The Young Composers Project (YCP) teaches talented young Nevada County musicians grades junior high through college to study music software notation, melodic and rhythmic dictation, music theory and harmony, music history, conducting, public speaking and composition.  It kicks off early in the school year with interested youth from 6th grade through college. The program consists of both Saturday classes and private lessons throughout the school year with composers/teachers Mark Vance and Jerry Grant. The program consists of two divisions, Beginner/Intermediate and Intermediate/Advanced.

Students present a mid-year recital of their original compositions for voice and one instrument of choice in February, at the New Songs for Midwinter concert. The program culminates in June with the Young Composers Concerts. Here student works are premiered by professional musicians as part of MIM’s SummerFest.

This year, YCP is exploring the intersection of art and science.  Prelude for Yuba Salmon is a collaborative adventure in musicianship, composing, and environmental stewardship. MIM’s Young Composers Project will team with educators at Sierra Streams Institute (SSI) and taken through a curriculum focused on the plight of the salmon and their importance to the environmental health of the region’s watershed.   The curriculum will include both lab and field work. Students will then create a piece of music that responds to the their experience.  The project will culminate in a composition to be premiered by the MIM Festival Orchestra during the 2014 summer festival. The experience, inspiration and process will be captured in a 20-minute documentary film, where the music created will also serve as score for the film.  For more information about the Prelude, click on the above video.

This year, YCP is exploring the intersection of art and science.  Find out more about Prelude for Yuba Salmon.

YCP/SSI collaboration student blog:


Rafting Trip

Jesse Haennelt, BRHS grad, gap year 2
I didn’t know what to expect with this rafting trip. I was told it would be very cold and wet so I bundled up. It was not very long before we all realized the weather predictions were wrong. I had to take off a few layers in order to be comfortable. We then went down the river. We stopped at various locations to eat, hike, collect macro invertebrates, etc. I have to say the part I liked the most about the trip was floating on the water and gently moving downstream while peering over the edge of the raft. I could hardly see into the water, and whenever someone pointed out a fish, all I usually saw was a shadow moving swiftly away from us. There was something else about the rafting trip I never expected. It brought us Young Composers together more than any other trip or event. The only time we all spend together is usually in a classroom, and we usually just listen and try to learn. The rafting trip made room for us to share with each other and bond. It was so different than our usual classroom experience and I think it was very important and influential in all of our music (and possibly outside of music). I believe it will continue to be for the rest of our lives.

Caroline Bronson senior NUHS:
We started at Park’s Bar and paddled down the river. What I found incredible was that this particular part of the river is where all three forks come together. Throughout the day we had moments of excitement at seeing, up close, salmon jumping, swimming, and duking it out at the surface. We also had a moment of calm introspection as we sat on the mounds of gravel and listened to the guides talk about the history of the river. The trip gave me the inspiration to write a piano trio for the concert in June, with the piano playing the part of the fish and the violin and cello the part of the water.

Toby Thomas-Rose, junior NUHS
The first of bit this full-circle education, that took place for me, was being able to relate to my biology class that I took last year to the actual field of work in which it was applied. We saw and learned about the environment and learned how all of the different aspects of the environment plays so significantly into the lives of one species. At some point during the rafting trip, the different aspects of the environment began to make an impression on me of different characters. These characters began to take on roles in the environment for me. The ambiguity of the struggle of the salmon and the clash with the other characters, as they went along through their environment, I hope to explore this through the medium of an art. This is where the fields meet. The struggle of the Salmon against their environment becomes somehow humanized into a language that we can understand (science). Then from that language, we can even further humanize the Salmon and create an emotional attachment to the ideas that they are symbolic of through music. The truths of the science are exaggerated into characters or motifs that, if done right, can create the intended impression for the listener.

Elissa Karim, senior NUHS:
As eloquently as I can try, there is no profound way of verbally explaining I got to watch salmon slam their bodies against rocks for their final task of mating. However, the experience was on another level of profound inspiration both as a human and a musician. These powerful creatures expose themselves so vulnerably to the elements to perform instinctively what they have always known they had to do: mate. In their final breaths of life, they give themselves up to the overpowering instinct of continuing its existence. I think that is one of the most fundamental emotions and is overwhelming to witness, as I was able to. I was inspired by their drive. This drive to live and continue, literally through the utter pain and demise they must know is inevitable. They have a rich part in their life cycle and on the environment. The circle of life and death when viewed up close like that, in the water with them, changes perspective on struggle and fight, as well as passion, and perhaps love. I find the life cycle also a powerful element that applied musically could be dynamic and passionate. Part of me also wonders if they ever fight nature. As humans, we fight nature—hurricanes, floods, disease. We struggle to push away the entropy that surrounds us. The salmon do not. Maybe they cannot. Either way, I ask the question: are they strong to give in to entropy or are we strong to fight it?

This education program is funded in part by the League of American Orchestras and The Volgenau Foundation.

Volgenau foundationleague-of-american-orchestras300