Finale Blog Spotlight on Garritan Contest Runner-up Adam O’Dell



Adam O’Dell – photo by Dan McClanahan and McClanahan Studios, Ames, Iowa.

Last month we announced the winners of the “Take Your Music Further with Garritan” composition contest. Today I’d like to introduce one of the winners, Adam O’Dell, who received a runner-up prize for his composition An Irish Morning. Adam O’Dell is a composer, freelance pianist, and a freshman music composition/piano performance major at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.

Scott Yoho: First of all, congratulations! Where were you when you heard that you learned you were one of the three winners?

Adam O’Dell: I was with my friends in the Clarke cafeteria. I had gone to the Finale site to check on the contest and clicked on “winners announced.” When I saw my picture in that row of three, I just about dropped my phone! Needless to say I was pretty excited.

SY: As the winner of a $700 air travel gift certificate, do you have travel plans?

AO: I think I’m heading to Ireland in July with a friend of mine who has some relatives there.

SY: Which is perfect, given the Irish flavor of your composition. Did you create it in Finale?

AO: Yes.

SY: What was your introduction to Finale?

AO: I went to Dubuque Senior High School here in town. My teacher, Mr. Rowley, had Finale 2003 in the music lab. I had written a few things that I was playing on piano but hadn’t notated. Mr. Rowley introduced me to Finale and suggested I use it. From there I started writing down some jazz band things that I did, and that same year I started writing my first band piece.

SY: What is your compositional workflow? Do you compose in Finale, or do you sketch first – what is your work process?

AO: When I think of something and I’m in some random place like at the store, I’ll have my iPod or my phone on me, and I’ll just hit record and just hum an idea in, which may make me look a little crazy.

Otherwise I’ll improvise at the piano and if I hear something I like I’ll write it down.

SY: Then Finale comes into play as you flesh things out further?

AO: Absolutely. I tend to think harmonically when an idea comes to me, but I often find out after putting my ideas into Finale that the harmony might not work as well as I wanted it to. That’s when I start playing the chords on piano, fixing things or noodling with textures on Finale, and giving the piece another listen. I’m pretty sure I’ve pressed the Playback button more than any other Finale user in history.

SY: For the sounds in your piece, did you use only Garritan sounds that came with Finale?

AO: Yes. Primarily the orchestral harp and flute player 1.

SY: It sounds great. I think it’s exciting for those new to Finale to hear your piece and think that they have all the gear they need to create something that sounds this impressive!

What can you tell me about the inspiration for your piece?

AO: Clarke is an Irish Catholic school, so we have the opportunity to learn a lot about Irish culture. I became instantly fascinated with Celtic music, so I’ve been looking into the music and poetry trying to find more to work with. I’ve starting writing Celtic chamber music; I composed a setting for the Irish blessing text. So I was inspired by the music and culture of Ireland.

Also, I’d like to thank my composition professor, Dr. Amy Dunker, as well. She really helped me develop my compositional style, and helped me fine-tune the piece to be the best it could be.

I’d like to thank Adam for sharing his thoughts with us, and for acknowledging the role music educators played in his development – a great reminder to us all how we can really make a difference in our students’ lives.

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