NUTLEY, NJ — Composer, educator, conductor, musician — all of these words describe Nutley High School graduate Joshua A. Idio. The trumpeter, who holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from William Paterson University, has written music for concert bands, orchestras and chamber groups; his music has been performed worldwide.
Idio is currently a member of the National Association for Music Education, the New Jersey Music Educators Association and the Association of Concert Bands. He is also a registered member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and the American Composers Forum as an active composer in the New York City area.
Idio’s love for music began early, thanks in part to the Nutley Public Schools.
“I was involved with the Nutley school music program since the fourth grade. I played violin in elementary school and eventually switched to trumpet. I stayed with my beloved brass instrument for the rest of my career and continue to play it to this day,” Idio told the Nutley Journal, adding that he is currently learning to play piano as well and dabbles on the guitar. “Being a music education major means that I had to learn nearly all the instruments in the wind family tree so that I could teach them to other students. I know all the basics, but I’m still learning.”
Now a music educator, Idio looks back fondly on his own music education.
“I was fortunate to perform with nearly every group of my high school’s instrumental program, at one point playing in its wind ensembles, orchestras, marching band, percussion and jazz ensembles,” Idio said. “I’m proud to say I was even a part of the 2013 marching band season as a drum major; we went undefeated that year, and I couldn’t be more proud of my bandmates for carrying the torch. I made so many friends through the music program, some of them I still keep in touch with, and the music teachers were my favorite teachers in high school. They taught me so much about music and life in general, most especially John Maiello, whom I had the privilege of learning under for all four years of high school. I’m happy to say that I can now call a lot of them my colleagues.”
According to Idio, playing in various ensembles and learning different types of music helped expand his skills and his thinking.
“We played at numerous venues, ranging from your usual gig cafes to large concert halls. And thanks to our supportive communities, we were able to travel a lot, too,” Idio said, mentioning trips to Italy; Six Flags Great Adventure; Washington, D.C.; and Montreal, Canada. “These experiences also generated more opportunities to explore the music field, including honor bands and eventually my acceptance into William Paterson University as a music education major. I’ll be the first to admit that without all these, I probably wouldn’t be here talking to you right now. It made that much of an impact on me.”
Among the many trips Idio took with his fellow musicians at Nutley High School, the trip to Italy had the biggest influence on him.
“The school’s instrumental music program went on a major trip to Italy to perform at a few venues with bands from other communities. The music we played there consisted of several works from renowned composer Frank Ticheli, and what was cool about that trip was that we got to meet Mr. Ticheli in person and perform with him, as he was also conducting our band at one of our concerts. His music was magnificent to play, and meeting him was so inspiring,” Idio said. “That trip and encounter with Ticheli had a major influence on my life because it proved to me how powerful music can be and how one person’s music can relate to and connect so many people. The music we performed also had a major influence on how I developed my philosophical attitude towards music education, which is that understanding music that relates to us will ultimately make us a better person. It’s a language that, though it may affect people differently, brings everyone of every background together, with a connection that transcends barriers.”
According to Idio, he loves to play concert and chamber music — and loves to compose them even more.
“Classical music will always have a special place in my heart since I’ve lived with that genre for the longest time, but I’ve recently started investing more in soundtrack and film music, but a specific kind: music that’s thought-provoking and inspirational. A great example of this is Gavin Greenaway’s ‘Reflections of Earth’ from Disney’s EPCOT 2000 nighttime fireworks show, ‘Illuminations.’ It is one of my favorite pieces to listen to, and I study its orchestration constantly,” Idio said. “I just launched a new long-term project to introduce the wind ensemble genre into the commercial world. We usually only hear orchestral music in soundtracks and films, but not so much wind band. This project is combining some of my favorite genres into one, and so far I’m liking the results. I hope this will become a game changer in the commercial industry.”
With so many projects under his wing and in the future, Idio has had many successes and looks to have many more. Nevertheless, he said, his proudest accomplishment thus far is definitely his final student-teaching concert.
“I was teaching at Union Middle School in Rutherford for my final undergraduate semester, and their band director, my cooperating teacher at that time, Mr. John Brigante, commissioned me to write a concert opener for their band’s spring concert. He knew I compose band music and thought it would be a great idea to combine the two worlds together: teaching and composition,” Idio said; and so, in April 2018, he conducted the school’s concert band in premiering his piece “Overture for Education.”
“It was an opportunity of a lifetime. Not only did I compose a piece specifically for the school’s concert band, but I also got to teach the students how to play it and conduct them at their spring concert,” he said. “It was a lot of fun and, though the music was challenging for them, they performed it very well. I couldn’t be more proud of my students for accepting the challenge, nor grateful to them for allowing me to have this opportunity. It was the highlight of my undergraduate career, followed closely by my teacher certification and graduation.”
When composing pieces such as “Overture for Education,” Idio has learned to sit with his ideas and let the composition come to him naturally.
“I first think of a new piece that I want to compose or a new melody that I want to explore, and then figure out the instrumentation that will bring out its best features, which could be like a large orchestra or a small quartet,” Idio said. “From there it’s really about being patient and allowing the creative ideas to pop up by themselves. Sure, I can go onto the piano and play some random melodies until something strikes my fancy, which can work, but then you are simply trying to force something to happen, and then you lose that charisma to compose because nothing special comes to you. Nothing good comes out of a dead idea. The music has to be meaningful, or else it won’t be productive.”
Idio acknowledged that “composer’s block” is a common obstacle he must overcome, saying he often responds by not forcing the issue. He will take a walk or watch a movie, and let the block pass on its own.
“A common tactic that helps a lot is listening to other music,” Idio said. “During my private composition lessons with my Montclair State University graduate instructor, professor Patrick J. Burns, we would often listen to similar works from various composers, or music of specific styles, to see how other composers do certain things. Studying these pieces and recordings helps me figure out what I want to do or how I want my music to sound. It allows for my creativity to flare up. Sometimes it only takes that bit of a boost to finally come up with something incredible.”
Part of composition is also picking the proper instrument or instruments to convey the piece and the story it is telling.
“I’ve had enough experience listening to and performing concert music to know what kind of combinations of instruments I want to use,” Idio said. “If I want something loud and impactful, the brass is my go-to. Woodwinds are my favorite instruments to play in terms of lyrical sections. … The percussion can do pretty much both and more. The music will sort of come alive afterward, and, even if I don’t get the entire picture instantly, I’ll know where I want it to lead.”
While Idio has a lot of decisions to make when composing, such as instrumentation, he finds that some of his favorite pieces are ones where the music seemed to control the choices.
“What I love most about music composing is that, on occasion, I will end up with something completely different than what I intended for it to be. And that’s amazing, because it means I’ve allowed the music to take control and speak for itself,” Idio said. “Sometimes the most incredible things you will ever encounter are things that you didn’t notice in the first place. We composers explore just as much as we write. And when we’ve reached our end of the work, we can be amazed at how our music could have an entirely new meaning.”
Despite having so many compositions and achievements under his belt, Idio is not resting on his laurels. The composer, who is only in his 20s, is currently working on a graduate degree at MSU and is always looking forward to his next composition.
“I have a few premieres and releases coming up this year, which I’m very excited to reveal soon. And thanks to the many connections I’ve made over the years, I have more opportunities than ever before,” Idio said. “I still plan on teaching in the future. Maybe with this new master’s degree that I’m working on, I’ll be able to teach at the college level. I hope that I’ll be able to continue writing music whatever I end up doing. I do know that music composition will play a much bigger role in my life than I have ever thought.”
To hear some of Idio’s compositions and stay informed on future developments, visit his website at https://joshuaaidiomusic.squarespace.com/.
“I want to provide music that’s inspirational and thought-provoking, with the hope that it will affect its listeners in such a way that they too will wish to change someone’s life,” Idio said. “So now, when I teach music and write new compositions, I do it with the expectation in mind that whatever I do and create will make a lasting impact.”