Friday, 22 June 2012 11:52

Grade 4 student wins provincial music composer competition

Written by  Jessi Gowan
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Local young composer Ryan Lee’s creative and original piano composition entitled ‘Max the Mouse’ won first place at this year’s ‘11 years and under Class 1, Category A’ Saskatchewan Registered Music Teachers’ Composer Competition.


This annual provincial competition is open to students of qualifying Registered Music Teachers, with the winning entries from each category in each province moving on to compete at a national level through the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Association.
“Ryan really enjoyed the creative exploration of piano,” explained Marilyn King, who has been teaching Lee piano and theory for the past two years. “He is very dedicated in his practice, and was determined to to better after being last year’s runner-up. He is very excited, and I’m thrilled for him.”
King noted she works with Lee on a weekly basis, and the Grade 4 student is always well-prepared for each practice. He is already talking about his next composition.
“He looks forward to working on more pieces, and is always coming to me with lots of different ideas,” she said. “He usually has numerous ideas on the go, and we eventually explore how they might fit together. This year, he chose to create a story as his vehicle to pull the composition together.”
With a story written into the score, Lee also illustrated the front page to offer a glimpse into the tale.
After coming up with a basic idea, King and Lee began working on the composition phrase by phrase from November until the end of March.
“I would ask that he come to each lesson with approximately eight bars prepared, and we would discuss where that had gone. As the story evolved, there were ideas he liked better than others, so we would expand on some and discard others,” King explained. “This year’s composition featured an exploration into key changes, where he begins the composition in a minor key, had a change of key in the midsection, and then comes back at the end, like a concluding paragraph.”
King feels it was Lee’s success in telling a story through music that captivated the judge. King encouraged Lee to look at his piece as if it was an actual story, focusing on plot, characters, and how it all comes together at the end.
Although King offered plenty of support and encouragement to Lee as he worked on his composition, she was careful to point out the ideas behind the piece were entirely Lee’s own work. While teachers are allowed to discuss the work with their students and assist in a theoretical approach, the students do the majority of the work on their own.
For Lee, winning the competition gave him a great sense of accomplishment.
“I practise quite a bit, and my family is really supportive,” noted Lee, who has been playing piano for seven years. “At first, it seems so hard, but after you’ve finished, it really feels like you’ve completed something you can be proud of. I really like that.”

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