Meet the 2017 young composers

Ayda Akbal [Age 15, VIC]
Composition: Restoration

I started playing piano in 2007 and I completed my Grade 8 AMEB Exam last year. I now take monthly composition lessons and I am in a piano trio at school. I took up the cello in 2009 and I participate in the school’s symphony orchestra and chamber orchestra with the cello.

I begun singing lessons in 2011 and I’ve performed in my school’s yearly musicals. Last year I played the role of Wendy in the middle school musical of Peter Pan and this year I was in the Senior School musical of Urinetown. I also participate in my school’s senior choir and choral jazz program.

I’ve also been teaching myself various other instruments such as the guitar and saxophone. I completed and notated by first composition in 2009 for a piano solo. Since then I’ve composed various other piano solos, pieces for voice and piano, one for piano and cello, two string quartet pieces and compositions for other small ensembles.

Composition Inspiration

My fanfare is called ‘Restoration’, meaning the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition. I named it this because the beginning gives a sense of uncertainty which I created by not basing the key chords around the usual major chord progression but by adding unusual accidentals throughout them, however the second half of the piece feels as if everything is restored, meaning it is back to the way that it should be as it lands strongly into a major key and has a solid marching feel that is full of certainty.

A piece that inspired me whilst writing my Fanfare was Fanfare for the Third Planet by Richard L. Saucedo. This fanfare has a very strong rhythmic feel right from the beginning of the piece and could be described as having a strong brass section that is supported and made stronger by the other instruments in the orchestra. I tried to reflect this in my own composition by giving the main melodies to the brass section and the other counter melodies to the woodwinds, violas and cellos. The rhythmic feel in my fanfare is then created by the percussion and the violins and string bass.

Hear the final orchestral version recorded by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Caitlin Buchan [Age 15, Bendigo, VIC]
Composition: Cleopatra’s Entrance

Caitlin, 15 years of age, was introduced to music at a very young age from her Grade 2 teacher. Since then she has taken an interest to orchestras and composing. She currently plays both flute and piccolo and has recently started learning the alto saxophone. Some influences that have helped her on her journey have been Jane Rutter, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Orchestra Victoria.

Caitlin has been involved in school music week performances, competitions and workshops. Recently she performed an accompanied solo to over 300 people. She has been in two major bands outside of school, the Bendigo and District Concert Band and the All Colleges Symphonic Band. Caitlin loves music as she enjoys being able to connect and make friends. When she is in a group ensemble she loves listening to every section in the group come together. The feeling she gets from knowing that all the practise was worth it encourages her to achieve her best and to continue in music. A few short-term goals for her are to participate in Orchestra Victoria and to be involved in the schools Musician of the Year. In the future she would love to be able to go to a University that majors in music. She also hopes to be able to play in an accompanying orchestra for musicals, operas or ballets as well as helping music spread to the younger generation.

Composition Inspiration

When I was writing this piece I had no idea where to begin so I started writing down a bunch of different rhythms to see what ones I liked. The piece I had in mind was a piece I was currently doing with my symphonic band, African Symphony. It’s a very upbeat piece and I wanted to include some aspects of it. I used a similar rhythm for the toms and timpani that was used in African Symphony. That was where all the ideas after that had come from.

The Egyptian feel of the piece came from me messing around with semitones to see what sounded right in my head. I’m very new to composing so I didn’t know how to start with a key signature so accidentals were a lot easier to work with. I ended up using a byzantine scale by accident, I didn’t even know what a byzantine scale was until I had finished writing my piece.

My inspiration for starting composing comes from film scores because I love the way that all of the parts come together and overlap with each other. One day I hope to be able to compose as well as some of those composers like Danny Elfman and James Newton Howard.

Hear the final orchestral version recorded by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Eric Bai [Age 13, VIC]
Composition: Fanfare

My name is Eric Bai and I’m recently turned 14 in June and I am in year 8 at Wesley College. I have been playing music since I was four years old. In 2010, I was the recipient of the Marissa Perrin scholarship and in 2011, I started lessons with my current piano and composition teacher, Keiko who has helped me with every one of my compositions with me since I was 8 years old and taught me piano from AMEB grade 3. From then on, I composed many pieces for piano solo, entering them into an Asia-Pacific Yamaha composition. From the age of 9 I started learning the trumpet and from the age 11, I started to improvise (in the Yamaha style), where I would extend a given motif on the spot. I have entered in many piano and composition competitions, receiving the Syldon Senior Encouragement award for the Bernstein Piano Competition 2016, being chosen as a finalist for the Hal Leonard composition competition and receiving ‘highly commended’ for a few ACMF songwriting competitions. I am currently preparing for my trumpet AMEB grade 5 exam and my piano AMEB grade 8 exam. Up to now I have composed roughly 8 main pieces, 6 for piano solo, one for piano duet and the current fanfare.

Composition inspiration

Once, my composition and piano teacher Keiko gave me a lesson using an electone which was set to the sounds of orchestral instruments. With it, Keiko started playing all sorts of fanfares talked about making a fanfare. Some of the fanfares she played included Star Wars by John Williams (a piece I have borrowed some chords from the introduction and may have inspired me a bit), the Superman Theme also by John Williams (which may have inspired me a bit too) and the Back to the Future theme. During the session, I experimented with lots of different notes and chords (as Keiko suggested that I should use more complicated chords), eventually coming up with an idea that Keiko was happy with (using chords similar to those in the Star Wars theme introduction). After this session, I had to develop the fanfare. I experimented with many different instruments and notes on my keyboard (as Keiko insisted that I should play before I write) to come up with ideas for extension. Eventually, the whole fanfare was written. I didn’t really have a piece of inspiration which inspired this fanfare but there were many fanfares that I listened to get an idea what I should write such as the three listed above.

Hear the final orchestral version recorded by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Hannah Hunt [Age 16, Winchelsea, VIC]
Composition: L’appel

My name is Hannah Hunt, I’m 16 years old and I’m from the small town Winchelsea, Victoria. I’m in Year 11, studying at Belmont High School. I don’t really have much a musical history. I didn’t start music when I started walking or before the age of 10. I didn’t even like music when I started in Year 7, when my parents thought playing the bassoon would be a good idea. I didn’t really enjoy it until a friend invited me to a community band which had kids and adults that loved music. From there, it was a bit of a snowball effect as I discovered that music wasn’t all that bad. In Year 9, I started doing little arrangements for a small ensemble I lead at school. As the year went on, I picked up flute and piano. In Year 10, I arranged ‘Test Drive’ and ‘Romantic Flight’ from ‘How To Train Your Dragon’, conducting my school’s senior band at the end of year concert, as well as starting up a double reed ensemble within my school. It was throughout last year and this year that I somehow taught myself how to play all the woodwind instruments and percussion. Through this year, I’ve started Unit 1 and 2 of ‘Music Styles and Composition’, which has been the little push forward that I needed into the composing world.

Composition Inspiration

I’d say that Star Wars was a bit of an inspiration to my piece. The start is so catching and seems to grab everyone’s attention, no matter where you are, so I tried to include that attention-grabbing idea in my piece. I called the piece ‘L’Appel’, which according to Google Translate, means ‘The Call’ in French. ‘The Call’ comes from a mixture of a few different things. First, it comes from the whole fanfare side of the piece; catching people’s attention. In my church, I serve on the worship team and at the start of a church service, we have a ‘call to worship’, which is getting people’s attention and calling them to start church.

In terms of actually writing the fanfare, I had decided to enter at the start of the year, but I had absolutely no idea what I’d write. A student studying composing at university gave me a few tips on how to get past ‘musician’s block’, which one of them was forcing yourself to compose for ten minutes a week. I did so, and came up with small tunes. Nothing you could call a piece, but small ideas I could bounce off in the future. It then got to a few days before the deadline, and I had nothing. But thanks to the small musical ideas I’d composed in the past few weeks, I was able to come up with my fanfare!

Meaningful Piece

I think the most meaningful piece to me is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘How Far I’ll Go’, sung by Auli’i Cravalho in Disney’s Moana. The song isn’t just about the main character wanting to cross the sea, it’s a song about yearning, ambition and the hope for more despite not knowing what lies ahead. With ‘How Far I’ll Go’, though it may be a lyrical song, it’s the orchestral music behind it that gives the change. The composer took advantage of what he had; the two verses sound very structured and there is no flowing feel to it, saying ‘you must follow this, you must keep to this, don’t stray’. The two pre-choruses are different, using minor chords and creating a very conflicting feel; it’s as if the music is fighting against itself, trying to choose a path. The chorus is best part; here, the music is flowing and free, like the ocean. Here, the listener can relax and can feel themselves reaching out for something that they know they can get, they’re filled will a sort of hope that can let them look to the horizon, asking themselves; how far will I go? Working with the lyrics, the song creates a message that has given me the strength to do my musical stuff, even when people told me I couldn’t; ‘don’t hold back because no one, not even yourself, knows your limits’.

Hear the final orchestral version recorded by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Joshua van de Ven [Age 15, VIC]
Composition: Fanfare for the modern world

My name is Joshua van de Ven. I am 16 years old and come from Melbourne, Victoria. I take lessons in Piano and Viola, and am also a self-taught Clarinettist and Cellist. I play Viola in the Melbourne Youth Chamber String Orchestra, am currently doing AMEB 5th Grade, and have been playing for five years. I’m currently doing AMEB 7th Grade in Piano, and have been playing for nine years. This year, I’ve also been playing Keys 1 in my school’s Musical Production, ‘The Little Mermaid’, which has been an interesting opportunity for me to diversify my musical repertoire and experience different musical styles.

My first real exposure to Classical music was when I was very little, and my grandparents took me to see Mozart’s The Magic Flute. I was enchanted by the music and spectacle of the opera, and decided I wanted to become a musician. I started playing Piano in Grade 1, and then began having Violin lessons when I was in Grade 2. When I was in Grade 5, I decided to switch from Violin to Viola (a choice I have never regretted), and have stuck with it ever since.

I’ve always liked composing. Even when I little I would tinker at the Piano and make little songs. I loved it. It wasn’t until I started High School, however, that I really began to properly explore composition. I wrote my first real piece for Piano, and since then have used resources on the internet and in books to build my compositional skills. Beginning with solo pieces, I’ve built my way up to my first fully orchestral piece, which I have for you today.

Composition Inspiration

We are now living in an age of rapidly accelerating change. Every day, new innovations, challenges, and ideas bring us closer to an exciting and unclear future. My Fanfare for the Modern World hopes to capture this energy – the unrelenting force of progress, the speed of a global world, and of a constantly changing society. In particular, I wanted to achieve this through two ways. Firstly, the use of the Lydian Mode, which, with its augmented fourth, has a very bright and energetic tone; and secondly, through the use of rhythmic superimposition and syncopation.

When I began work on my Fanfare, I had recently discovered the works of John Adams. I had listened to some of his compositions, and was intensely fascinated by his use of so-called ‘rhythmic dissonances’. When I started writing, I knew straight away that I wanted to use slightly non-traditional rhythms, as you heard in the Horn theme at the beginning of the piece.

 At the beginning of the Fanfare, you immediately hear an energetic Clarinet ostinato, which consists of groups of four semiquavers repeated over and over again. After a few bars, the Oboe joins in to this line, but instead of playing a four note motif, it plays a three note one. Thus, a kind of accent shift is employed by having a four on three grouping. You can see this her­­e:

Emphasis is placed on the first note of every group of four, then the fourth, then the third, and then the second. This rhythmic trick is what gives the piece so much drive, and helps to achieve the sense of persistence of progress which I was attempting to convey.

Another work that is meaningful to me

Another work which particularly inspired me with my Fanfare is John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine’. In this piece you can readily hear the kinds of ‘rhythmic dissonance’ and techniques I was discussing earlier. Adams begins the piece with a very fast clarinet line, similar to the one I used, and then gradually adds in the Brass section, which begin in unison before beginning to play different rhythmic values. Gradually the entire orchestra is brought in, all playing slightly different rhythmic lines. This creates a rhythmic wash, which suggests the mechanisms of a complex machine (hence the name of the piece).

Hear the final orchestral version recorded by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Kailesh Reitmans [Age 19, NSW]
Composition: Celebration Fanfare

I’m Kailesh Reitmans, currently studying a Bachelor of Music – majoring in Composition and Music Production – at the Australian Institute of Music. Formal music training began for me at a later age than many, starting piano at 13, but it was an innate passion and desire to learn music which led me on that path. I gained an education in classical repertoire as many pianists do, but soon I developed a love for improvisation and exploring the possibilities of harmony available at the keyboard, and this allowed me to visit an entirely new scope of music. The idea of creating my own, original, and personal music is vital to me; it’s what provokes an interest in all forms of music and composition as I hope to follow a career in film scoring in the years to come.

Composition Inspiration

In such a brief work it can be difficult to capture and successfully develop an idea, but naturally I drew inspiration from composers and works that I hold in high regard and value. As a piece which required explosive and vibrant sound, John Williams was undoubtedly the strongest influence; his use of bold brass, rich harmony, and rhythmic displacement are all ideal musical characteristics for a fanfare of this nature. I took inspiration from his musical aesthetic more than any one piece per se, and derived a straightforward but pronounced theme with a strong emphasis of tonic and dominant in the melody. On this basis I derived some more adventurous harmony using dissonance as a key tool to build tension and excitement, Williams was certainly an influence here. Composers such as Holst and Stravinsky were innately influential as well (as they were to Williams) in creating a vibrant and lively sound. It’s titled ‘Celebration’ more as a representation of the brazen orchestral sound and energetic tonal forces which move throughout the piece.

Hear the final orchestral version recorded by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Ronan Apcar [Age 16, NSW]
Composition: Fanfare for the hidden call

My name is Ronan Apcar. I was born in Sydney in July 2000 and have lived here my whole life. I attended Willoughby Public School, before going to St Pius X College, Chatswood from years 5 to 10.  This year I joined the Sydney Conservatorium High School to finish my schooling.

I first discovered music at age 8 when I began to teach myself the piano, and in the following year I took up the trumpet in the Willoughby Public School band. I slowly began to take an interest in composition, and now I primarily study composition.  At the Conservatorium, I am a double major in composition and piano, and a minor in trumpet. On the side, I used to train acrobatic gymnastics for many years up until 2015, and now I work part-time as a gymnastics coach.

Composition Inspiration

When I was thinking about how I would open this piece, I thought about what makes a fanfare what it is. I sort of came to a conclusion that fanfares are attention-grabbing pieces. Thinking about pitch material, a lot of fanfare or fanfare-like pieces are so dominated with perfect fourths and fifths (take the opening of Also sprach Zarathustra by Strauss or Fanfare for the Common Man by Copland). So I thought that I should write my fanfare based on fourths and fifths. The opening is a solo trumpet call using a limited interval set of fourths and fifths, which is answered by a second call from the French horn, but this time accompanied with harmony built off fourths and fifths. I wrote this with the original bell cue from the Sydney Opera House in mind – which is a minor third. So I decided that I would answer the opening call with the bell cue that has been ‘hidden’ in the music – or at least it’s not too obvious I think. That’s why I chose the title of Fanfare for the Hidden Call.

Hear the final orchestral version recorded by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Scott van Gemert [Age 20, VIC]
Composition: Fanfare for another day

Scott van Gemert is a 20-year-old trombonist, pianist and composer based in Melbourne, currently studying a Bachelor of Music at the James Morrison Academy in Mount Gambier, South Australia. He has performed with artists such as the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Gordon Goodwin, the Horns of Leroy, and James Morrison’s Big Band at world famous venues such as Dizzy’s Jazz Club (NY), the Green Mill Jazz Club (Chicago), Hamer Hall, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club and Uptown Jazz Café (Melb), and the Basement and Taronga Zoo (Syd).

In 2017, Scott was commissioned to write the set piece for Division 1 at the Generations in Jazz Festival after composing three large works the previous year for the One O’Clock Lab Band (US) and the JMA Jazz Orchestra combined and featuring guests Wycliffe Gordon, Ross Irwin, Troy Roberts and James Morrison. He has also performed his compositions with the JMA Jazz Orchestra on national and international tours, including at the Julliard School in New York and the Jazz Educator’s Network Conference in New Orleans.

Scott has also recorded on a number of albums for the ABC Jazz label and currently leads his own chordless quartet (SvG 4tet) t­­­hat perform his original compositions and arrangements.

Composition Inspiration

My work is called “Fanfare for Another Day” as it is inspired by the idea of a constant, underlying level of satisfaction in life. It celebrates the idea that a new day doesn’t have to be proclaimed as a reason to start from scratch and turn in a completely different direction, but merely acknowledged as a chance to continue on the same path that you are travelling already. The fanfare is not excessively triumphant, but contently positive and affirming.

My fanfare begins with traditional accented brass figures but then layers new ideas throughout the orchestra, passing phrases between various instruments and sections. The strings then play a series of chords alone that portray the continuous motion of one day flowing into another, as the piece leads to a more traditional energetic conclusion.

Hear the final orchestral version recorded by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

July 18, 2017
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