Don’t Put Yourself in a Box by Christina George

Often the first question people ask me when I tell them I’m a composer is “How did you start composing?” I’m not sure what answer they expect, but usually they’re surprised when I tell them that I started out by writing horn parts for my high school ska band – although more likely the surprise is in reaction to the fact that I was in a ska band in high school. Either way, I can say with confidence that I never would have become a composer if I hadn’t first been a performer.

As a young musician, ‘composer’ is so rarely presented as a viable option for a career, especially growing up in the public-school music system. I was fortunate to have a band director who pushed me in the direction of music creation, as he himself had majored in composition as well as education in college, and I know that I wouldn’t even have considered writing anything without that early influence and encouragement. Still, as a high schooler, I thought the only options for majoring in music were performance or education, and going into my undergraduate, I felt trepidation when faced with the task of choosing one. The concept of “being a composer” didn’t even occur to me until I signed up for an introductory composition course my sophomore year – and even then, the only reason I chose the class was because I wanted to know how to arrange marching band shows like my band director (which, by the way, I still have never done!).

I had always been an artsy kid with a love for making stuff – but I didn’t know that could apply to musicians too. After a year of feeling weighed down by what felt like the impossibility of “making it” as a performer and discouraged by my lack of enthusiasm for the field of education, I finally felt like I had found the missing piece when I started the composition course. I was actually excited to complete my assignments, and I was fortunate to once more stumble upon a mentor whose general approach to creativity and life is one of freedom and whimsy, which continues to inspire me to this day.

Once I discovered this revolutionary world of the living composer, my approach to flute playing changed too. Suddenly it was no longer about “being the best” in all its arbitrary vagueness, but instead about being my own creative person and expressing that through my music-making. After the stakes in one specific area were lowered, my overall musicianship improved exponentially. I truly believe the work I put in and the experiences I have had as a performer have shaped the composer I have become. By playing in ensembles, I have been exposed to all sorts of musical styles and approaches to playing. I know the importance of clear and concise notation. I know what makes a passage difficult to prepare and rehearse, as well as how to toe the line between a healthy challenge and maddening technical impossibility. But most importantly, every single commission I have received up to this point has been from a friend, colleague or professor who knew me first as a flutist.

Music by Christina J. George:

Currently based in Boston, Christina J. George is a composer-flutist whose compositions fuse ambient music with popular styles and classical forms, drawing inspiration from the organic shapes of the natural world.

Her commissions range from spatially inventive wind band soundscapes for the West Chester University Wind Ensemble to contemporary works for Baroque period instrument ensembles including Wilmington-based Mélomanie. In 2022, she was selected as the winner of Radius Ensemble’s Pappalardo Composition Competition. Her music has also been performed by loadbang, Third Coast Percussion, Chris Gross and Jonathan Fowler.

A dedicated performer, Christina is a member of Ensemble Uncaged, Longy’s premiere new music ensemble. Her playing is featured on the multi-genre project Feels Like Honey, designed by composer-bassist Hannah Boissonneault. As a flutist, she has studied with Kimberly Reighley and Sergio Pallottelli, performed in masterclasses with Erica Peel, Greg Pattillo and Ian Clarke, and participated in the Scottish International Flute Summer School and Amy Porter’s Anatomy of Sound. As a composer, Christina is an alumnus of the Nief-Norf Summer Festival and has studied with Robert Maggio, Jacob Cooper, Amy Beth Kirsten and Matthew Evan Taylor.

Christina completed her Bachelor’s of Music in Composition and Flute Performance at West Chester University of Pennsylvania and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Music in Composition at Longy School of Music of Bard College, where she also works as the Administrative Assistant for Divergent Studio, Longy’s yearly summer contemporary music intensive. Her favorite sound in the world is the cry of the loon reverberating around a quiet cove.