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St. Paul grad awarded honorable mention for original song

Cary Ashby • Updated Jan 15, 2018 at 11:19 PM

St. Paul High School graduate Daniel Ruffing has had success in another song competition.

The 34th annual Mid-Atlantic Song Contest is an international songwriting contest held by the Songwriter's Association of Washington.

“I found out about this competition through one of my professors here at BW, who I had asked to critique and give advice on a few songs that I was working on at the time. The professor told me that if I had any finished songs, I should give the competition a go,” said Ruffing, a freshman at Baldwin Wallace University.

Ruffing’s song is “Journey,” a fully orchestrated instrumental. Primarily it features piano, harp, strings and brass.

“My song was placed as an honorable mention for the instrumental category of the competition. Out of thousands of submissions, there is one gold winner, one silver winner, three finalists and the honorable mentions in each category,” said the son of Tom and Tina.

The number of honorable mentions can vary.

“In the instrumental category this year, there are five honorable mentions. Since honorable mentions don't have numbered placements, my song is essentially tied at sixth place with the four other honorable mention winners,” Ruffing said.

“However, all gold, silver, finalist, and honorable mention winners are still eligible for two special awards, the Director's Choice Award and the Young Artist Award, which will both be given out on Jan. 21, 2018 at the awards ceremony, so there is still a chance I could receive another award.”

This isn’t the first time Ruffing has entered a songwriting competition. The 2017 St. Paul graduate entered “Journey” into the Independent Music Awards.

While at St. Paul, Ruffing was involved in nearly every musical ensemble the school offered. He played baritone in the concert, marching and pep bands and the pit orchestra. In the jazz band and choir, Ruffing played piano.

Ruffing started writing instrumental songs on the piano late in his junior year.

At Baldwin Wallace University, Ruffing is majoring in arts management and entrepreneurship. He has a double minor in applied music and theater.

“‘Journey’ is a fully instrumental song, meaning there are no sung/spoken words. If I were to put it into a genre of music, I would say ‘movie soundtracks’ or ‘contemporary instrumental,’” he said.

Ruffing was asked about his inspiration for the song.

“I wasn't particularly inspired by anything at the beginning of writing this song. I was simply playing around with notes and chords on the piano and found a melody and rhythm I liked. However, throughout my senior year of high school, I was more inspired to write certain phrases and parts based off of experiences I had or feelings I had when looking back at all four years of high school,” he said.

Now Ruffing is hard at work putting together a musical.

“Currently, I have been working non stop on a new musical called ‘Secrets,’ which is a spy-themed show centered around a man stuck and going nowhere in life who accidentally gets swept up into a CIA operation, testing himself and his friendships. I am composing the music for the show, while a friend of mine, Noah Meaux, is writing the script and lyrics for the show,” Ruffing said.

The pianist discussed one of the songs from “Secrets.”

“As of now, we have announced and showcased one song from the show, called ‘Fly,’ which is a fast-paced ‘showstopper’ song and has surprisingly received quite a bit of attention — at least nothing like we expected. The musical is still in the works, but we have an Instagram page (@secretsmusical) where people can follow along with the development of the show. We plan on submitting the musical to a few festivals and competitions around the U.S. and hope to have a full production on stage by the end of 2019,” Ruffing said.

In his free time at BW, Ruffing is writing a variety of music. 

“While in the past I have composed only instrumental music, I have been challenging myself to write songs with lyrics and that feature more dramatic and theatrical elements,” he said.

Ruffing said he now also is “working with some amazing friends and fellow arts management majors at BW to put on the second annual Concert for a Cure.” 

“(It) is now moved to fall 2018 and will be featuring artists such as Emily Keener and a special preview of ‘Secrets,’” Ruffing said. “As for right now, I'm looking into possible internships to gain the right experience for my studies in college and immerse myself into the music and theater industry.”

His main career goal is to be a Broadway show composer, similar to his biggest inspirations, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. They have written musicals including “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Dogfight” and most recently, “The Greatest Showman.” 

“Hopefully, ‘Secrets’ takes off and puts me on the path, but my biggest dream is to one day sit in a theater and watch a show that I wrote the music for and that people love. To go with that, I would also love to write a musical made for film, as I feel it is a greater challenge than writing for stage musicals,” Ruffing said.

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