Project offers students opportunity to grow as composers, artists |

Project offers students opportunity to grow as composers, artists

Submitted to Prospector

During the first session of the Composer Project with Mark Vance on Sept. 14, a group of 10 teenage musicians got a lesson they won’t soon forget. Famed Hollywood orchestrator John Neufeld joined them for part of their class to talk about composition.

The special appearance with the group was a prelude to the InConcert Sierra Orchestra’s premier of his original composition, “Three Pieces on ‘Seedlings’ of Maria Apostoles,” the following day.

The Composer’s Project is a new program with InConcert Sierra designed by Vance. The curriculum includes composition, notation software, conducting, melodic and rhythmic dictation, theory, harmony, music history, ear training, solfege and rehearsal/performance techniques. Through InConcert Sierra, the Composer’s Project now has access to the world-class musicians presented during the nonprofit organization’s Third Sunday season, such as Neufeld.

Neufeld, a classically trained clarinetist, spent the majority of his career as the principal orchestrator for John Williams. Films he’s created with orchestrating include “Jurassic Park,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Minority Report” and dozens more.

During his time with the young artists, Neufeld talked about his background and explained the role of an orchestrator, arranger and composer. Students asked a variety of questions, including how to work through a writing block.

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“Wait for another day. But allow yourself to do something — let it be not great — just keep going, push yourself to find a thread to build upon. Just put something down,” Neufeld counseled.

“Sometimes you just have to trust what you put down,” he added. “… you can come back to something you rejected and you might find you like it or can change it.”

Through the nine-month program, students will write two new compositions: one piece for voice accompanied by the student’s instrument of choice, and a second composition for solo instrument or ensemble. Both works will be premiered by professional musicians.

Coming up, the teens will get the opportunity to work with world-renowned pianist-composer Michael Brown, in advance of his Oct. 20 concert in Grass Valley. Brown is an artist with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and is credited for being a leading figure in a renaissance of young performer-composers.

There will be two concerts to showcase the Composers Project pieces on Feb. 2, 2020 and June 14, 2020.

For more information about Composer’s Project, please call Vance at 530-273-3990. Or visit

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