Before Keith Martinson started composing his first original score for the Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra, he dreamt of his dad telling him to go for his dreams. And in that dream, Martinson could see his vision taking flight.
His now-finished score, appropriately titled, "Dreams," is a 12-minute piece that includes three movements or parts. It will be performed for the first time Sunday, March 25, by the Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra at their concert in Alexandria.
"I was there for the first rehearsal and it is a feeling I will never forget. It was very special," he said, "It's like seeing your child for the first time. You've seen pictures on an ultrasound but then all of a sudden your child is there and it's real."
He then added with a hearty laugh, "The only thing different with this one (his original score) is it can be revised. Your child can't."
In April 2017, Martinson received word that he received a new music grant from the Lake Region Arts Council to compose his first original score that he would write specifically for the Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra to premiere.
"That started the clock ticking for me to get it done," said Martinson, knowing he was required to complete it by June of this year. Finishing ahead of schedule allowed the piece to be debuted earlier.
The theme of Sunday's concert is "music from the countryside" and features Swedish-themed pieces, he said.
"This was a good concert for my piece to fit in because I am from a rural area and I am Swedish," Martinson said with a little laugh.
Martinson lives in Alexandria with his wife, Jennifer, and their four boys, Judd, 18, Jeremiah, 15, Joseph, 11, and Jensen, 8. He is a composer, piano recording artist and music producer in his spare time and works full-time at Quick Attach in Alexandria. Since 2003, the 1991 Alexandria graduate has released five solo piano CDs.
The writing process
When Martinson recorded his solo albums, he said he "played music from his heart," and didn't physically write out any sheet music. However, because he had requests from the general public for sheet music, he ended up hiring someone to write a few for him.
"It is time-consuming to put your compositions on sheet music," he said.
When it came time to compose the score, Martinson not only had to write music for the piano, he had to write for all the instruments in the orchestra. In doing so, he turned to technology for help.
Using an app on his iPad, Martinson could create sheet music and scores for his compositions. Using a stylus - a pen-shaped instrument that is used on computer screens, mobile devices or tablets such as his iPad - he could draw the musical notes on the screen. The app would then convert his handwriting to printable notation.
Martinson was a beta tester for the app, Symphony Pro 5, which is now available to the public.
"This was my first project ever using an iPad for writing the music," he said.
He also did a lot of research on the various instruments in an orchestra to hear their sounds and know how they could enhance his piece.
"I had a piano-based melody, but it ended up taking on its own form," he said. "The biggest discovery was how fun it was to add the different instruments. But I had to know their parts and then write appropriately for those instruments."
After hearing the birds chirping outside, Martinson knew what sound he wanted to start his piece with, and after that, the idea in his mind transferred to his piano, then to the computer and finally ending up on his iPad.
When he heard the orchestra play it for the first time, he was surprised how close it sounded to the mockup.
"Pretty much what you write is what you get," he said. "But it just sounded more realistic hearing them play it."
A word - or two - of advice
During his formative years, Martinson had an assortment of teachers and family members who influenced him musically.
When he wanted to quit piano lessons in about fourth grade, his oldest brother, Calvin, advised him not to quit because he would regret it.
In middle school, his music teacher, Les Dehlin, inspired Martinson to develop an affinity and a talent for playing the piano. He remembers having the opportunity to play Chicago's hit from the 1980s, "You're the Inspiration," during a concert.
"I received positive feedback and really enjoyed it," he said.
Before starting his composition, Martinson reached out to one of his elementary teachers, Bob Iverson, who talked about musical contrast and themes. Martinson said he took Iverson's advice to heart.
Martinson also contacted his high school orchestra teacher, Dean Dainsberg, whose help with books on orchestration was invaluable. Other musical influences were instrumental in getting Martinson to where he is today, he said.
His parents, Marvin and DeLois - who were in a band, The Martinson Brothers, with his dad's brothers - have always been supportive of his music career. He was fortunate enough to record the band, with his mom on piano, in 2007, three years before she passed away.
"Music has always been a part of my life," he said. "I have had a lot of support to make me want to keep doing it. And I will be having a lot of family and friends attending this concert and it is so neat to have their support."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: "Symphony on the Countryside," a concert by The Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra
WHERE: The Performing Arts Center at Alexandria Area High School
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday, March 25
TICKETS: Available at Trumm Drug, Carlson Music Center, Cherry Street Books, Alexandria Community Education or at the door.