Fear No Music concert highlights alums of impressive Young Composers Project

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For its upcoming Locally Sourced Sounds concert (Jan. 9) at The Old Church, Fear No Music will highlight pieces by several alums of its incredibly successful Young Composers Project.

Founded by pianist Jeff Payne in 1997 to teach and promote the complex art and craft of writing music, YCP has influenced the lives of several hundred participants over the past 25 years. Many have gone on to write music for choirs, orchestras, chamber ensembles, individual artists, musical theater, folk groups, film and television, the game industry, and other areas.

Open to students from grades 5 through 12, YCP gives young composers the opportunity to develop their ideas with professional musicians through workshops and a concert.

“The kids get three workshops, which includes feedback,” Payne said. “A student submits a piece, which might be as simple as eight measures with a melody and some chords. A group of professional musicians from the Oregon Symphony and top freelancers play through it and make suggestions on how to improve the piece. What do you think about doing this with different instrument or another combination? Perhaps add another section of music? Then we record it and send the kids home for a couple of months for the next workshop. We go through the process again, seeking to develop and improve the piece, and make a recording and send them home again. The third time they come back we have a finished product that we then put on in a public concert. It’s a very hands-on experience.”

Participants can take YCP more than once and the cost is $275, with scholarship funding for those who cannot afford it.

Portland-based composer Ryan Francis did the program in 1998 and 1999, and received a bachelors from the University of Michigan and a masters and doctorate from The Julliard School of Music. His work has garnered accolades from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and several foundations. Francis currently teaches at Pacific University and helps run YCP as its program manager.

During the first half of the Fear No Music concert, violinist Inés Voglar Belgique and Payne will perform Francis’ “Sillage.”

“Sillage is a French word for wake,” explained Francis. “It means to feel one’s presence, even when they are not there. In the context of this concert, it acknowledges the legacy of Tomáš Svoboda who recently passed away.”

A giant among composers in Portland, Svoboda’s “Marimba Concerto” was recorded by the Oregon Symphony and nominated for a Grammy award in 2003. The concert will begin with Svoboda’s “Suite for Piano 4-hands,” featuring Monica Ohuchi and Payne.

The program also includes a piece by 20-year-old Grace Miedziak, who participated in YCP in 2018 and 2019.

“YCP opened a lot of doors for me,” said Miedziak. “It was my first opportunity to write a proper piece that would be performed by a group of musicians. It helped me when I applied to the Thornton School of Music at USC. That was my dream school, and now I’m a junior there, studying composition and music production.”

Cellist Nancy Ives will play “Trout and the Hatch,” which Miedziak wrote last year.

“I grew up in Bend, and my parents took me camping every year,” said Miedziak, “often to East Lake near La Pine. My piece refers to the magical experience of being on the lake at sunset when insects would hatch on the surface of the water and that brings out the fish – jumping over our canoes to feast on the insects.”

Ives and Ohuchi will perform “Dead Ends” by Rohan Srinivasan, who did YCP four years while attending Sunset High School. Now the 19-year-old is in his second year at Julliard studying composition with Andrew Norman.

“Ryan Francis and YCP helped me to convince my parents that I was decent enough to have a shot at this music thing,” said Srinivasan. “‘Dead Ends’ is slow and sort of meditative. The piece is made of little sections that don’t entirely relate to one another. They are like different snapshots that run out of steam.”

Showing the variety of YCP’s reach, the concert will feature several pieces by singer-songwriter Rachel Jumago. She took part in YCP during its first five years, and then went to Whitman College, where she received a bachelors in Biology and Environmental Studies.

Jumago kept developing her talents in folk music, taking songwriting workshops at the Sisters Folk Festival, and formed Arbielle with Katie Fitzgerald while teaching at Sandy High School. Jumago (age 38) plays piano, banjolele (banjo-ukulele), and sings her own compositions. Fitzgerald plays guitar, banjo and harmonizes.

For the concert, Arbielle will perform several numbers from their latest album “Little One,” which is available on Bandcamp and other streaming platforms.

After 25 years, it turns out that Payne’s original students are bringing their students to YCP. You could say that Payne is a granddaddy, a moniker that he laughs off. But if he is involved for another 10 years or more, he is going to acquire great-grandaddy status.

7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, The Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave.; admission by donation; app.arts-people.com

— James Bash

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