The 2012 National Young Composer’s Challenge – West 

 About 130 promising young composers ranging from 11-18 years old came to our first YCC West event at the beautiful San Domenico School in San Anselmo, California. We were delighted to find a fantastic group of young musicians truly interested in becoming composers, showing deep interest in the craft and the emotions that it wakens in us all. Steve Goldman, is the heart of the YCC, a composer and physicist. Alasdair Neale is the Music Director and Conductor of the Marin Symphony. Christopher Wilkins is the Music Director and Conductor of the Orlando Philharmonic, the Akron Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra. Dr. Daniel Crozier is a composer and music professor at Rollins College.
The day began with an address by past YCC Winners, Joseph Columbo and Stephen Spies. Both of these young, brilliant composers stated how the experience of hearing their winning work played and recorded by a professional orchestra changed their lives – solidifying their resolve to pursue composition as their life’s focus. These young men easily connected with our student and helped them understand that everyone in the room too were made of the same stuff as they were and that they could win this major national competition as well.

Next, Dan Crozier presented a passionate exploration about emotion and Form in composition using Chopin’s “Raindrop” Prelude Opus 28, Number 15 as a model. Dan’s clarity of reason and heartfelt performance of the work provided a platform for lively discussion from our young audience, following the scores provided them.

(pictured: Steve Goldman, Chris Wilkins, Keith Lay and Dan Crozier
Steve Goldman then brought onto the stage 15 orchestral musicians, many from the Marin Symphony. In previous years, each musician demonstrated the range, strengths and expressiveness of their instrument – one at a time. For this seminar, we tried something new: presenting the instruments in groups. This way, the students could hear the instruments playing together as well as see the personal dynamics between musicians working together. The various combinations of instruments create a wide variety of color choices for a musical passage. Composers. like painters, need to explore their color palette, and this was a great way to do so.  After a percussionist, the woodwinds were featured as a woodwind quintet. The brass was presented as a brass quintet. The strings were presented as a string quartet with an added bass. (You can find an amazing, meticulous treasure trove of instrument demonstrations and writing from the YCC site under Tutorials). Our harpist presented herself alone during the orchestral musicians’ break, which provided a focus on that easy-to-compose-for-poorly instrument. Lastly, all 15 musicians were called upon to play together in music I composed to facilitate audience participation to explore doublings, chord voicings and idiomatic writing. Here’s an excerpt from that session: (Alasdair Neale leading members of the Marin Symphony and other local orchestras at YCC)
Next, Steve Goldman led the students in a discourse on good manuscript practices, taking time to emphasize common flaws we have found in the many scores we’ve judged over the years. These included basic elements, like score order, transposition, clefs, tempo markings, note design, how brackets work, rhythmic notation, and enharmonics. You can find these subject covered in detail on the YCC website. 
After this discussion, I presented the topic of technology based tools for composing. After an introduction to the concept of sequencing, I compared and demonstrated the use of Sibelius, Finale and Musescore and compared the sounds of their different onboard sample libraries.
In the final part of all of our YCC Seminars, the three composers and conductors break into groups to give commentary and advice to the young composers in the audience who brought compositions. Such talented kids!
The YCC has received a flurry of thank-you and congratulation emails since from parents, musicians and young composers. The people of Northern California are quite quite special – their strength is in Community. That Community recognizes the value of music, of encouraging creativity as a part of building excellent character and health, and in general – intelligence. Steve Goldman, found nothing but excitement and support for YCC while exploring and building this program there. What a refreshing reception – what an idyllic location –  to cultivate and nurture creativity within the new generations.

  • Reply

    Solomon Williams

    22 04 2013

    Hello Mr. Keith Lay,
    I would just like to say that you work are just amazing. Also, more to cut to the chase here, could you email me the work you “whipped up” for the 2013 YCC Seminar. that would be greatly appreciated. its the one in the YCC west video you posted. Ilove that song.
    Thank you,
    Solomon Williams

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