Not far from here exists in two versions. The original version is for solo marimba. In early 2013, a version for percussion ensemble was created. The percussion ensemble version has been recorded by the FSU Percussion Ensemble and is the title track for their new CD.
Notes for the ensemble version
Not far from here was originally dedicated to Jesse Milam (a student of Ben Finley at ECU in Oklahoma). His mother had a number of battles with brain cancer, and after one particularly rough semester for Jesse, a friend of his emailed me asking if she could commission a short piece that could be presented to Jesse as a gift from his friends. I agreed, and asked her to get all the friends that wanted to commission the piece together, have them give what they could afford, and then find a local charity where a little money could go a long way. It went to a local food bank in Ada, Oklahoma.
So, I wrote the piece for someone I barely knew, knowing that he probably wouldn't have his mother here with him much longer. I wanted to, in some way, communicate the idea that she would still be here, and that because of her love for him, she would live on in him. They tell me that Jesse was pretty happy when they gave him the piece (he played it on his recital last year). This past summer his mom couldn't fight the cancer anymore. I’ve gotten to know Jesse a little better since I wrote the piece; his mom raised a great son.
Our time here is limited. I've been okay with my mortality for a long time, but I find it difficult to be okay with everyone else's. I’ve come to deal with it by understanding that people live on in the lives they touched while they were here. It's the idea that my grandparents, parents, teachers, and friends are always with me because I wouldn't be who I am without them. If all goes well, they will be here in the lives I’ve touched, even after I'm gone. That's what the piece is about, for me.
When John Parks asked me to arrange the piece in memory Brandon Wood, I didn't want it to just be an arrangement of a pre-existing piece. I wanted to find a way for it to reflect Brandon and his life. The introduction and opening countermelodies are built from the letters of Brandon's name. The ‘Amen cadence’ at the end might seem cliché to some, but for me it is a reflection of Brandon's life. Brandon's faith in God was a defining part of his time here. Those two chords have come to represent so much to so many people. Among the things they represent to me are faith, hope and acceptance.
The ensemble version of Not far from here was commissioned by Dr. John W. Parks, IV in memory of Brandon Wood.
Notes for the solo marimba version
By almost every measure, our time spent on this planet is very short. Still, the people that change our lives for the better live on in us, and in the lives of those we meet. Parents, teachers, friends, people we don’t even know – their support, their kindness, and their love will always be with us. Not far from here is a very simple expression of this very amazing power. They are never far away from us, or from those we care about.
Not far from here was written for Jesse Milam. It was commissioned by his friends.