Grants Pass High School student composes music for coastal festival

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – A Grants Pass High School student is conducting music that he created for the upcoming Oregon Coast Youth Symphony Festival in Newport.

His piece was one of only a few that was selected and he’s been working on it for the last six months.

Nathaniel Lee has composed music before, but the Youth Composer Symposium has allowed him to share his work with musicians from across the state.

Lee said, “it’s so much fun just hearing my friends be like oh my gosh this is so fun to play, it’s great.”

Lee has been working since October on an orchestral piece he composed.

It’s titled ‘The Last Words of Pheidippides’, which is named after a Greek mythological figure who is said to have run from Marathon to Athens.

For Lee, the composition of this piece has also been somewhat of a marathon.

Lee said, “I recorded eight minutes of me just playing improv of stuff that was in the same key as the piece and then went back and listened to it, and some parts I was like oh, this is nice.”

Now, Lee is set to travel up the Oregon coast to Newport, where his piece was selected to be performed at the Oregon Coast Youth Symphony Festival.

It will allow Lee to work with professional musicians and he’ll have dozens of people in the audience to see it performed.

“When I got the email saying your piece was chosen, I was like, am I dreaming?” Lee said, “I was at lunch and then I realized I wasn’t dreaming and I kind of freaked out because this is incredible.”

Lee also had a mentor to help guide him through composing his piece, in the form of Ashland native Ethan Gans-Morse.

Gans-Morse has composed music professionally and has been a part of the Youth Composer Symposium for years.

“I felt very privileged to be one of these clinicians, but the work came from Nathaniel,” Gans-Morse said, “I feel proud to be in a role where hopefully the guidance that I and other clinicians give is helpful for young composers to find their way.”

Gans-Morse met with Nathaniel regularly over the last six months to provide some guidance on how to compose music for an entire orchestra.

Lee is a viola player in the Grants Pass High School Orchestra, but he said he learned a lot about how to write for all instruments.

Lee said, “last year, or even the beginning of this year, I couldn’t read the music for the other instruments. I could get a few notes, but not really anything. Now I can figure it out.”

Lee and the Grants Pass High School Orchestra will perform his piece at their spring concert on May 14.

Lee will also be conducting the orchestra for that performance.

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NBC5 News reporter Derek Strom is from Renton, Washington. He recently graduated from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University with a degree in Broadcast News and a minor in Sports Management. He played in the drumline with the WSU marching band. These days, he plays the guitar and piano. Derek is a devoted fan of the Mariners, Seahawks, and Kraken.
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