Nick Oswald is the 8th and 9th Grade Bass Clef Choir Director at Southview Middle School and also directs the Treble Show Choir “Intensity” at Ankeny High School. Prior to Ankeny, Nick spent 15 years teaching Choral Music at Muscatine High School and Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School. Nick received his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa and his Master’s Degree in Music Education from Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Nick is also freelance choral arranger and clinician. In his spare time, you’ll probably find him bowling, playing in softball tournaments, running races or playing trivia and board games.
1. Please describe your basic setup. (Your technical setup as well as the physical space that you work in.)
My setup is pretty basic. Just my MacBook and me. Because I do most of my arranging over the summer I not only arrange at home while sitting at my kitchen table but I also arrange while traveling so you may find me on a plane or in a hotel room working too. The one advantage of being at home is that I can use my piano if needed, which is not a luxury I’m afforded when traveling.
2. What is your process for brainstorming or inspiration-seeking as you start a new arrangement?
Assuming I haven’t been given directions from the director, I typically will listen to the original version of the song multiple times to “map out” the arrangement in my head before I begin at the computer. I also may listen to other arrangements of the song for inspiration. I find that sometimes my arrangements contain idea from other arrangements I’ve heard, but with my own twist on them.
3. What is your go-to snack and/or drink when arranging?
Diet Mountain Dew. But it’s my go-to drink for everything!
4. What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started arranging?
Two things: How to write drum parts and writing in playable keys. I used to have someone else write my drum parts for me until I finally buckled down and learned to do it myself. Once I did, I realized it was not that difficult. I also did not know early on that keys like concert E Major were HORRIBLE for horns to play in due to the number of sharps and intonation issues that arose from it. I quickly learned to stick to keys that are more playable for my horns.
5. What is your favorite shortcut or time-saving trick in your notation software?
I have a blank document already set up for SATB, TTBB and SSAA arrangements that have all of my settings ready to go in them so when I start a new arrangement I don’t have to redo all my settings right away. I also use a number pad when inputting notes so I can quickly switch the note value without having to touch my mouse.
6. What is a favorite arrangement of yours?
My arrangement of “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak. I love taking slow songs and speeding them up and this was one of the first times I had done that. It was the opener for my prep show choir at CR Jefferson back in 2016. I do not have a good video of it so contact me if you would like a sample.
7. How can people get ahold of you?
Email me for my catalog at firstname.lastname@example.org.