When I joined the Kent State faculty in 2018, I already knew saxophonist Noa Even, who was on faculty at the time, and we began to discuss the idea of my writing her a concerto for saxophone and wind ensemble. We were quickly approaching the 50th anniversary of the Kent State Shootings, THE defining event from KSU’s history, and a painful and important collective memory in our country’s history. As such, I decided to write a concerto that would be dedicated to the victims of the shooting.
My concerto, entitled For Those Who Fell, is programmatic, and tells an imagined version of the events of that day, with the soloist acting as a leader of student protestors. The piece is in five main sections that seamlessly from one into the next: Introduction, Gathering Energy, Energy of Protest, Shots Ring Out in Slow Motion, and Elegy. The piece begins with a single note in the saxophone and monolithic chords in the ensemble, sounding a call for protest. Through “Gathering Energy,” the piece’s harmonies begin to move and the soloist plays melodic figuration in anticipation of protest. “Energy of Protest” is the longest section in the work and drives rhythmically towards the moment when the National Guard shoots into the crowd of students, killing four and injuring nine others. With “Shots Ring Out in Slow Motion” time suddenly slows, zooming into this traumatic memory and witnessing the shooting. Finally, the piece ends with a bittersweet elegy, during which four members of the ensemble stand and speak the names of the dead.