Chamber Music

BluesWomenTriptych (2019)

For violin, viola, cello (12 mins)


1. Mamacized (Willie Mae Thornton, 1926-1984) 

2. Holidaze (Billie Holiday, 1915 -1959)

3. Pearling (Janis Joplin, 1943-1970)

This triptych began as a request from Trio 826; the second movement, composed in 2015, commemorated the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday’s birth. The other two movements were completed in 2018-19. I was intrigued by representing the styles and music of these blues artists through the medium of a string trio because the portato and glissando techniques unique to string instruments most effectively emulate the sliding, bluesy quality of the voice.  I chose these three women to portray because of their importance in the history of rhythm and blues, for their contributions to composition in that genre, and for their iconic vocal styles. All three died early under tragic circumstances.  “Big Mama” (Willie Mae) Thornton had the longest career, but didn’t reap large rewards for her writing and recording. She was most famous for her rendition of Hound Dog, written for her by Leiber and Stoller (before Elvis Presley did it), and wrote and performed Ball and Chain, which Janis Joplin made famous in the rock and roll mainstream. The second movement is a tribute to Holiday’s contribution to blues and jazz in the early days of recording and is informed by two of her most popular tunes: What a Little Moonlight Can Do, written by Harry Woods and recorded in 1935; and Fine and Mellow, written by Holiday and first recorded in 1939. The final movement, “Pearling, is a play on Joplin’s nickname (Pearl) and her constant, energetic motion on the stage. The initial call of Big Mama’s tunes and the final Ball and Chain punches, the opening and closing scratch of Holiday’s 78-rpm recordings and the full-throated shout chorus, and the nonstop motion of Joplin’s performances (along with a few familiar tunes) are all meant to be an homage, albeit a deconstructed one, to three of the greatest women in blues.

Killer Scones and Clotted Cream (2017)

For Alto Saxophone and Bassoon

(5 min)

Ackerbatics (2015)

For solo clarinet and hi-hat

(5 min)

Full Orchestra

Three Fanfares for Orchestra (1991-2011)

Ceremonial Fanfare #1 (also for Brass and Percussion)

Ceremonial Fanfare #2 (also for Symphonic Band)

Fanfare for a First Lady

(approximately 25 seconds each)

Compositions-choral-string orchestra-incidental music-film



Where Sky, Where Pilgrim (2016)

SATB chorus, solo SATB, flute, clarinet, bassoon, viola, cello, piano 

(16 mins)

1. Love Poem

2. Hold Everything

3. Tall Grass Prairie

4. Pieta

5. Kitchen

Poetry by Rachel Morgan, used by permission. Written for Bel Canto Cedar Valley, Alice Pruisner, director.

String Orchestra

 #Lebenplay (2014)

For string orchestra 

Violin I, Violin 2, Viola, Cello 1, Cello 2, Bass

(5 mins)

Written for the Iowa City High School Orchestra, Megan Stucky, director

Incidental Music

The Laramie Project incidental music for string trio was written for a 2002 production directed by Cynthia Goatley at Theatre UNI. The play was written by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project. There are 30+ short takes to accompany the change of "moments" in the play.  It is performed by Trio 826, Susannah Klein, violin, Julia Bullard, viola, Hannah Holman, cello. (There is also a version for solo cello.)

Dead Man's Cell Phone, a play by Sarah Ruhl

This incidental music was written for a 2016 Theatre UNI production directed by Cynthia Goatley.

Cell phone Ballet with ringtones-short/long

Cell phone Ballet without ringtones-short/long

Film Noir Fight Scene-short/long

Film Soundtrack

Waterloo, A History of Place, The Sons of Jacob Synagogue

Documentary film soundtrack, 2013


A Scotch Verdict


A Scotch Verdict,  a new music drama in two acts by Cynthia Goatley (book and lyrics) and Rebecca Burkhardt (music and lyrics),  is based on the book Scotch Verdict by Lillian Faderman and the true story of Miss Jane Pirie and Miss Marianne Woods, former governesses and proprietors of a school for girls in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1810. A professor's research into the lives of  these two 19th-century school mistresses, leads her to Edinburgh and into an obsessive dream world of speculation. Haunted, Ella seeks the

meaning behind this mystery as she leaves to pursue research in Scotland, straining her relationship with Jess, her partner. The 20th century and the 19th intertwine as Ella delves further into the lives of Jane and Marianne.

Their story unfolds with Ella’s as the distant past and present collide.



A new musical about the life and times of Governor Ann Richards of Texas. Cynthia Goatley, book and lyrics

Rebecca Burkhardt, music and lyrics