Composing with Passion

Orchestra students learn the process of writing music and putting together a concert

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Photo by Abbi Posey

Sophomore JJ Tagle plays the cello in his own composition that hew wrote for two cellos and a violin. Tagle actually plays the upright bass in Orchestra but wanted to brach out and expand what he new about music.

Putting the pen to paper and writing out a song that’s meaningful is a challenge, but knowing that the piece will be performed in front of college professors and Austin Symphony Orchestra (ASO) players make it an even more daunting task.

“[This project] gives me the freedom to do what I want to do. I’m not limited by conventional music,” junior Kendall Weaver said.

Chamber orchestra students are working with UT professor Russell Podgorsek to compose and perform their own works of music.

“When you play a piece by a famous composer it’s easier to interpret it in any way you want because the composer isn’t there to tell us his vision,” junior Cassandra Torres said. “Playing something composed by a friend is harder in some aspects, like not having any recordings, and having to figure out exactly how the composer wants it to be interpreted along the way.”

For about a month, students who have been chosen to compose have been passing their music back and forth for edits and changes.

“[It’s] very cool to express whatever I want, even if it’s in an unconventional way,” senior Kelly Chiang said. “Throwing together things that shouldn’t make sense but end up creating something that works is a lot of fun and enlightening.”

The project came about when Education and Community Engagement Manager, Frank Jenkins from ASO reached out to Podgorsek this summer.

“He asked me if I’d be interested in helping with a high school composition program that they’d run the year before with some players from [ASO],” Podgorsek said.

ASO hopes that what students take away from this is the process of writing music, handing it to players to execute, having a group produce the event for an audience, and how to handle a complex chain of communication between a great number of people.

“I want them to see that music is a living, breathing thing and that they can participate, both now and later in life, in the creation of new music in whatever capacity they feel suited,” Podgorsek said. “Furthermore, I hope that some students find that music, and really all pursuits, are more rewarding the more thoroughly you investigate them.”

The performance of the completed pieces will be on Nov. 22 during fifth and sixth periods in the PAC.

“When you’re playing pieces by old composers, it’s never personal,” junior Jonah Aguilar said. “I want to play well so that I don’t hold back the rest of the orchestra, and to prove to myself that I’m capable of playing a certain piece of music. Playing music written by one of my friends is much more personal, and in a way nerve-wracking. I feel like I owe it to them to represent their music the best that I can.”