Very Young Composers teaches kids to tell stories through music |

Very Young Composers teaches kids to tell stories through music

Jaimee Rindy
Special to the Daily
Ten-year-old Harding Matthews, of Stone Creek Charter School, makes a change to his piano composition.
Courtesy of YouthPower365

If you go …

What: Very Young Composers program performances.

When and where: 1 p.m. Thursday, July 26, at Berry Creek Middle School, 1000 Miller Ranch Road, Edwards; and 1 p.m. Friday, July 27, at the Vail Public Library, 292 W. Meadow Drive, Vail.

Cost: Free.

More information: Visit

AVON — Even for adults, the idea of composing a song can be very intimidating. For 24 Eagle County kids, however, the challenge is welcome, and one they have spent a whole week tackling. Luckily, they got some help from the New York Philharmonic.

YouthPower365’s Very Young Composers program, in partnership with Bravo! Vail, is a creative approach camp for aspiring musicians and composers, where the only thing they need is a desire to learn and a bright imagination.

The weeklong camp will culminate in two final concerts Thursday, July 26, at Berry Creek Middle School and Friday, July 27, at the Vail Public Library.

A different approach

Very Young Composers is not your average music camp. For one, no previous musical experience is required to enroll. Program Director Conrad Kehn explained that the camp focuses less on the technical aspect of musical composition and more on the creative process. The young composers develop a story and the tone of their piece, and then the teacher artists help translate their idea into song, which will then be performed on stage by members of the New York Philharmonic.

Very Young Composers teaches kids how to tell stories using music, how to prescribe tunes to create moods and how abstract art can be used to express real emotions.

“Most traditional music education is centered around learning to play an instrument and learning to play other people’s music, but other forms of art really stress creation,” Kehn said. “I think this gives the kids a voice and fills a hole in music education.”

“We are the scribes,” Kehn said. “They tell us their story and then together we figure out what that would sound like using instruments.

“We just do the notation part and let them create the music. We don’t want to bog them down with music theory and notation, and we don’t want their ideas influenced by what they can or can’t do on the notation end.”

Kehn said the goal of the camp is to foster creativity and to encourage children to think of music outside the confines of their own abilities. Their stories range from tales of ninja guardians to an epic jail escape attempt to a space adventure, and each story translates into a completely unique listening experience.

Virtuoso and prodigy

At the end of the week, not only will the kids have had the chance to work with Kehn and several other music educators, but they also will be able to work with the New York Philharmonic members who will perform their original compositions. While the New York Philharmonic players are undoubtedly the masters of their craft, in this program the kids take the reins and teach the musicians how to play their songs.

Two of the music educators are Ben West and Bora Basyildiz, who are both alumni of the program and now offer their time and expertise to the next class of young composers. Basylidiz and West will be attending college in the fall, with West planning to study musical composition.

“It’s all because of this program, really. It’s what I love to do,” West said.

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