‘I’m just happy that I can’
Composer with Local Ties Produces Award-Winning Album
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
Communicating through music, Joseph T. Spaniola, recently released Escapade: Music for Large and Small Ensembles, a full-length collection of music with a classical foundation, but an exemplary metamorphosis into jazz. The album has received a silver medal for Outstanding Achievement from the Global Music Awards, marking it as Spaniola’s fifth Global Music Award in only three years. Overall, the album has earned nine awards, either for the album or for individual pieces within the album and is listed amongst the top albums for fall through Global Music Awards.
Spaniola, whose parents are Bus and Carol Spaniola, was raised in Corunna where he developed a passion for music early on with his involvement in band, mostly on trombone, at Corunna High School – plus, there was always jazz played in the Spaniola home. He has now been professionally writing music since the 1980s, having even written a number of pieces for the Corunna band.
Today, he is a composer, conductor and educator, working as the Director of Music Theory and Jazz Studies at the University of West Florida (UWF). Prior to his move to Florida, Spaniola was the Chief Composer/Arranger for The United States Air Force Academy Band (USAFA). Throughout his career, he has composed music for orchestra, chamber, ensembles, voice, choir and more, with his compositions being performed in various locations throughout most of the world.
After growing up in Corunna, Spaniola went on to Michigan State University where he received his Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition. From MSU, after some time in the Chicago area, he earned his Doctor of Music Arts in Composition from the University of North Texas, and then eventually served as a non-commissioned officer with the United States Air Force Academy Band in Colorado.
Referencing his time with the USAFA band, Spaniola shared he enjoyed the experience because it allowed him to write for band, classical, jazz, country and other musical genres. It also allowed him to form strong creative relationships with his colleagues, opening up avenues where he learned to write music catered to individual strengths and weaknesses. “It was an honor to serve and be a musician in the Air Force,” he said. “It was really delightful. I got to get up and go to work and write music every day.”
Writing music almost every day is something he still pursues, but now he does it in Florida. “I’m just happy that I can,” he said. “My professional career is unusual in that most of my career has been in writing music in the practical setting.” Now, as a professor, Spaniola is involved in “preparing the next generation of music professionals.” He finds considerable satisfaction in the relatively smaller size of UWF, with a campus of roughly 14,000 students, many of which were raised right in Florida. He describes the music department as “a lot more personal.”
As for his new award-winning album, Spaniola describes it as “a nice mix of music. My musical tastes are fairly broad and I feel that comes through in the music.” Escapade represents his first release as the presenting artist, though his work appears in approximately 50 albums, overall.
One of the pieces on the album is titled Klempirik Farms and references the farm where his mother grew up – the farm dating back to his great-grandparents. The music tells the story of the farm, the dirt, his Grandma’s kitchen and his connection with his kinsfolk. Another piece of music on the album, sharing the album’s name, is called Escapade, in which he “started with four pitches, the first four of the piece, and simply followed where they led.” The musical material is extensive, diverse and highly satisfying.
Escapade: Music for Large and Small Ensembles was released through Big Round Records and has been named one of the top ten albums for fall 2019 by the Global Music Awards. It is available through several online venues, including Spotify and Amazon.