Nathan Shares His Music, His Joy

Young Composer Nathan Paek interviewed by Vice President of Education & Community Engagement Laura Reynolds during the Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop Concert. (Photo: James Holt)

With the support of our generous donor family the Seattle Symphony is mentoring the next generation of artists.

By Martin Johansson

In 2017 Nathan Paek watched as Seattle Symphony musicians premiered new works written by teenage composers. It was Nathan's first experience with the Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop, a three-month program that provides intensive training and workshops for young composers. "I was inspired by what I heard," recalls Nathan, and he applied soon after for the 2018 workshop.

Nathan's journey with music began at the keyboard. After learning the basics, he found that he was drawn to improvisation and writing his own music. "I had been composing for the piano only and thought that the workshop would be a great opportunity to learn orchestration and to work with other musicians," says Nathan. His expectations were met — and exceeded — by his experience. Nathan and his peers had the opportunity to work with Seattle Symphony musicians, 2017–2018 Composer in Residence Alexandra Gardner, and visiting composer John Luther Adams.

Young Composers during a workshop session with award-winning composer John Luther Adams. (Photo: Carlin Ma)

"Alexandra made class time really fun and educational," says Nathan. "I appreciated learning from her how to interact with the musicians, who are superb at what they do and so nice to collaborate with."

The workshop emphasizes collaboration at every level — with orchestra musicians, with professional composers and mentors, and among the students themselves.

"It was fun to hear the unique styles and ideas," recalls Nathan about his fellow students, adding that "sharing music with each other was inspiring." For Nathan and each of the students, the experience that the workshop provides is invaluable. Students learn all aspects of the composition process, from creative brainstorming and experimentation sessions to scoring parts for individual instruments. The workshop culminates in a performance and celebration where the young composers share the world premieres of the works they have composed. Reflecting on the concert, Nathan says, "it was an honor to share my music with my family, friends and the audience. Hearing my music being performed by professional musicians for the first time was super cool — mind-blowing!"

For Nathan the workshop "opened up a new world of possibilities by introducing me to writing chamber music. I did not know how incredible it would be!"

Each season our generous donor community allows Symphony education programs like this one to nurture the artists and musicians of the future. In Nathan's words, "thank you for valuing classical music and supporting a new generation of composers. I feel deeply grateful to benefit from your support and encouragement because I love music! I have been composing since I was five years old and I think creating music will be a part of me for the rest of my life."

2018 Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop participants: Nathan Paek, Elisa Johnson, Iris Hochwalt, Zacarias Grynberg, Composer in Residence Alexandra Gardner, Benjamin Dickey, Bradley de Lucia, Dane Meade, Elise Winkler, Benjamin Fleishman and Tony McCahill (not pictured) (Photo: James Holt)

Thank you to each and every supporter of the Seattle Symphony! Your support brings engaging education programs to life, fostering the next generation of artists.


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The Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop is generously underwritten by the Merriman Family with additional support from Michel and Christine Suignard.

For information on the 2019 Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop, click here.

Posted on September 21, 2018

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