Ghost Train was a total fluke.
In the fall of 1993, while an undergrad at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I happened to hear the wind symphony rehearsing through closed doors. I snuck into the band room and sat entranced for 50 minutes, transported by what was, hands down, the single loudest music I had ever heard. 6 percussionists! 8 trumpets! I was in love.
After the rehearsal I approached Thomas Leslie, the conductor, and asked if I could write a piece for their group. He said (without hesitation), “sure, and if it turns out well we’ll play it at the CBDNA convention in the Spring.” Now, up to this point I had never written for instruments before, only singers, so I got all of my friends who were instrumentalists and took them through their paces: “What pieces do you love to play? Which register is most comfortable? Which instrument sounds best when doubled with your instrument? etc.” I struggled with the work all through Christmas break (I wrote it in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and Waco Texas) and presented Tom with the first movement when school resumed. He played it beautifully at the convention, and BOOM… the thing took off like a shot. Band directors began calling me at home, trying to buy it from me, and my formal career as ‘composer’ had begun.
I wrote the second and third movement a year later, and Tom premiered the whole thing in the Spring of 1995. I graduated two months later and headed for Juilliard. Ghost Train is dedicated to the man who brought it to life, Mr. Thomas G. Leslie.