Elk Point teen makes CD of his own music
by Julie Weeder
Sioux City Journal  (Sioux City, Iowa)
Published August 26, 1999

       Eighteen-year-old Joe Curry composes his music like a quilter makes a quilt – piece by piece.  The 1999 Elk Point-Jefferson High School graduate had a goal to compose, record and manufacture his own compact disc of easy listening piano music before he graduated in May. Starting in April 1998, he attained his goal within a year.

“It was a dream come true – something I had hoped for for a long time,” said Curry, who started taking piano lessons when he was 6. “Some songs took the whole year to develop, but I wanted to finish it before high school.”
The 12 songs on his CD, titled “Milestones,” were pieced together from little tidbits Curry wrote here and there. He said he hardly ever sits down to write a song from beginning to end. Instead, he doodles on scraps of paper and in notebooks, writing chord progressions and dashes notes on a scribbled music staff.

Curry said some of the songs had a special meaning or thought he wanted to convey through the patterns and technique he chose. For example, “Snowflake” features a melody line that gives a tinkle-tinkle sound to a snowflake falling. “I don’t know if a snowflake makes a sound,” Curry said, “but I wanted to portray the feeling of a winter day.”

Another song, “Rejuvenation,” features four key changes, with the last change going back to the original key of D Major. “That’s what rejuvenation is to me,” Curry said. “You go through different stages to bring yourself back to what you were. These songs reflect different periods in my life – milestones – and looking forward. They can be pertinent to everyone’s life.”

Joe Curry, 18, of Elk Point, S.D., has compiled a book of songs he has composed and made a compact disc of his compositions.(Staff photo by
    Tim Hynds)
    On a sunny August afternoon, Curry sits down at his electric piano to play “Best Friends,” a song he said he wrote with his family and friends in mind. As his fingers glide over the black and white keys, a smile slides across his face. “This is also about the friends I have yet to meet at college,” said Curry, who left Monday to attend the University of Minnesota to study management information systems. Music will remain a hobby.

     Although the CD contains no vocals, Curry wrote lyrics for two songs. “Test Your Wings,” written in three-part harmony, was sung at the Elk Point-Jefferson High School commencement. The second song with lyrics,”Will You Walk With Me?,” was written in memory of Nick Staum, an Elk Point teen-ager who died in a car accident. Curry started composing the song the day Staum died.

The time it took to compose each song varied. Some took a month; others he worked on up until a week before recording in February. He would sit at his piano, writing the music by hand or memorizing it, then sitting at the electric piano, playing the notes one-by-one and entering them into his computer using Finale software. His final product was a 62-page book of the sheet music he wrote.

“When you write a song for others to play, entering it into the computer takes a long time,” said Curry, who also played alto saxophone in high school band. “Entering 20 seconds of music may take 40 minutes.”

Curry researched recording studios and decided on Rainbow Recording Studios in Omaha. He spent two Saturdays in February recording his music on a 7-foot acoustic grand piano.  “I practiced a lot beforehand because time is money in a studio,” said Curry, who recorded a few of the songs on the first or second try. But one song took 15 to 20 times to get it just the way he wanted.

Then he researched a graphics firm and chose Precision Powerhouse of Minneapolis to design his CD cover and manufacture the CD. “There’s a lot of hurdles to overcome when trying to make your own CD,” he said. “And then the other half is trying to get rid of it and getting it out to the public. But my main goal is to share music with others.”

Curry’s CD can be purchased at Bell, Book & Candle, Carol’s Corner, Christian Book and Gift, Sam Goody, Uncle John’s and the Victorian Opera Company, or by visiting his web site at http://www.joecurry.com. Visitors to the web site can also download a free copy of the sheet music to one of the songs.