Young composers sign up for a new season |

Young composers sign up for a new season

Julie Becker
Submitted to The Union
Students in the Young Composers Project will take part in bi-monthly classes in addition to a weekly private lesson to guide the students through the complexities of composition and help them bring their ideas to fruition.
Submitted photo to The Union

To get a picture of Music in the Mountains Young Composers Project, imagine looking through a kaleidoscope — or rather several kaleidoscopes backed by a musical score.

First, take a peek through the “Kaleidoscope of Collaboration” to see how students have been inspired in years past to write music based on personal experience.

By linking up with the Sierra Streams Institute in 2014, the young composers explored the Yuba River and learned about the life cycles of salmon. In 2015, they visited Animal Place, a sanctuary for rescued farm animals and were touched by tales of animal welfare.

In 2016, students traveled to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and picked out paintings or sculptures that spoke to them. In 2017, they joined forces with Hospitality House and opened up their hearts and minds to the homeless.

This past year, winter and spring of 2018, the composers connected with the South Yuba River Citizens League, gaining knowledge of both water law and water storage, and then returning to the Yuba River to study the vibrant life found in the river and all around the watershed. While the scene has yet to be set for the coming year, students enrolled with Young Composers are guaranteed a promising new adventure.

Of course none of these collaborative scenes would be possible without looking through the “Kaleidoscope of Curriculum.”

Under the leadership of Music in the Mountains education coordinator Mark Vance, young composers are immersed in a rich blend of music history, music theory, harmony, notation, conducting, sight singing, listening and even public speaking. It’s an ambitious undertaking and students seem to love it.

In addition to bi-monthly classes, every student receives a weekly private lesson to guide them through the complexities of composition and to have a chance to express their percolating ideas. As an added bonus, the curriculum also includes special field trips — a chance to attend a Met Live broadcast at the Del Oro Theatre or perhaps a jaunt to the Bay Area to hear the Berkeley Symphony premier a new work.

This multi-faceted curriculum ultimately leads to the “Kaleidoscope of Composition” — vocal pieces in the winter and instrumental pieces in the spring, all performed by professional musicians in concert.

The vocal pieces are adapted from poetry of each student’s choosing, and the instrumental pieces engage a wide variety of musical combinations — duos, trios and quartets incorporating violin, cello, flute, French horn, clarinet, harp, marimba, etc. — any instrumental combination that suits a young composer’s fancy.

There are people living locally that aim to attend every Young Composers concert they possibly can, not only to listen to exceptionally fine music, but also to applaud and admire the young people behind all the musical creations.

The Young Composers Project is a rare opportunity for students ranging from junior high through college to expand their musicianship and be involved in the community.

Enrollment is now open for the 2018-2019 season, which officially kicks off on Saturday, Sept. 8. Curious and talented young musicians are encouraged to apply.

For more information on the program, contact Mark Vance via email at or via phone at 530-265-6173.

Julie Becker lives in Nevada City and is a member of Music in the Mountains Education Task Force.

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