Steven Gates

Steven Gates

From 2004 Playbill

After growing up in northern California, Steven Gates completed his undergraduate work in composition at the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music. It was there that Mr. Gates began focusing on jazz piano, having since played with numerous jazz ensembles. He received his Masters in Music Composition from the University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music. Currently, Mr. Gates is working toward his Doctorate at USC, where he holds a Teaching Assistant position in the Department of Theory and Composition. Mr. Gates has received national recognition for his works, including first place, Tampa Bay Composers’ Forum “Prize for Excellence in Chamber Music Composition” and first place, Austin Peay State University’s Young Composer’s Competition, as well as an honors designation at the University of Oregon’s “I Wage Peace” choral music competition. He currently resides in Pasadena, California.


Among Joshua Trees, at its essence, is about celebration: Celebration in the form of reverence and quiet homage. For a physical reference point to draw from, I looked to the Joshua Tree National Monument. This desert region in southern California is home to the unique and striking Joshua tree. The area has an almost palpable religious and spiritual atmosphere, and many of its qualities offer musical connotations. The gnarled, yet beautifully symmetrical form of the Joshua tree influences much of the melodic material in the piece. The formidable heat and swells of warm wind common to this area appear in the music’s rhythmically active, bustling surface motion, and also as rich, dense chords that slowly materialize and then fade away. These images have been wonderfully captured in a poem by Jennifer Dobbs, a collaborator of mine, called “Among Joshua Trees.” The spirit of my piece owes much to her writing.

—Steven Gates

Commission Information

Among Joshua Trees
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