Karen A. Tarlow

Toccata Prestidigita (“Fast Fingers”) was originally commissioned by and written for pianist Monica Jakuc Leverett in 1996, with a performing edition finalized in 1998. For this PARMA recording, Toccata is dynamically and excitingly performed by the wonderful pianist Randall Hodgkinson. The approximately seven minute work features traditional Baroque techniques such as quick motor rhythms, invertible counterpoint, and chord patterns. Some more modern elements include a touch of blues, rubato, ragtime syncopations and jazz chord timbres, along with a nod of homage to George Gershwin, all in a broadly suggested sonata form. — Karen A Tarlow


Chen-Hsin Su

Caprice - Hesitation is a melodic and virtuosic piece for piano, in which the original theme is developed in an imaginative manner, interspersed with contrasting themes. The original theme is reproduced and reinforced by chords, and ends with space for imagination. — Chen-Hsin Su


John Craven

Turning Up The Heat was first composed in 1999, and has since been revised in 2003, 2008 and in 2020. On the one hand, it is a musical composition that consists of lighthearted playfulness with occasionally mounting dramatic moments. Freer, relaxed ideas can give way to brief bursts of acceleration and drama. Further, sometimes there are elements of jazz combined with pointillistic effects and crisscrossing arpeggios. The larger structure consists of a loose sonata form, (A-B-A´ plus coda) that is pulled by tonal and modal harmonic shifts.


Over the years I have found it puzzling to decipher the meaning of the title and its relationship to the composition. I ask myself: “Turning up the heat” is said often in modern day speech, but what does it mean in relation to the piece? I first thought that perhaps I meant for the title to have little meaning. The title simply came to me. Does the title match the piece? Perhaps Turning Up the Heat can have whatever meaning a listener wants to attribute to it. In fact, perhaps it tells a story that can be different in scope for each listener or performer. — John Craven


Gordon Monahan

Turkey Track Horizon utilizes the piano as a sculpture of sound and space, and thus musical landscape, constructing a lyrical and sculptural musical structure by delineating the high, middle and low registers of the piano in both time and space. Thus, the high register is used as an isolated melodic instrument, followed by layered canonic note sequences revealing emerging harmonies that eventually lead to a climactic “downbeat” in the last part of the piece. The overall form of the piece is based on a conceptual abstraction of a syncopated “funk” rhythm, extrapolated to an elongated time-based framework: withholding the metaphorical “downbeat” until the ultimate “four, and,” but the “downbeat,” represented by the low register bass notes of the piano, does not arrive until the last quarter of the entire eight-minute duration of the piece. In this sense, the piano’s low register is used as a sculptural, spatial, and harmonic metaphor for the “rhythmic downbeat” of the entire piece.


Turkey Track Horizon is named for a cowboy history relating to the village of Val Marie, Saskatchewan and the neighboring Grasslands National Park, which was the location of a dance production for which the piece was composed – Bill Coleman’s “Grasslands – Where Heaven meets Earth” (2004). Val Marie lies on the Saskatchewan side of the U.S. border, north of the state of Montana, and was historically the Canadian town serving as a destination for the Great Western Trail of the 19th century, where cowboys drove their cattle from Mexico through Texas, Wyoming and other western states selling the cattle along the way. Heads of cattle were acquired for the cattle drive at the Turkey Track Ranch in the Texas Panhandle, and ranches in southern Saskatchewan are named to commemorate the lore of Turkey Track. — Gordon Monahan


Ron Nagorcka


This piece was commissioned by Shirley West who was inspired by a bible verse:


In the midst of the street of it and on either side of the river, was there the Tree of Life which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month, and the leaves of the Tree were for the healing of the nations." Revelation 22:2


Shirley also sent me a picture of leaves depicted on the front cover of the piece’s score "as they are special showing God's handiwork with all the intricate shapes and markings on them."


The opening measures establish a theme which sets the words “and the leaves of the Tree were for the healing of the nations” to a melody. This becomes the theme whose variations are spread widely over the keyboard as the piece progresses. I imagined leaves on a still day, leaves that fly around, leaves that fall or rise. — Ron Nagorcka


Ron Nagorcka

The Journey is My Home

This piece was commissioned by Shirley West and is a Requiem for her brother Robert John Luxmoore (1940-2014). The title is from his haiku:


The Journey is My Home

Arriving and Leaving

Going Nowhere Else


Robert (Bob) Luxmoore (1940-2014) was raised and educated in Adelaide, Australia before earning a PhD in Soil Physics at the University of California Riverside in 1969. He had a 28 year career at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee where he researched soils and whole-plant physiology and was recognised as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1988. The theme of the piece is derived from his name.


In 2007 Bob and his wife Annette Watson acquired land nestled between Whetstone Mountain and Little Brushy Mountain in southern Morgan County Tennessee. They placed conservation covenants on the land and, with their neighbors, successfully opposed proposed fracking in the area. Bob was also a gardener, became a vegetable canner, and enjoyed cooking during retirement. He learned numerous bird songs, and followed the spring and autumn bird migrations through parts of eastern Tennessee.


I did not know Bob, but I certainly would have liked to. From the obituary in the newsletter of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation and from those at his funeral, I gain the impression of an intelligent, committed, well-loved and slightly eccentric man; in much of his research well ahead of his time. It was an honor to be asked to write something in his memory. — Ron Nagorcka


Kenneth Kuhn

Of What Might Have Been

This short work is a musical representation of deeply personal feelings of something that might have been but tragically wasn’t. Inspiration came from looking at pictures of the Strnad exhibit at the AEIVA center at The University of Alabama, Birmingham in 2019 concerning the Holocaust and in particular of the picture of Paul and Hedy Strnad who might have become a famous dress designer had she and her husband been able to escape to the United States.


The music is an adaptation of the composer’s Impromptu No.1 for piano transposed down from the original D minor to a darker A minor and also that the violin is not pushed in its upper register. The melody was altered for a very emotional violin performance and the piano part altered for accompaniment with original harmonies changed to bittersweet.  — Kenneth Kuhn


Jim Puckett

Nocturne for Tenor Sax and Piano

This jazz-influenced duet experiments with chord extensions and textures in the upper and lower range of the tenor saxophone. The simple melody produces memorable lines providing a platform for various chordal colors and intriguing voicing between the two instruments.


The piece was actually composed as a diversion from a larger, more intense project that I was in the middle of composing. I detoured from that project and composed the core of this piece very quickly and it was the perfect antidote for the stress of my larger project. I sought to express both the serenity and the intense "loudness" of the clear, quiet, West Texas night's sky. Ironically, this “diversion” has, to date, been my most performed work each year receiving performances at multiple conferences and competitions in the United States and Europe, featured by Access Contemporary Music, and is a university recital favorite.

 — Jim Puckett


Sarah Wallin-Huff

The Reluctant Carnie is a quirky, vintage-style miniature for solo piano, originally composed in 2017 to accompany various selections of background music for use in a bingo game app. Pianist Randall Hodgkinson has said that the work “is charming, a little Satie sensibility set in the wild west.” While perhaps simple and straightforward in scope, The Reluctant Carnie nevertheless maintains an evocative charm with its sad swagger and temperamental moodiness. — Sarah Wallin-Huff


Bill Sherrill

Toccata (Short ’n Sweet)

This brief piece for piano had its genesis in a graduate composition class as a work assignment. Up to that point I had focused on choral writing, and my new instructor was determined to make me write for any instrument rather than choral! My general goals for this piano work were to keep it energetic, to make it moderately difficult, and hopefully to create a short “showpiece” that could be used as a concert encore.  — Bill Sherrill


John A. Carollo

Piano Etude No 6 (Incystence) was composed for Nathanael May, pianist, who recorded my Piano Suite No. 2 in 5 movements on Volere. He was suffering from a nasty cyst as I was composing a set of 6 piano etudes that make a book called “Maladies.” As I was beginning to compose the first work my friends were beset with maladies, hence the title of the Book of Etudes. This study requires constant fluidity in both hands. Perhaps one of my most difficult to master works, the performer should instill a sense of motion and energy that confirms its musical nature. — John A. Carollo


Santiago Kodela

Bewildered Soliloquies draw inspiration from the amazing corners of the human mind. Each instrument represents a soliloquy, a unique and distinguishable voice.  The junction of these compounds into a musical discourse. A conversation both dazzling and perfectly familiar. The voices echo thoughts that meander and replicate freely within the mind. Sometimes in perfect synchronization, but mostly at its own pace and frequency. — Santiago Kodela





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