Texas Young Composers Concert
I hear a symphony
If not for one email that unexpectedly appeared in Anthony Corroa's inbox 18 months ago, a dozen budding young Beethovens from high schools across Texas wouldn't hear their compositions performed by the Austin Symphony Orchestra on April 20. But the message from Matthew White, a student at Round Rock's Stony Point High School, asking ASO's executive director to forward a symphonic composition he had written to maestro Peter Bay for some feedback, intrigued Corroa enough that he decided to take a peek at the piece, and what he found was a work so well-written that it needed little help at all. "It was very well-constructed," Corroa says, with "beautiful ideas put together in such a fashion that only someone who has had experience would have been able to compose something like this."
Corroa was so impressed, in fact, that he suggested the symphony perform the four-minute piece at the next program in its annual series of concerts for high schools, which reaches almost 10,000 area students each January. ASO had featured many student instrumentalists in these concerts but never a student composer. At every performance, the response to the piece was so strong that Corroa was inspired to create a composition contest for high school students across Texas. Submissions had to be a set length and scored for a full symphony orchestra, with the instrumentation created on a music writing program in which a synthesized version of the piece would be recorded to an MP3 file.
Even knowing Matthew White and how big Texas is, Corroa expected only four or five entries. "Little did I know that we have a lot of budding composers throughout our state," he says, chuckling. "Twenty-five compositions came in, and at least 12 were good enough to be performed." And those came, Corroa points out, from young people with little training in symphonic composition; they're working out how to write for an orchestra from "raw talent and simply listening to that art form." Four submissions were included on the 2011 high school concert program, but Corroa didn't want to stop there; he felt there should be a special concert to honor the 12 top composers. Knowing that the symphony had no money for such an event this year but hoping to plant the seed for next year, Corroa broached the subject at a meeting of the ASO board of directors. To his surprise, one board member volunteered to kick in $5,000 for a concert this year. Then another pledged more, and another and another, until ASO had enough cash to pay the orchestra. And when Corroa met with Long Center interim Executive Director Paul Beutel about scheduling the event, Beutel liked the idea so well that he offered Dell Hall to the ASO for free and signed on the Long Center as co-presenter.
So at this week's inaugural Texas Young Composers Concert, you can expect a cluster of young composers to be flushed with pride as they hear their writing breathed into life by an orchestra of professional musicians. And Corroa will be pretty proud, too: Having come to arts administration after 25 years as a high school band director, he knows the impact such events can have on musically gifted students. And this one may make a difference in not only individual lives but an art form. "We know there are a lot of wonderful young pianists out there and budding scientists and brain surgeons and what have you, but this is a relatively untouched part of music," he says. "This is our future in symphonic music, and we need to be developing that talent. This is one of the most exciting things that I've done here."
The compositions to be played are:
"The Last Lullaby," by Sam Melnick (Bowie High School, Austin)
"Searching," by Matthew White (Stony Point High School, Round Rock)
"Toward Sky's End," by Jared Beu (McNeil High School, Round Rock)
"Giovane Ballerina's Suite," by Wyatt Hahn (Cedar Park High School, Cedar Park)
"Deprivation of B," by Wells Leng (Westwood High School, Round Rock)
"Aeternam Habeas Requiem," by Christian Paarup (Baylor University, Waco)
"Surrounded," by Brennan Anderson (LBJ High School, Austin)
"Symphonic Piece No. 1," by Mickailis Molina (Byron P. Steele High School, Cibolo)
"Isolation," by Behnam Arzaghi (Lubbock High School, Lubbock)
"Seaborne," by Samuel Hooper (Westlake High School, Austin)
"War for Survival," by Jack Roberts (Alamo Heights High School, Alamo Heights)
"Symphony – No. 2, Mvt. 2," by William Campbell (Austin Waldorf School, Austin)
The Texas Young Composers Concert will be held Wednesday, April 20, 7:30pm, in Dell Hall at the Long Center, 701 Riverside. For more information, call 476-6064 or visit www.austinsymphony.org.