Not many power system engineers get a round of applause for premiering a music composition, but Jeff Liebsch of Brainerd had that experience at Tuesday's Central Lakes College band concert.
His "Variations for Piano and Wind Ensemble" won over the crowd despite its unenviable spot following the debut of a piece by professional composer Russell Holsapple.
Four other Liebsch compositions have been performed in the area. And the Ham Lake native, who comes from a family of musicians, still finds time to play the trumpet in the CLC Community Band and work at Crow Wing Power.
Dispatch: Is music a hobby or something you'd ever want to do as a career?
Liebsch: As of yet, I haven't had any income from composing. But with trumpet playing, I taught lessons throughout college, and I occasionally play for weddings.
Jeff Liebsch of Brainerd played the trumpet with the Central Lakes College Community Band during Tuesday's concert in the Chalberg Theatre. Liebsch's "Variations for Piano and Wild Ensemble" was premiered at the concert. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Dispatch: So you can't quit your day job?
Dispatch: Do you think you'd ever like to do something in music for a career?
Liebsch: I guess anything's possible, but one thing I like about not having that for a career is I can write whatever I want, whenever I want.
Dispatch: Composing seems like something not everyone can do. Do you think you come naturally to it, or is it a challenge?
Liebsch: It's a lot easier than you think once you start going with it. Most people would be amazed at what they could do if they had an interest in it and spent time on it. There's a lot of hard times when you'll spend hours and hours making little or no progress, but there's other times when it goes pretty easily.
Dispatch: Similar to someone writing a novel.
Liebsch: Yeah, I would imagine.
Dispatch: Have you gotten any feedback on your pieces on what they mean to a listener?
Liebsch: On "Concerto for Piano and Orchestra," some people said it sounds like the Cascades in Colorado. Another comment I got is it sounds like a bunch of angry young people trying to solve the problems of the world. (Laughs.)
Schooling: Blaine High School, 2001; University of Minnesota, 2005.
Job: Power system engineer at Crow Wing Power.
Hobbies: Playing the trumpet and composing music.
Worst summer job: "Weed-whipping without a strap all day. I think the longest day must've been about 11 or 12 hours. Basically, you're keeping your arm in one spot all the time. And after that, you try to release your elbow, and it hurts like crazy."
Worst dream: "When somebody is chasing me and I can't run very fast."
Favorite movie: "'Life is Beautiful (1997).' The father was able to bring his son through that, even in the worst possible circumstances."
Dispatch: Wow, those are different reactions. And you didn't have either of those things in mind when you wrote it?
Liebsch: I remember I started that one right around the time of the tsunami in December 2004. I remember thinking this could be a tribute to those victims or something.
Dispatch: Tell me more about your writing process. Do you block off a chunk of time to write?
Liebsch: Usually when I'm working on pieces, I'll be working on it all the time or not at all. These past few months I've been busy with other stuff, but when I do start writing I'll usually spend hours and hours at a time working on it.
When I lived in Madison (Wis.), I'd go for long drives back toward Ham Lake and I'd be thinking of ideas in my head. And after I have the idea, I'll start playing that on the keyboard, and I'll put it in my computer software and modify it from there.
Dispatch: It becomes more alive the more you work on it.
Dispatch: Who have you learned most from?
Liebsch: I've never taken any classes in composing; I've read one book on it. But then Steve (Anderson, the CLC band director) has taught me how to make the music flow from one thing to another, and given me different ideas that I hadn't thought of.
Dispatch: What are some of your other hobbies?
Liebsch: I run a lot; I like to play tennis; I play softball, Ping-Pong.
Dispatch: Do you ever compose a piece in your head while you're running?
Liebsch: Yeah, sometimes while I'm skiing or running, I'll try to come up with some ideas.
JOHN HANSEN may be reachedat firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5863.
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