Iron Composer 2009

Instrumentation: 2 pianos, 2 trumpets, percussion (5 tom-toms/1 bass drum)
Ingredient: “Little Red Riding Hood” (Brothers Grimm Version)
Performers: John Brndiar (trumpet), Mary Dobrea-Grindahl* (piano), Joe Drew (trumpet), Robert Mayerovitch (piano), Josh Ryan (drums)
Judges: Mary Dobrea-Grindahl, Keith Fitch, Bill O’Connell
Top Prize: Sunny Knable, Iron Composer

In 2009, Iron Composer moved to Cleveland, where it was hosted for the first time by Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory and broadcast live by WCLV 104.9 FM. “The Con” faculty were enthusiastic about welcoming the competition, which yielded the most unusual mixed ensemble in the history of Iron Composer.


Devin Farney (b. 1983) is a composer/pianist/music teacher based out of San Francisco. He primarily focuses on composition and has had works commissioned and premiered in the United States, France, and Japan, but is additionally a pianist versed in various styles. He is also a music arranger and editor who has worked with composers such as Terry Riley, Glen Roven, Arthur Kampela, and many others.

He holds a Bachelors in Music Composition from the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music (2006), where he studied composition with Francois Rose and Robert Coburn, and piano with Frank Wiens. He also holds a Masters in Music Composition from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (2009), where he studied composition with Dan Becker.

Devin is a member of the academic honors society Phi Kappa Phi and of the music honors society Pi Kappa Lambda. He is a Presser Scholar (2005) and was recognized by Who’s Who in American Universities (2006). His works have received several notable recognizations and awards, including a performance at the 2008 Fresno New Music Festival and two honorable mentions at the Minnesota Orchestra’s Composer Institute (2007 and 2008), as well as the ZMF competition. His music has also been featured by the American Viola Society.

Andrew Jamieson will be a senior composition major at the Northwestern University School of Music. He has studied composition with Aaron Travers, Lee Hyla and Hans Thomalla and will join the studio of Jay Alan Yim this fall. He has had performances by the Gentlemen of NUCO and the Northwestern University Contemporary Music Ensemble, as well as recordings by the International Contemporary Ensemble and Lucas Fels. His opera, Goldsmith of the Kingdom, was performed on Northwestern’s campus in February 2009. In addition to composing, Andrew serves as keyboardist and assistant music director for the Evanston North Shore Community Mass Gospel Choir, Friendship Baptist Church, Oasis Christian Ministries International and in Evanston, Illinois.

For a more in-depth look at Andrew, visit his profile to hear an interview with the composer and samples of his music.

Travis Jeffords (1984) Travis finished his M.M. from the University of Texas in the Spring of this year, where he studied with Dan Welcher and Yevgeniy Sharlat. His thesis, Shot in the Dark, was a meditation on personal classified ads taken from an Austin weekly newspaper and set for a large new music ensemble. He recently moved to Bloomington, where his wife is attending graduate school: he is always looking for an opportunity to write new pieces from his cold Indiana basement.

For a more in-depth look at Travis, visit his profile to hear an interview with the composer and a sample of his music.

Sunny Knable is a musician whose talents do not fit into one category. He is an award-winning composer of contemporary concert music, a classical and jazz pianist, a singer/songwriter, and percussionist. Of his compositions, pianist Charles Fierro writes, “It is apparent that Sunny already has a voice and personal style. He writes with assurance and communicative skill. He clearly has a future.”

Mr. Knable was born and raised in Sacramento, CA. He wrote his first orchestral piece at age 16, which was read by the Sacramento Youth Symphony. In 2001, he began his studies of music at California State University Sacramento (CSUS) studying composition, percussion, piano and jazz. In 2004 and 2005, Mr. Knable won the Student Composer Competitions at Festival of New American Music.

In 2006, Mr. Knable gradated with Bachelor of Music Degrees in Composition, Piano Performance and Jazz Studies from CSUS. Since that time, a number of commissions have kept Mr. Knable busy writing and performing while living in New York. In October of 2008, Mr. Knable gave a composition recital at Calvary Episcopal Church of Gramercy Park, and in December, the National Arts Club (NAC) hosted a composition showcase. In May of 2009, he was invited back to NAC to give a piano recital featuring the works of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and himself. He continues to live and work in New York City where he makes a living as a pianist.

For a more in-depth look at Sunny, visit his profile to hear an interview with the composer and samples of his music.

John Rot, a native of Elgin, IL, is a second-year composition major at Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio. His interest in composition was only recently developed during his participation in the 2007 Composition Institute at Illinois Wesleyan University, led by Mario Pelusi. His compositions are informed by various non-musical pursuits, including his particular love of mathematics and the German language. As a pianist, he has studied with Andrea Swan for the last four years, and his accomplishments include first place in both the 2006 Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition and the 2007 Walgreens National Concerto Competition. He has appeared as piano soloist with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, as well as in the 2006 Aberdeen International Youth Festival Gala Concert. In addition, he has sung with multiple Illinois choirs at the all-state level. He has studied composition at Oberlin Conservatory with Josh Levine and currently studies with Lewis Nielson.

For a more in-depth look at John, visit his profile to hear an interview with the composer and a sample of his music.


Mary Dobrea-Grindahl (2009) is Professor of Piano at Baldwin Wallace University where her responsibilities include teaching private piano, piano pedagogy, Eurhythmics, and solfège. She holds the Diplôme Supérieur from the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze in Geneva, and co-authored Developing Musicianship Through Aural Skills: A Holistic Approach to Sight Singing and Ear Training (Routledge, 2010).
Keith Fitch (2009) currently holds the Vincent K. and Edith H. Smith Chair in Composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he also directs the CIM New Music Ensemble. His works have been performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan by such ensembles as The Philadelphia Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony.
Bill O’Connell (2009) is the program director for WCLV 104.9 FM, the broadcast partner of Iron Composer. He is also the afternoon drive host on the station.


Each finalist was handed a Challenge Sheet which included the instrumentation and a copy of the Brothers Grimm version of “Little Red Riding Hood”:

Little Red Riding Hood
By Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm

Once upon a time there was a sweet little girl. Everyone who saw her liked her, but most of all her grandmother, who did not know what to give the child next. Once she gave her a little riding hood made of red velvet. Because it suited her so well, and she wanted to wear it all the time, she came to be known as Little Red Riding Hood.

One day her mother said to her, “Come Little Red Riding Hood. Here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to your grandmother. She is sick and weak, and they will do her well. Mind your manners and give her my greetings. Behave yourself on the way, and do not leave the path, or you might fall down and break the glass, and then there will be nothing for your sick grandmother.”

Little Red Riding Hood promised to obey her mother. The grandmother lived out in the woods, a half mile from the village. When Little Red Riding Hood entered the woods a wolf came up to her. She did not know what a wicked animal he was, and was not afraid of him.

“Good day to you, Little Red Riding Hood.”

“Thank you, wolf.”

“Where are you going so early, Little Red Riding Hood?”

“To grandmother’s.”

“And what are you carrying under your apron?”

“Grandmother is sick and weak, and I am taking her some cake and wine. We baked yesterday, and they should give her strength.”

“Little Red Riding Hood, just where does your grandmother live?”

“Her house is a half mile from here in the woods, under the three large oak trees. There’s a hedge of hazel bushes there. You must know the place,” said Little Red Riding Hood.

The wolf thought to himself, “Now there is a tasty bite for me. Just how are you going to catch her?”

Then he said, “Listen, Little Red Riding Hood, haven’t you seen the beautiful flowers that are blossoming in the woods? Why don’t you go and take a look? And I don’t believe you can hear how beautifully the birds are singing. You are walking along as though you were on your way to school in the village. It is very beautiful in the woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood opened her eyes and saw the sunlight breaking through the trees and how the ground was covered with beautiful flowers. She thought, “If a take a bouquet to grandmother, she will be very pleased. Anyway, it is still early, and I’ll be home on time.” And she ran off into the woods looking for flowers. Each time she picked one she thought that she could see an even more beautiful one a little way off, and she ran after it, going further and further into the woods. But the wolf ran straight to the grandmother’s house and knocked on the door.

“Who is there?”

“Little Red Riding Hood. I’m bringing you some cake and wine. Open the door for me.”

“Just press the latch,” called out the grandmother. “I’m too weak to get up.”

The wolf pressed the latch, and the door opened. He stepped inside, went straight to the grandmother’s bed, and ate her up. Then he took her clothes, put them on, and put her hood on his head. He got into her bed and pulled the curtains shut.

All this time Little Red Riding Hood was still gathering flowers. At last she had as many as her hands could hold. So she made her way back to the path and walked fast until she came to her grandmother’s cottage. She, too, knocked at the door.

“Who is there?” asked the wolf, trying to speak like the grandmother. But his voice was so rough that Little Red Riding Hood was frightened at first.

Then she thought, “Poor grandmother must have a bad cold;” so she answered, “It is I, little Red Riding Hood. I bring you some cakes and butter and a jar of honey.”

“Pull the latch, and the door will fly open,” said the wolf.

Little Red Riding Hood pulled the latch and the door flew open. In she went. There in bed lay her grandmother, as she thought. The wolf had drawn the cover up so that she could only see his head. He had pulled the nightcap as far over his face as he could, but his great eyes were shining out.

Little Red Riding hood said, “Oh, grandmother, what great eyes you have!”

“The better to see you, my dear, the better to see you,” said the wolf.

“And, grandmother, what great ears you have!”

“The better to hear you, my dear, the better to hear you!”

“And what sharp teeth you have!”

“The better to eat you up!” said the wolf. With that, he jumped out of bed at poor Little Red Riding Hood, and ate her up. As soon as the wolf had finished this tasty bite, he climbed back into bed, fell asleep, and began to snore very loudly.

A huntsman was just passing by. He thought it strange that the old woman was snoring so loudly, so he decided to take a look. He stepped inside, and in the bed there lay the wolf that he had been hunting for such a long time. “He has eaten the grandmother, but perhaps she still can be saved. I won’t shoot him,” thought the huntsman. So he took a pair of scissors and cut open his belly.

He had cut only a few strokes when he saw the red hood shining through. He cut a little more, and the girl jumped out and cried, “Oh, I was so frightened! It was so dark inside the wolf’s body!”

And then the grandmother came out alive as well. Then Little Red Riding Hood fetched some large heavy stones. They filled the wolf’s body with them, and when he woke up and tried to run away, the stones were so heavy that he fell down dead.

The three of them were happy. The huntsman took the wolf’s pelt. The grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine that Little Red Riding Hood had brought. And Little Red Riding Hood thought to herself, “As long as I live, I will never leave the path and run off into the woods by myself if mother tells me not to.”


Sunny Knable, “Grimm’s Hood”

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Travis Jeffords, “Little Red Riding Hood: A Children’s Story”

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Andrew Jamieson, “Hood Riding”

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John Rot, “…And The Girl Jumped Out”

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Devin Farney, “Black, White, & Red All Over”

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Sunny Knable, 1st Prize & Iron Composer ($500)
Travis Jeffords, 2nd Prize ($250)
Andrew Jamieson, 3rd Prize ($100)

Sunny Knable 141 (after 5-point penalty)
Travis Jeffords 131
Andrew Jamieson 119
John Rot 119
Devin Farney 118

In the first three years of Iron Composer, there was a tiebreak each time, but the real drama in 2009 was provided by the winner, Sunny Knable.

At 2:30 p.m., he was not done writing, even though he knew that there is a 3-point penalty for not finishing on time. Each additional half hour past the deadline yields an additional 2-point penalty. Sunny ended up with a total penalty of 5 points, but his total score of 141 was high enough that he could have written for another hour and still won the competition. Travis Jeffords’ second place total was 131 points.

The competition for the third prize couldn’t have been closer. Andrew Jamieson and John Rot were tied with 119 points. (Devin Farney missed the tiebreak competition by only 1 point!) Andrew had an edge over John by 3 points in the Use of the Secret Ingredient and Originality.