Tom Pease
Composer / Photographer

Burbank Arts Newsletter May 6 – 19

1) Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?I had been a choral music teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District for nearly 40 years, most recently at Taft High School. I retired a few years ago and have since devoted much of my time to composing and arranging music. I have written several musicals, the latest was co-composed with Lynn DeYoung of the Burbank Children’s Theatre Company. I have composed contemporary classical music. Two pieces of mine were performed last year at a Burbank Chamber Music Society concert, and another work for brass quintet was premiered a few years ago at Burbank First United Methodist Church. I also conduct VocArte, a chamber vocal group based in Burbank and have written and arranged for them.In addition to composing and conducting, I do a lot of photography, much of which is of live performances. I have worked with groups such as Musicians at Play, the Los Robles Master Chorale, and Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre.
2) How did you first become interested in composing?
I played guitar as a teenager, and almost from the beginning I liked to write songs (usually sappy love songs, but, hey, you have to start somewhere). Later, when I was playing in rock bands, I would write for those groups. Eventually I developed an interest in contemporary classical composition, first inspired by hearing a live performance of Stravinsky’s The Firebird. I ended up going to USC and getting both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music composition.
3) How does art enrich a community, and what are some ways people can engage with art in Burbank?
A former student of mine once told me that after a hard day’s work he would come home, listen to a half hour of classical music, and feel human again. I think that is what the arts can do for us–remind us of our humanity. The visual arts can help us see our surroundings in a new way. Literature opens up the world to us. Dance celebrates the human body and its motion through space and time. Music has the special ability to touch us in ways that words can’t entirely express, and it has the power to reset and calm our minds.

In a community, the arts are a shared experience that bring people together, both physically and spiritually. Participating in the arts, whether it is by acting, singing, dancing, or painting, helps us to understand and appreciate one another. It allows us to realize who we are as a community, establish our shared values, and at the same time, cherish our differences.

The current COVID-19 isolation has made me appreciate more than ever the importance and sheer joy of getting together with people to make and celebrate art. I look forward to when we as a community can safely physically reunite and enjoy the arts “live and in person.”

4) If you could share with our community one thing about art, what would it be?
I would go back to the idea that the arts have the potential to help us get in touch with our humanity–what it means to be human. In our fast paced and high tension world, the arts can remind us of what is important in life–if we let it. Opening oneself up to all the arts not only provides enjoyment, but also provides a kind of spiritual cleansing that allows us to put our lives in perspective.