One Concert. Ten World Premieres.

The future of symphonic music is here, in the form of ten student composers whose works will receive their world premieres on Monday, May 2 at 7pm in the Samuel & Althea Stroum Grand Lobby at Benaroya Hall.

It’s all part of the annual Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop.

Each year 10 student musicians are selected to participate in this 12-week program. They work on all aspects of composing, including writing themes, learning orchestration and preparing a final score with parts. The workshop culminates with a free, public concert in which each student will have his or her work premiered by a chamber group of Seattle Symphony musicians.

Finding a Community of Peers

This year, the students had a unique opportunity to learn from one of the today’s leading composers, John Adams, when he visited Seattle to conduct the West Coast premiere of his new violin concerto for Leila Josefowicz, Scheherazade.2.

“Did they think I was a nerd? Yes,” said Adams when asked about the challenges he faced growing up. “I had this clarinet case with me all the time, sort of like a ball and chain, so they started calling me ‘the clarinet kid.’ It was not meant as a compliment.”

As Adams noted, growing up as someone who loves classical music can be a lonely experience, especially for students whose peers might not share their enthusiasm.

“Those of us who love classical music are lucky because we have had that opportunity,” Adams told the gathered composers.

When you think about it, how many 17-year-old composers do you know? The program provides a rare opportunity for the students to interact with peers who share their curiosity and passion.

The interaction helps them work through difficult questions about the creative process, like how to start a new piece when confronted with a blank piece of paper.

“The bad news is that this is the hardest thing in the world,” said Adams. “I’ve been composing for 40 years and I still have no idea how to start a piece.”

“I just keep at it every day,” he continued. “I know I’ll eventually get over it and there’s a probability that something interesting will come together.”

Working with Seattle Symphony Musicians

The composers also have the opportunity to work with musicians from every section of the orchestra as they write their pieces, including mentoring sessions with Pablo Rus Broseta, Assistant Conductor of the Seattle Symphony.

Huck Hodge, Associate Professor of Composition at the University of Washington, leads the weekly seminar and guides the discussion each week. At the end of process, the composers rehearse their works with musicians from the Seattle Symphony. This is the first time they hear their music after spending weeks creating and preparing their scores.

“It’s essential to nurture creativity in young people, and to suggest a frame around this creativity that might provide them with real craft,” said Music Director Ludovic Morlot. “More selfishly, we like to be the first ones to discover talented composers – the voices of tomorrow.”

These students are musical. They are bright. Some want to continue studying music specifically in college; others want to combine their studies of music with science or bioengineering. With an already busy high school schedule, is it challenging to add several more hours a week to their workload? The resounding reply: “It’s not really work. It’s fun!”

Join us for the grand finale of The Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop on May 2 at 7pm. The concert is free and open to the public.

Posted on April 20, 2016