T Q&A 

University High senior Joel Kreimeyer-Kelly, 17, is in his fourth year in the Tucson Symphony's Young Composer Project, in which kids get hands-on instruction in writing music and see their work performed by members of the symphony. They also get to meet with renowned musicians such as pop musician Bobby McFerrin, classical genius Chris Theofanidis and members of the Empire Brass, which has been called North America's finest brass quintet. The class meets almost every Saturday from September to April, under the tutelage of Dan Eichenbaum and other friends of the symphony. The program, which has sliding-scale tuition, is currently enrolling new students. If you're interested, contact Shawn Campbell at 792-9155.

How do you become a composer in this day and age?

Well, I'm not a real composer yet. I'm still really learning a lot. But I guess the basics are you have to know instruments and know basic theory and the structure of music.

How long have you been playing the piano?

I think this is my 12th year studying piano.

So since you were ...

Five or 6 years old, just starting kindergarten.

When did you start writing your own music?

This is my fourth year in the symphony's Young Composer Program, so it was maybe just a year before I started doing that.

You hope to go on to score films?

Yeah, that would be the goal, doing films or any kind of commercial media would be cool.

What's the Tucson Symphony's Young Composer Project all about?

It's pretty much a year-long orchestration class, where we meet on Saturdays from September to April. There are instructors, Dan Eichenbaum and Dan Coleman, who work with us. You learn all the different instruments of the orchestra. On different weeks, the solo ensembles--like last week, we had the wind quartet come in--will play their repertoire for us, and they'll play things that we've written for them, and they'll give us feedback on them: basic things, like "I can't even play this note, because it's too low," or just give suggestions to make it sound better. In the end, we get to work on a chamber orchestra piece that's about five minutes long, and the chamber orchestra comes in and reads it for us.

So they've performed your work?

There are about seven kids every year who get their pieces sight-read, which means the orchestra hasn't seen (the music) until that night. They come in, and they play them at a public reading session. They play it for us, and we can give them feedback, or they give us feedback, and we change little things. And then they'll play it again and record it for us.

What's the most interesting thing you've learned?

I think it was last year, during the symphony's 75th season, when they had a bunch of commissioned pieces, and we got to meet with each of the composers who came in. These are composers making a living and doing what they want to do--just getting a chance to talk to them about how they write and how they approach different things in terms of composition. It's great talking to someone who's doing what you want to do and who knows how to do it.

What other music do you like?

I like pretty much everything. I really like film music and classical, of course, and some harder metal stuff and alternative rock. I'm pretty much all over the spectrum, I guess.

Do you ever write heavy-metal operas in your head?

Not really. I kind of stick to film scores, more like neo-romantic would be the genre.

How did you start writing?

I did these exams from the Royal School of Music in England. There are these theory exams, and part of them was they would give you lyrics, and you had to write melodies for them. And so I did that one time, and I just got interested in writing melodies and music in general and taking those and expanding those. And then I got involved with the symphony's program, and I learned a lot more.

I hear this Mozart guy had done a lot by the time he was your age. How do you stack up against him?

I shouldn't be mentioned in the same sentence as Mozart, at all. He was way above me.


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