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For Mezzo-Soprano and Piano

20 minutes


Commissioned by Adriana Zabala.

Premiered by Adriana Zabala (mezzo-soprano) and Timothy Lovelace (piano) at St. Olaf College, October 2016. Complete premiere performance by Clara Ososki (mezzo-soprano) and Tyler Wottrich (piano).

Performances by Pauline Tan and Michael Lewis as part of the Aural Compass Project. December 2019.

Clara Osowski, Mezzo-Soprnao

Tyler Wottrich, Piano

I. Cenzontle (poetry by Marcelo Hernández Castillo

II. How I Learned to Run (poetry by Javier Zamora)

III. Between Chou and the Butterfly (poetry by Janine Joseph)

IV. Such as (poetry by Wo Chan)

Program Notes:


The title of this song cycle refers to different kinds of dreams. The spelling is deliberate, as DREAM in this case refers to the DREAM Act, an acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, which is bill that has been proposed in Congress several times. If passed, this law would provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who were brought to this country as minors, and who demonstrate good moral character. 


Of course, the title also refers to the American Dream, and to dreams in general. Does it still exist? What does the American Dream mean in today’s society? In our current politically-charged days, it seems that there are certain sections of our population who would like to restrict access to this Dream. Another narrative that I wanted to combat with this cycle is the claims that pain and suffering are limited resources that work in a zero-sum-game fashion: if my group is suffering and struggling, it must be at the expense of some other group who is benefitting from this pain. I wanted to show (optimistically) that the American Dream is truly alive only when each and every one of us is afforded the opportunity to dream, and pursue their own version of happiness. Pain is, unfortunately, universal, but so is our ability to long and strive for, a better future.


All of the texts set in this cycle are by poets who were or are DREAMers, people who were brought to this country as minors, and after they became adults, found themselves facing considerable difficulties adjusting their immigration status. As an immigrant to this country I connected with these poems, and I wanted to deal with this experience in the best way I know, by writing music. I chose to set those poems because they spoke to me in a very human way. They are not only beautifully written in immaculate English, but show a great deal of variety in their expression. I wanted to make a set where not all of the poems dealt with the immigrant experience. These poets are fully human after all, and they go through their days experiencing the entire range of what life throws at them. Immigrants are not defined by their immigration status.

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