The Seattle Symphony presents A Concert of World Premieres on Monday, June 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Samuel & Althea Stroum Grand Lobby in Benaroya Hall. Hosted by Classical KING FM announcer Dave Beck, the concert features new chamber works by 10 high-school-age composers who have participated in this year’s Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop (YCW). The YCW is a 12-week series of classes that supports young aspiring composers in the community to explore, experiment and produce a new piece of music. Led by Director and University of Washington composition professor Huck Hodge, classes met weekly in Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center, where students worked on all aspects of composing, including writing themes, learning orchestration and preparing a final score with parts. The program culminates in a public concert on June 1, during which each student’s work is performed live by Seattle Symphony musicians and friends. This concert is free and open to the public, no tickets are required.
In addition, three of this year’s participants wrote works for kinetic sculptor, sound artist and Music Alive Composer-in-Residence Trimpin’s Benaroya Hall instrumental installation. Trimpin is currently in his second year of a three-year residency at the Seattle Symphony. Between 2013 and 2015, YCW students have had the opportunity to work with Trimpin on writing for the kinetic instruments through various workshops and studio visits. His composition Above, Below, and In Between, written for a site-specific installation in the Benaroya Hall Grand Lobby, received its world premiere during an [untitled] series performance on May 1.
“The Symphony's support of the workshop has enabled young composers like myself to try their hand at the full composition process,” says Whilhelmina “Mina” Esary, a third-year YCW participant. “Having the experience of preparing parts, rehearsing with professional musicians and having a live, public performance has helped me to see myself as a composer, and has ultimately given me the skills I need to pursue composition in college and as a career. I would likely not be going to the Eastman School of Music to study composition if I had not gone through this workshop. There is nothing quite like the process of preparing and rehearsing a piece and then hearing it performed live, and, as a composer, the thrill of hearing your piece brought to life by professional musicians is encouraging, inspiring and enabling. Young composers especially need this experience. If we do not ever have a chance to hear our pieces as they are meant to be played and hear an audience's reaction to those pieces, we are limited in our ability to judge our potential as a composer, which will have a large impact on our decision of whether or not to study composition in the future.”
The Young Composers Workshop is part of the Seattle Symphony’s New Music WORKS, an innovative project designed to engage audiences with excellent contemporary symphonic programming, employing music composition as a tool to increase public participation in the arts. Participants in this year’s Young Composers Workshop are Caleb Bantum and Travis Frank from Seattle; Aidan Gold from Bothell; Liam Chen from Everett; Andrew Dana, Christina Ding, Wilhelmina “Mina” Esary and Ariel Hsieh from Bellevue; Mason Meyer from Snohomish; and Molly Turner from Tacoma. Biographies for each composer are listed below.
The Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop gives students the opportunity to work on all aspects of composing, including writing themes, learning orchestration and preparing a final score with parts. The workshop began in 1992 under the direction of former Music Director Gerard Schwarz and composer Bright Sheng. Due to the generous support of Seattle Symphony patron Pamela Merriman and the Merriman Family Foundation, the workshop runs each year to provide young composers with the opportunity to develop their own creative voices and hear their works performed live in a state-of-the-art concert hall by professional musicians. The June 1 concert presents Seattle Symphony musicians and guests performing works created by teen composers in a workshop led by Director Huck Hodge. This concert is made possible through the generosity of the Merriman Family Foundation and the valuable support of Huck Hodge and the musicians of Seattle Symphony.
About Huck Hodge
Huck Hodge writes music that explores the embodied poetics of organized sound, perceptual illusion and the threshold between design and intuition. Uniquely Northwestern light patterns act as an inspiration in much of his music — the way that a piercing slant of light, breaking through a dreary Seattle cloudscape, casts an intense, otherworldly chiaroscuro on the landscape — the ethereal yellowness of the light in bas-relief against the yawning darkness of the sky. These stark contrasts in light and dark find their way into his striking combination of pure and dissonant harmonies, widely spaced orchestrations and vast, diffuse timbres.
A composer of “harmonically fresh work…full of both sparkle and thunder” (The New York Times), his music has been praised for its “immediate impact” (Chicago Tribune), its “dramatic strength and the superb combination of theory and intuition” (Het Parool, Amsterdam). His awards include the Rome Prize, the Gaudeamus Prize and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). His recent commissions include those from the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, the Barlow Endowment, Music at the Anthology, the American Composers Forum, the Siemens Musikstiftung (Germany), the National Concert Hall of Taiwan and the government of the Netherlands. His music has been performed worldwide in numerous festivals at such locations as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center by members of Ensemble Modern, the Berlin Philharmonic, the ASKO|Schönberg Ensemble and many others; the Seattle Symphony will give the world premiere of a new work in Autumn 2015. His recorded music is available on the New World and Albany record labels. Hodge was educated at Columbia University and at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Stuttgart, Germany. He is currently Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Washington.
Dave Beck joined KING FM in 2013. Previously, he was an award-winning producer and host at KUOW Public Radio. His national and regional broadcast honors include the Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI) Award for Best Interview and the Society of Professional Journalists Northwest Regional Excellence Award. An active musician (cellist) as well as broadcaster, Beck is a member of the Auburn Symphony Orchestra and has played as principal cellist of the Bellevue Philharmonic and Seattle Philharmonic Orchestras. He also plays chamber music regularly. Beck is a past president of the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras’ board of directors. He often appears as a pre-concert speaker. A University of Washington music graduate, his cello teachers have included Toby Saks, Raymond Davis and Cordelia Wikarski Miedel.
Caleb Bantum is an aspiring composer living in Seattle, Washington. He currently plays the cello in Ballard High School’s orchestra and fiddle ensembles, though he prefers composition over performance. In addition to contemporary classical music, Caleb is influenced by jazz and hip hop; he spends much of his time honing his sampling and beat-making skills. In general, Caleb’s work is influenced by mystical concepts and imagery. Caleb considers himself to be an introvert, gaining more energy and satisfaction from a night in over a night out.
Liam Chen is 14 and a 9th grader attending Everett High School (EHS). He plays the trombone in the EHS concert band and pep band. He’s also a member of the jazz band which recently had the privilege of competing in the national Swing Central Jazz Competition in Savannah, Georgia as one of 12 jazz bands from the entire country. In his spare time, besides music, he enjoys playing tennis, biking, piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. He owes all of this to his great band teachers, Mr. Gudorf and Mrs. Vinther, his parents, for driving through an hour of traffic every week and, of course, this workshop.
Andrew Dana has been creating music since age 10. Previous studies have included courses with Janice Giteck and Wayne Horvitz, and he currently attends the Academy of Music Northwest, where he studies composition with Eric Flesher. Andrew also plays bass and keyboards in multiple local rock and jazz groups, and is an avid collector of music in every genre. His other hobbies include film, literature, creative writing and cult television. He lives in Bellevue, where he attends the International School.
Christina Ding, age 16, is a 10th grader at the International School in Bellevue, Washington. She began studying piano at the age of 4, and started violin lessons at age 6. She is currently a student of Simon James and piano collaborator Hiro David. Christina has been a member of the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras since 2009, and is currently Associate Concertmaster of the Seattle Youth Symphony, as well as the concertmaster of the International School Orchestra. She has won and ranked highly at numerous contests and competitions, both on violin and for composition. For the past two summers, she has attended the Aspen Music Festival and School as a violinist. In her spare time, Christina enjoys photography, reading, ice skating and playing badminton.
Wilhelmina “Mina” Esary is a homeschooled senior and a second year Running Start student at Bellevue College and will be graduating with her Associates Degree in Arts and Sciences with a concentration in music this spring. Mina started composition studies at the Academy of Music Northwest in 2009, where she has taken composition with Eric Flesher for five years. She also studies piano with Willard Schultz, and has earned recognition for her playing at various festivals including the Seattle Bach Festival, the Chopin Festival, the Seattle Young Artists Music Festival and the Performing Arts Festival of the Eastside, as well as participating in the traditional session at the Adamant Music School in Adamant, Vermont this past summer. Mina lives in Duvall, enjoys singing in choirs at Bellevue College and at her parish, and loves the inspirational beauty of the Pacific Northwest. This fall, Mina will begin attending the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, to obtain her Bachelor’s of Music in Composition.
Travis Frank is a senior at Ingraham High School, where he participates in the International Baccalaureate Program, and he will be attending Berklee College of Music next year. Travis spends most of his time in various drama programs at Ingraham, Holy Names and with his own production company, Black Tie Productions, a company he developed three years ago with the distinct goal of producing original musical theater. The company persists to this day, and most recently developed and produced Reprise, an original musical drama with music and lyrics by Travis and book and lyrics by Nora Germani. Be sure to look out for Travis’ next original musical, Super Iron Cooking Chef, coming in July!
Aidan Gold is 17 years old and this is his second year in the Young Composers Workshop. He has been composing for around four and a half years. Three years ago he went through the University of Washington Early Entrance Program and is now a sophomore studying music composition with Huck Hodge at UW. He has played piano for about five years, but now plays percussion, and has a love for the huge sound world produced by the many different percussion instruments. He has composed for a variety of different ensembles, but especially loves writing orchestral music. He also enjoys conducting and has had two years of conducting lessons with Julia Tai at the Academy of Music Northwest.
Ariel Hsieh is currently a sophomore at Bellevue High School, and this is her second year participating in the Young Composers Workshop. Her music studies began at age 5 for piano and age 7 for violin. Since age 10, Ariel has participated in the Seattle’s Young Artist Festival in piano and violin, consistently receiving special recognition each year in both instruments. She is also a third-year alto singer in Bel Canto Choir at First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue. Ariel began studying composition with Sharon Van Valin in 5th grade. Ariel has been locally, regionally and nationally recognized for her music compositions. In her service to the community through music, Ariel has played with her friends and her sister Ashley in a string quartet which visits Seattle Children’s Hospital during the summer and holiday season. Aside from music and academics, Ariel is a Varsity swimmer and Varsity tennis player at Bellevue High School. She is an AP art student currently working on an art and design portfolio.
Mason Meyer, 16, is a composer, pianist and saxophonist from Snohomish. He was first introduced to music at age 6, when he began studying the piano. Since then, his talents in performance and composition have been recognized by the Washington State Music Teacher Association (WSMTA), the Music Teacher National Association, the Gourmet Music and Culture club, along with many other organizations. He recently earned the title of state champion through the WSMTA. Additionally, Mason’s work has been performed on KING FM and KPLU radio stations, and he has been invited to perform as a soloist with many orchestras. He has greatly enjoyed the opportunity the work with musicians from the Seattle Symphony this year.
Molly Turner is a senior at Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma, Washington. This is her first year in the Young Composers Workshop. She plays violin in the Tacoma Youth Symphony and also plays piano and guitar. She started composing at the piano early in high school and hasn’t stopped since. She enjoys fusing traditional music theory, modern compositional techniques and expressiveness in her compositions. Although most of Molly’s compositions are acoustic and tonal, she is always trying to incorporate more modern techniques in her compositions. In her free time, Molly enjoys playing Ultimate Frisbee, improvising at the piano and going to the symphony with friends. Most importantly, she will never turn down an opportunity to make music — whether it be a pit orchestra, community orchestra, chamber ensemble, improvising or simply composing music. Molly is pursuing music composition with a pre-med track next year in college.
THE MERRIMAN FAMILY YOUNG COMPOSERS WORKSHOP
A CONCERT OF WORLD PREMIERES
Monday, June 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Samuel & Althea Stroum Grand Lobby, Benaroya Hall
Huck Hodge, workshop director
Dave Beck, host
Wesley Schulz, conductor
Seattle Symphony musicians & friends
Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop participants
Reign of Pharaoh
The Gnome of Notre Dame
Four Instrumental Miniatures
Shards of the Past
Theme and Variations on Spring
Two Fragments of Bits
I. Henshin and Release
II. Teen Cluster
Trimpin with the Seattle Symphony is made possible through Music Alive, a residency program of the League of American Orchestras and New Music USA. This national program is designed to provide orchestras with resources and tools to support their presentation of new music to the public and build support for new music within their institutions. Funding for Music Alive is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and The ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund.
The Seattle Symphony’s Family, School & Community programs are supported by 4Culture, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, The Boeing Company, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation, The Clowes Fund, Inc., the Elizabeth McGraw Foundation, the Fales Foundation Trust, the League of American Orchestras, Richard and Francine Loeb, Kjristine Lund, the National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA, Peach Foundation, the Peg and Rick Young Foundation, the Schiff Foundation, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation, the Snoqualmie Tribe, Ten Grands Seattle, the U.S. Bank Foundation, Wells Fargo and the Wyman Youth Trust.
Photo credits from top: Brandon Patoc Photography, Seattle Symphony