Welcome to the official website of pianist and composer Deanna Witkowski.

Deanna cover photo for Raindrop (no text)

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End of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop???

BMI program cover from last year's JCW concert.

BMI program cover from last year’s JCW concert. This year’s final concert is on June 25 at 7:30 pm (see calendar for details).

**June 12 update:
Yesterday morning, I visited BMI’s New York offices with one other representative from the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. We hand-delivered our petition- with over 1000 of your signatures- at a sit down meeting with Patrick Cook and Charlie Feldman.   I am happy to report that both Mr. Cook and Mr. Feldman made it clear that both the band members and the workshop composers will stay intact for the fall. There is no interest in disbanding the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra. Furthermore, the workshop’s focus on big band writing will continue as such for at least the next two years.

We are also working to foster an ongoing relationship between the workshop/band members and BMI that has just begun in earnest with this first meeting. Thank you for helping us to get to this point.

Finally, if you are in the greater New York area, you are warmly invited to attend the 27th annual BMI Jazz Composers Workshop concert on Thurs, June 25 at 7:30 pm at Christ and St. Stephen’s Church, 120 West 69th Street. Admission is free, and we are especially encouraging students and young musicians to attend.

With thanks,
Deanna Witkowski

Pianist, BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra

**June 1 update from Charlie Feldman, VP of Writer/Publisher Relations in New York, follows this post.

This past week held some difficult news for the composers and band members of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop and its corresponding reading big band, the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra (to cut to the chase for the news, click here). As with all things musical and communal, a written description cannot do justice to what the workshop truly provides, but for those who aren’t familiar with the BMI/JCW, a brief description is available here.

I have been the pianist in the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra since 2006, and was a composer member in the “B” group from 2003-2005. The “A” and “B” groups alternate weeks for nine months, usually meeting with musical director Jim McNeely or associate musical director, Mike Holober. Once per month, the jazz orchestra sight-reads the new material, providing an opportunity for the composers to try out their ideas.

All of us in the orchestra provide our services free of charge (which should tell you something: we want to be there!), except for one week each June, when we rehearse 8-10 pieces for an annual showcase concert, and are paid a stipend. Each concert includes works that are selected to be in competition for the BMI/Charlie Parker composition competition. The winner receives the Manny Albam commission to write a piece for the band, to be performed at the following year’s concert.

That’s the bare-bones skeleton.

Erica Seguine conducting the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra in 2014.

Erica Seguine conducting the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra in 2014. Click on the photo to hear her piece, “…And the Tire Swing Keeps Swinging…”

What I can’t adequately describe is how this workshop has provided a unique opportunity for composers to not only study- for no charge- with some of the best big band composers in the world and to hear their music played by some of the top musicians in New York, but how it has created an irreplaceable community. Many of us in the band have met composers who have hired us to play in their own bands. Many of the composers have formed their own big bands (not a small feat!) because they realized, partially due to the generosity of the band members, that they could actually do so. Composers, who often work in isolation, have found like-minded writers who can offer their own feedback; players enjoy the monthly challenge of reading new music and of hearing what the composers are writing.

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