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July 30, 2013
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Very Young Composers program partners musicians with local kids

Imagine you’re 12 years old and composing music for the first time. Then imagine you’re doing it with members of the New York Philharmonic, some of the world’s most accomplished musicians from the world’s finest symphony orchestra.

Then imagine they’re not playing your music the way you want it played, and you, a 12 year old, have to stop them and tell them, “You’re doing it wrong.”

And imagine how good it feels when those musicians smile, offer encouragement and your music floats across the room.

“We encourage that,” said Jon Deak, associate principal bassist with the New York Philharmonic. “It helps them develop independence and leadership.”

That’s what it was like for a dozen and a half local youngsters who participated in the New York Philharmonic’s Credit Suisse Very Young Composers program, in collaboration with Bravo! Vail. Performances took place last week.

“These are good, intelligent music-loving kids in the valley, and I’d like to reach more of them,” Deak said.

The Philharmonic musicians welcome it.

“We want them to tell us what they want, what their vision is,” said Howard Wall, a horn player with the New York Philharmonic.

Deak created Very Young Composers of Vail in collaboration with Liz Campbell, former director of education and community outreach for Bravo! Vail, and Bill Gordh, co-director and mentor of the Very Young Composers of Vail.

The program started in Denver in 1995. It’s grown to 20 locations around the world.

Students with or without musical backgrounds compose music for performance by Philharmonic musicians. Besides Vail, the program is in China, Japan, Korea, Venezuela, Finland and the United Kingdom.

Students attend a fundamentals camp where they study music theory, composition and counterpoint; instrument demonstrations with Philharmonic musicians; and one-on-one meetings to hone their works.

The pieces tended to be short, like the composers. The kids say starting is harder than finishing, and their music is whatever they say it is.

In Carlos Javier Taal’s “Bermuda Spell,” the instruments take a trip to the Bermuda Triangle.

Luisa Jiminez eased her “Jazzy Dragon” moves from structured classical to big band jazz.

Jeremiah Johnston’s “Unconquerable” depicts an epic. He left it to the audience to create their own story as to what that epic might be, as good music should.

Johnston, 15, started his composition on an electric bass, an instrument he’s learning.

“The French horn harmony just stemmed from that,” Johnston said.

Brendan Keane, 14, started his composition over lunch on a computer.

“Once it was written, it was easy. These people can play anything,” Keane said.

“These young composers’ works contain a detectable local accent, distinct from their counterparts in New York and around the world, and it is a pleasure to help them develop their compositional voices,” Deak said. “When children are free to imagine, when their creativity is taken seriously, you find that they have the potential to create real works of art.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Jul 30, 2013 02:28PM Published Jul 30, 2013 12:24PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.