CF2 Salon 2015, Keith Lay from Benoit Glazer on Vimeo.

Notes from the Composer

When Leaders Stop Listening  for Brass Trio and Three Mimes : A Brass March in Vaudeville style. An In-the-flesh Cartoon. A Comic Satire on Corporate Life.
In the spirit of Charles Ives, Carl Stallings and Frank Zappa, I wanted my audience to enjoy poking fun at chain-of-command societal structure: to let the music inspire humor towards the feelings of powerlessness we often find ourselves in at work, in every level of politics, bureaucracy, church, school – almost everywhere that a hierarchical system exists. Set in the Industrial Revolution era, the trio music presents a three-voiced march tune where each of the three voices are unique enough to represent a character: The Tycoon, The Supervisor and The Worker. With the tireless help of Benoit Glazer this happened.  The audience had a great time – the house was full of loud laughter and cheers!

The Experiment

How are ideas perceived ? Especially those in modern music? Audiences want to understand the sounds they hear but are sometimes not familiar enough with modern constructions to do so.  The original version of this satire was purely music, but family, friends and other musicians could not well imagine the plot – even when they knew that the trumpet was the boss, the horn was management and the trombone the worker. The score included notes on what was happening to help the musicians tell the story. My first solution was to project a slideshow that told the story with text in time with the music. Later, at one of our Central Florida Composers Forum meetings, I asked fellow member Benoit Glazer if he thought it possible to find mimes to take the story to its ultimate expression with live acting. He explored the possibility with co-workers at Cirque du Soleil La Nouba here in Orlando – who agreed to take part! Professional Mimes could tell the story magnificently in time with the music. In Vaudeville of the early 20th c, music was written to support the acting. For “When Leaders Stop Listening”, the actors would support the music.  The question was: Would the visuals ‘take over’ the musical experience? What would be remembered – the visuals or the sounds?

The MusicWhen-Leaders-themes

The trumpet music represents the Tycoon, who is a creative and bold. But, he lets success get to his head and considers himself intrinsically special. He both inspires his employees and angers them. He is usually distant from his workforce, selling the product and generating income. The Tycoon’s theme, circled in red, is the melody. When he’s pressuring the company to run faster he plays the “Charge!” fanfare. The Tycoon was brilliantly played by Witek Biegaj, a mime from Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba”. The trumpet part was delivered by Benoit Glazer. Both Witek and Benoit wore top hat and tails for the performance.

The horn represents Supervisor. He is highly organized, and both attracted to his boss’ power and disturbed by his lack of paying attention. He hires and defends the workforce while cushioning both top and bottom of  the company from knowing too much about the other. The Supervisor’s theme, circled in blue is the dotted 8th – 16th long-short-long-short rhythm theme of thirds moving up in sequence. The Supervisor character was brought to life by Pawel Biegaj, Witek’s brother and Cirque colleague. The horn part was played by Juan Berrios. Both Pawel and Juan wore suit jackets and bowler hats.

The trombone represents the Worker. He is dependable. Sometimes he keeps the company going when the management is fighting or making bad decisions. He expects the top of the company to work harder than he does. The Worker’s theme is centered around the tonal center: either in 1-5-1 fashion or a glissando or series of 16th notes up to the tonic. The worker was the audiences’  favorite – played by Cirque du Soleil’s counter-tenor Ralph Daniel Rawe. Joey Vascik was the trombonist. Both Ralph and Joey wore black ‘wife-beater’ A-shirts and mini-bowlers.

Modern techniques provided me with the notational means of stretching, pulling, struggling and fighting that vaudeville musicians never had. This requires fine musicianship, however – this is not an easy piece to play. The recording here by Benoit Glazer, Juan Berrios and Joey Vascik is a showcase of their advanced technique and musicianship.

Special thanks to Benoit Glazer for arranging my meeting these three excellent mimes from Cirque du Soleil. After making the audio recording, he vocally recorded my original action notes on the score over top:



Score: When Leaders 2015 rev c – Full Score


My deepest gratitude is to Benoit Glazer, who decided to find the players AND the mimes to allow this premiere to happen. Benoit also produced the recording (above) and a rehearsal version for the mimes that included a voiceover from the acting notes on my score. Besides hosting the concert for the Central Florida Composers Forum!

Huge thanks to Juan Berrios and Joey Vascik for rehearsing and playing on their own time, traveling a distance.

Thank you Benoit, Juan and Joey for your high musicianship – putting together this difficult work – and recording it for me!

Thank you Witek, Pawel and Ralph, who gave me an hour after their grueling shows at Cirque for three nights – and for their suggestions and contributions that made this complex plot work theatrically. This would not have been nearly the same event without them!

To the Orlando Weekly, our beloved newspaper that promotes modern classical music concerts, and further, naming me as possibly Orlando’s most creative composer.

To Daniel Saylor who edited the video.

To the Central Florida Composers Forum (CF2) and Eric Brooke who created this event and placed this work on the program.

To the excellent audience at Timucua – who had a great time with this modern music! We are Orlando!!


What I learned

Visuals are stronger than music! The audience loved the mimes and the story they told; but no one in the audience that I interviewed afterwards could remember the music. It seems that with memory, most people remember what they see more than what they hear.  This is important!

I also learned that, working with mimes, basic plot points are all that is needed. Details are not needed and can crowd their skills: it is their craft to fill in the details in hilarious ways.


This work was originally composed in 2009 and revised in 2011. Revised again with the addition of Three Mimes in 2015 for Benoit Glazer, Juan Berrios and Joey Vascik, First Performance: September 13th, 2015  CF2 2015 Salon Concert, Timucua White House, Orlando, FL

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