Our community is always at the heart of the Flat project. In order to inspire you to create and get out of your comfort zone, one thing we’ve done this year is to start hosting our monthly challenges. And so far it's been amazing! Every month we have new users joining the contest and the scores you create never stop surprising us.
Last month, the theme was ''Make us dance''. The winning piece is a very special one, and we decided to interview the composer to share his story with you. Two-time challenge winner Thomas Bozarth is a 48-year-old pianist and father of two lovely kids. Music has been part of his life since he was 4 years old. Inspired by his family and church keyboardist, Thomas started studying piano at 6 and never stopped. Over time, church, classical and romantic music became his passion
As I studied piano, I discovered I had a desire for improvisation and composing, but didn’t really do that much of either until later in life. Piano opened doors for many opportunities for me along the way. I spent time in high school, college, and as an adult as an accompanist. For 8 years from 2006-2014, I was the keyboardist and praise team leader for our church. A few of my pieces on Flat come from improvisations I performed at church during those years.
Besides the piano, he plays the guitar, the violin, and has sung as a tenor in a choir on many occasions.
As for many of us, the pandemic was a milestone in Thomas' life.
A new era in music began for me a little more than 2 years ago during the height of COVID. I purchased a new digital keyboard (Yamaha CSP-170) in August 2020 and began recording a lot of improvisation work, which I would upload into YouTube videos.
Check out his profile on Youtube. Don't forget to subscribe to show your support 😉.
In April 2021, he discovered Flat and began an extensive period of composing and improvisation which continues today, to the joy of all of us who love Thomas's music.
Today more than ever, I am doing improvisation and composing and enjoying every minute of it.
Thomas mentioned that his compositions tend to fall into two main categories. One is the transcription of his improvisation work. His favorite improvisational work is “Composition in B Minor”:
The other is free composing with no prior improvising. His favorite free composition is “The Music Box”, which was runner-up in the August 2022 Challenge (it came in second place by only one point!):
I find it very interesting that Thomas uses different methods to compose, especially since diversity is what makes us expand our horizons as artists.
The beauty of both is the immense amount of creativity that I get to exercise and frequently surprise and delight myself and others.
As I mentioned before, Thomas has won 2 challenges.
I used a very similar approach to both songs. I determined the sound I wanted the piece to have and listened to similar music to pick out the voices I wanted.
In June he won with the piece "The Planete Sauvage Blues":
This was not an easy challenge! The participants had to compose using Alain Goraguer’s style while keeping it original. In other words, they had to learn how to compose like someone else and then make it their own. Thomas totally made it!
I had a melody in mind from a song I had written previously on Flat. I went about building the song around the instruments I chose, doing a LOT of experimenting with different types of passages, especially the “solo” parts for the vibraphone and sax.
He won again last month with his piece "Lights out Samba'':
I didn’t have a melody in mind but was focused more on the percussion. The song builds the rhythm section piece by piece before starting with the bass, piano, and piccolo.
We were very impressed with this submission since samba is not an easy genre!
I heard the opening song from the movie “Rio” (Real in Rio) and immediately thought samba might be something fun and different. I started watching a bunch of videos on YouTube to get some ideas for the sound and to try to pick up on some of the rhythms. Samba is fun and energetic to listen to and was a blast to write a piece in.
I can find between the lines a great tip for composing outside of what we normally do: listen to a lot of music! Not just for enjoyment, but to listen with curiosity and attention (you will learn a lot, trust me).
To conclude, we asked Thomas if he had advice for composers joining the challenges and this was his answer:
The first piece of advice I would give anyone is to not be overwhelmed by what other people are doing. I read comments from people who look at others’ music and say “my piece would definitely not win or even place compared to this” and get discouraged. Be confident in your ideas and be willing to pursue them and see them through to the finish.
Thank you, Thomas, for your time and your amazing art!
See you next time,