Pros play Young Composers music
The journey will soon reach its destination, when the members of Fear No Music's Young Composers Project sit and listen to a group of professional musicians play their music on stage.
Young Composers, led by director Jeff Payne, has tutored aspiring musicians for 20 years now, and its "Hearing the Future" concert Sunday, April 29, at Lincoln Hall highlights the current crop of songmakers.
Several students compose music with the help of a Fear No Music ensemble of flute, saxophone, viola, cello, percussion and piano.
Jake Safirstein, a junior at Grant High, is participating for the first time. A second-year percussionist on the Portland Youth Philharmonic, Safirstein has a classical composition called "The Wild, Wild West," a nod to the style of "Old America" pioneered by composers such as Dvorak and Copland. He tried to capture the sounds of early 1920s California and "stuff like that."
"It's really incredible, it's going super well," he says. "As a composer one of the hardest things to do is hear your music live. By (Young Composers) providing excellent musicians, you get to hear changes live and in front of you. That's unmatched. A computer can't do that."
And it's all done with peers around.
"It's kind of refreshing almost," Safirstein adds. "People my age aren't really listening to classical music. They're not generally writing music. It's great to have a community you can discuss these things in-depth with. It's a great way to grow and expand. ... There's nothing as rewarding as hearing your music live. You can think about all the time spent and care put into it, and it's cool to share that energy and love with other people."
Adds Katie Palka, another student: "It's such an honor to have them play my music. If you're inputting notes into software, there's the playback, but it's not like real breathing people with expression and sound, and it's resonant and alive. It really makes your music come to life. ... Hearing feedback given to other students, it's easier to see similar things in your own work."
Payne has been schooling kids for years, about 20 a year, including Palka, a homeschooled junior from Beaverton; it's her third year. She plays with Metropolitan Youth Symphony's orchestra and other groups, and she's had a piece performed by MYS.
Her Young Composers piece, for viola and piano, is called "Fragile Connections," about the fragility of relationships, moments and structures and such — a personal composition, given the death of her father.
"It's about a variety of connections ... like a connection to childhood innocence, that as you grow up you mourn that part of yourself, as a child who saw more magic in the world," she says. "And, how as humans we're a social species and we need to value that connection and not take anyone for granted."
It's the only program of its kind in the United States. Payne's pupils range from age 9 to 18 years old. He guesses that about 100 students have been involved, creating about 400 pieces, in 20 years. Most of this year's Young Composers are from the Portland area; one is from Hermiston.
Students attend three workshops to work on their pieces.
"We work with where they are and what they want to achieve," Payne says. The pieces are limited to six minutes; younger kids usually write for two or three instruments, experienced kids write for up to six.
"There is everything from classical to jazz to pop influence to movie (scores)," he adds. "We don't put stylistic limitations on kids. We just want them to write music. We go where they go."
Participating students this year are Jake Safirstein (Grant), Katie Palka (homeschooled, Beaverton), Kavin Iyengar (Valley Catholic), Rohan Srinivasan (Sunset), Sarah Kitten (Southridge), Jacob Nenow (Oregon Episcopal School), Audrie Nielsen (Baker Prairie Middle School, Oregon City), Sylvan Talavera (Cleveland), Amelia Pomazal (Putnam), Titus Bailey (Fort Vancouver), Ryan Lew (Lake Oswego), Adam Nua (Hayes Freedom, Camas), Jackson Grace (FMES), Matthew Kaminski (Mountainside, Tigard), William Kitten (Arts & Communication, Beaverton), Mohnish Judge (Lake Oswego), Arden Butterfield (Grant), Lindsey McAllister (Hermiston), Manu Isaacs (ACCESS Academy, Portland), Frazar Henry (Naples, Fla.), Anushka Nair (Lake Oswego), Max Ball (Lakeridge), Collin Thomas (Rockland, Calif.), and Quinn Samouilidis (Cleveland).
Fear No Music's Young Composers Project "Hearing the Future" concerts are 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, April 29, at Lincoln Hall, 1620 S.W. Park Ave., Room 75. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students/seniors. For more: www.fearnomusic.org.