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Very Young Composers Program encourages budding musicians

Special to the Daily/Zach Mahone

VAIL – The Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival is teaching young musicians this summer with the fifth consecutive year of the Very Young Composers Program. The program offers children ages 9 through 12 the opportunity to study the art of music composition through stories, picture scores, music technology and collaboration with professional musicians.

Very Young Composers, a partnership between the New York Philharmonic and the Bravo Festival, is sponsored by the Joyce and Bernard West family, whose son, Ben West, has been involved with the program since its inception. West, along with another young composer of the program, was chosen to create compositions for Yo-Yo Ma, which was played during a concert at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in 2010.

“It is truly an enriching experience for these young musicians and composers,” said Liz Campbell, Bravo’s director of education.

In 1995, Very Young Composers was developed by Associate Principle Bassist, Jon Deak of the New York Philharmonic to answer the question, “What is children’s music?” Deak gathered teaching artists and public school children who had a very limited background in music to create their own compositions for the New York Philharmonic musicians to play. Since then, the program has grown to locations beyond the United States and into Japan and Korea.

The Very Young Composers Program is now run by Deak and Bill Gordh, with teaching artist Conrad Kehn.

Students began preparing for the program last spring in Skype discussions with Deak. They were told to draw pictures of their musical ideas in a series of pictograms. In June, the students were introduced to the story of Instrument Village and were encouraged to compose a piece that is a Village Story. For the last several weeks the students have met with the directors of the program and were taught the art of music composition.

On Wednesday, the students will have their final rehearsal with the musicians of the New York Philharmonic. Then at 1 p.m. musicians of the New York Philharmonic will perform the student’s musical works at the Vail Public Library. The students will attend the event to describe their piece to the audience and how they created the music.

On Thursday at 1 p.m. musicians of the New York Philharmonic will perform a second performance of the Very Young Composers works at the Avon Library. Tickets are not required for either complimentary performance.

“I encourage parents and children to come to these concerts and see how we have taught young students how to create music,” said Campbell. “It’s a ripple effect. If a young child sees that his or her peers can create music, then that child will be inspired to create music as well, which is our goal with the program – to inspire young musicians.”