As Sky City Productions, they created and filmed these spots to assist in promoting Día’s 20th Anniversary nationally. How generous of them to donate their creative talents for all of us to share!

We hope libraries, schools, universities, literacy organizations, and all who wish to promote Día in 2016 will post these videos on social media, showcase them on your website and share them with patrons, students and families.

How to share these videos:
Click the central arrow to start playing the video, and then click on the YouTube video in the lower right. The video will open up on our YouTube channel. Beneath the video, you can:

  • Click “Share” to get a direct link you can copy and paste into an email or web page.
  • Click “Embed” to copy code that you can paste into a website that will embed the video on that site (like we have done on this page.)
  • Click “Email” to have YouTube send the video to your recipient(s).

Please note:
The above videos are meant for use with websites and presentations. They are not broadcast standard. If you would like to submit any of these videos to a broadcast outlet, you can download a broadcast-compliant video.

CSMCL invites Día grant applications

Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature (CSMCL) is an organization advocating for multicultural children’s literature which includes librarians, teachers, parents, caregivers, students, and experts in the field of children’s literature. CSMCL will award a $500.00 grant in selected multicultural children’s books to your library that serve children and their families who are having a Día library program, El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) with an African American Focus. The Día event must be held on or about April 30, 2016. Download more information and the application.

Reflections for 2016

In the Coming Year, Let’s…

Nurture our creative selves.

Cherish family and friends, laughing with them often.

Savor and share the earth’s beauty, the wealth of diverse cultures and languages, the wonder of art, and bookjoy.

Participate in growing a nation of readers since literacy is essential in a democracy.

Affirm the importance of meaningful, life-long education for all that enriches our lives and society, learning-communities of equals committed to reflection and responsible action.

Lead boldly advocating that equality always be linked to group inclusivity, the transformative power of our humanity.

Collaborate creatively with those who share our goals and values, rejecting negativity and cynicism, inspired and sustained by optimism, celebrating our successes.
Love our work, welcoming ideas, insights and strategies that deepen our full selves.

Prioritize regularly to invest our unique energy wisely.

Heed the wise who awaken our sluggish selves.

Practice gratitude, hope and faith daily.

Strive to be healthy in spirit, mind and body.

Download the poster.
In the coming year, let's...