November 19, 2019

Sonar's Riddle - In Memory of Dr. Daniel Ross - for Unaccompanied Oboe o...

For about a year back in the early/mid 1990's, I played bassoon in the Arkansas State University Wind Ensemble, Orchestra, and the double reed studio. The exact year escapes me, as most dates do. This escapade was at the behest of then Director of Bands Tom O'Neal, who convinced me to fill in a much needed vacancy in the bassoon section. It was during this time that I came to know Dan Ross.

Oh, I knew Dr. Ross from my previous years as a student at ASU, but I was a saxophone-playing music education major, and only knew him as that weird guy that buzzes around the halls like an airplane. And oh yeah, he's the oboe teacher, right?

After joining the double reed studio, I came to know Dr. Ross more closely, and I can honestly say that I am a better musician and human being for the experience. Regarding musicianship, Dr. Ross taught me that all the finger-wiggling in the world wouldn't make me a successful performer. Now mind you, the fingers have to wiggle at all the right moments, but that's just the beginning of what will become music. In order to cross the threshold from being just sound to becoming something worthy to be called music, the vital ingredient is heart.

Much the same can be said concerning becoming a better human being, as well. See, for Dr. Ross (and no, I really can't bring myself to call him by his first name - out of respect), being a musician was an extension of being human. Any emotion which you wish to produce in your music must first be found within your own heart. Hence, a musician capable of evoking strong emotions must be a person of great character.


All these and more must spring forth from the heart. Mastery of an instrument is, admittedly, a technical art. One might call it a science, for certainly any number of factors affect the acoustical properties of your instrument. Moisture, temperature, humidity, the condition of your lungs, and even the very precise lengths of the tubes of your instrument all contribute to making a good sound. 

And don't forget the reed.

Dear Lord.... reeds!

Dr. Ross was also known for making these really cool machines that helped us make our own reeds. If you're not familiar with what a reed is, it's a little piece of bamboo that you strap onto a mouthpiece and blow into in order to produce a sound. Well, that's for saxophones and clarinets. For oboes and bassoons, you have a double reed, which is two pieces of bamboo slapped together, and producing at least four times the heartache as a single reed.

But I digress.

Dan Ross excelled in all things musical, but more importantly, he was an excellent man. He may well be remembered as a great musician, a great performer and teacher, or as an innovator in the art of reed making. But his true legacy lies in the hearts that he touched and the lives that he molded.

I count myself fortunate to have been one of the many.


The sheet music for this piece will be available soon at

July 18, 2019

Formless and Empty: Genesis Meets Science Part 3

I’ve written before about how science and Genesis 1:1 tell the same story of the beginning of the universe. Regarding the very first moment of time, the Biblical account of creation and the big bang model of the universe share many striking similarities. But what comes next? Do the stories continue to agree, or do they part ways?

The answer may surprise you.

For this article, let’s focus our efforts on the following verse:

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
~Genesis 1:2 (KJV)

When we read this passage, most Christians are probably going to visualize something like a world completely covered by oceans, partly because “the deep” is a common term that we use in order to avoid repeating boring words like ocean or sea or water (because one can never have too many words which describe the same thing), and partly because we know that subsequent verses mention the waters being separated by dry land.

But that mental image is wrong on many levels.

July 8, 2019

It's About Time: Creation and the Theory of Relativity

We know that 60 seconds make up a minute, 60 minutes make up an hour, there are 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, and so on. Humans are obsessed with time. We celebrate the passage of it with anniversaries and birthdays, we plan our waking activities around it, and we build clocks of all different shapes and sizes, from Stonehenge to cuckoo clocks to building sized monuments like Big Ben, to smart watches synchronized automatically by your cellular network to super-precise atomic clocks.

Peter Cetera, in a song by his band, Chicago, famously asked, Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is? As it turns out, that question may be a lot harder to answer than you think.