Student Composer Showcase - Live from Opus 37
ELLERY MITCHELL: I like composing and being matched with the mentors.
ORION DOLAND: You know, it's just more opportunities to see music.
LILY DANTSHER: Tonight, I'm really looking forward to hearing all the pieces. I think it's gonna be really fun.
CHRIS RIVERS: It's one of my favorite days as a schoolteacher, all year long.
JAMES: Those are just a few of the composers and educators I had a chance to speak to on May 2nd. I’m James Stewart and for this month’s Student Composer Showcase we’re taking you to Music-COMP’s biggest day of the year. Here is the executive director of Music-COMP, Matt LaRocca to tell us where we are.
MATT LAROCCA: So, we are at Opus 37 right now. Opus is our biggest annual concert every year. We are in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in the Old North End in Burlington and tonight we will be premiering 23 works from students all across Vermont. And right now, we're listening to the live rehearsal in the afternoon.
ORION DOLAND: Just seeing like a bunch of little kids, stuff that they wrote is really cool because, you know, seeing the younger generation come do it and stuff; seeing pieces that my friends wrote, and everything performed in a beautiful cathedral, all that. Super fun.
JAMES: That was Orion Doland, a student from Lake Region Union High School. Orion joined so many other students from elementary, middle and high schools around the state. They spent most of their Tuesday in rehearsals, going to seminars, mingling with others, and of course preparing for the big concert that night. I had a chance to talk with a few of the composers who were excited to tell me about their work. First, we’ll hear from Lily Dantscher, a student at Hunt Middle School in Burlington.
LILY: This is my first year doing Music-COMP. My piece is called “Summer Carnival” and it's supposed to give a very light and joyful feeling.
JAMES: Newport City Elementary School student, Caleb Scherer presented a beautiful piece about a beloved family pet.
CALEB: I made it about “My Dog Trooper”, because he would lay in his bed next to the piano while I played and then he passed away two years ago. So, I wrote the song for him.
JAMES: Homeschool student, John Wallace told me about this piece for solo piano.
JOHN: It's called “Strange Plants”. It's meant as sort of a walk through a garden with strange, mystical plants.
JAMES: The students were joined by their mentors, teachers and other important adults in their lives, all cheering on this amazing musical creativity on display.
CHRIS: My name is Chris Rivers and I teach at Harwood Union High School.
JAMES: Chris is also one of the musicians that performed in the Opus concert.
CHRIS: I am. Yeah, I play the trumpet in this group today.
JAMES: This isn’t Chris’ first time; he’s been doing this for a while…
CHRIS: A long time as a performer, I would say 20 years, probably somewhere in there. It's really rewarding to play the music of these students who have only heard their songs in sort of computer language, you know, and to sort of be present to interpreting their music when they've not heard it that played by humans before. So, it's very rewarding.
ROBIN WEIGAND: Well, it's very thrilling to me to see a whole bunch of other young composers. Some of them around my age, some of them older, younger.
JOHN WALLACE: It's been amazing working with all of the staff and mentors online and it's great to communicate with them in real time.
CALEB SCHERER: It was cool that I actually had a mentor to help me compose an actual song.
ELLERY MITCHELL: It's not like you have to be amazing at composing, you just get to make a song and then you get help, and it's pretty much for everybody really. It's not like classical music only. You can make different genres of music.
MATT LAROCCA: One of the things that we've done over the last couple of years is we've slowly diversified the types of music that we make. So, we have a couple of electronic music mentors on our staff now, sort of expanding who we are and what we do.
JAMES: Speaking of all the many things that Music-COMP does for music education in Vermont, I had a chance to speak with another educator.
MOLLY: My name is Molly Dubois. I'm a music teacher at Crossett Brook Middle School.
JAMES: Molly spoke with me about the major impact that Music-COMP and the Opus concerts have had on their students. Molly also mentioned the work that Music-COMP is putting into teacher training and professional development.
MOLLY: It's the only music, professional development that we're really getting in Vermont. Our districts provide in-service and professional development, but none of it is about music. And so, every summer and several times through the year, they offer often credited courses so that we can, you know, get our re-licensure, and get some fresh new ideas and training, which is so important.
MATT: There's few organizations that I believe in as much as I believe in this organization, the way that it gives students and young people an avenue to create music is like nothing else I've seen anywhere in the country.
JAMES: You can check out the full list of composers, musicians and mentors that participated in this year’s Opus 37 concert at Music-COMP.org.
The Music Composition Mentoring Program (Music-COMP) is a Vermont non-profit started in 1995 that teaches students in grades 3-12 how to compose original music. Students are paired with professional composers as mentors, and over 50 works are premiered each year with professional musicians.
Production support for the Student Composer Showcase is provided by Lake Champlain Access Television, a community media center serving eight towns in Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle Counties, providing a free forum for expression, and a link to local government and training. More at lcatv.org