Meet the Composer
By Marissa Kleinbauer
Canton MA--On Thursday, March 31st, the Canton High School Orchestra took the stage performing multiple pieces from a variety of well known, successful composers, including Dvorak, Holst and Rimsky-Korsakov. But among those composers, a new name was added to the program: Andrew Chung. Chung, a junior at Canton High School, composed and conducted his own piece, Violin Concertino in G Major, something never before done in the Canton High School orchestra.
Chung has been playing the violin since he was in sixth grade, and music has always be a major part of his life, and it was this passion that pushed him to begin composing. “I started composing probably around eighth grade,” recalls Chung. “I think it was just my interest music in general that led to that and I just wanted to really get involved with it so I was like, ‘I’m going to try writing my own music’, and it just took off from there.”
“My initial reaction was that we read it and played it immediately in class,” says Mr. Brian Thomas, CHS Orchestra director, when asked about his initial reaction to Chung approaching him with this piece, “because one of the great things about having a composer in residence is that we can perform it for the composer, and then the composer can take it back, change some things, and hear a real orchestra playing it.”
While Chung has composed other pieces before, including others that have been performed by the Canton High School orchestra in years past, one difference this piece had from others was the dedication and inspiration for writing the piece. “Originally, when I had written this, I had mainly Rigel in mind, because up to freshman year here I didn’t have much of a challenge musically because of my background,” stated Chung about a well-accomplished violinist, All-State member in the orchestra, Rigel Galgana, “but then getting here and witnessing mainly Rigel showing off constantly, I said “okay, let’s push it a bit,” and I think that helped.”
Galgana, now a senior at Canton High School, will be graduating this spring and leaving the orchestra this year, also along with numerous other seniors. The class of 2016 was the first class to be offered a high school orchestra course, and have been dubbed “the Pioneers” by orchestra instructor Mr. Brian Thomas. Chung soon discovered that he also wanted to dedicate this piece to the class of 2016, especially for the orchestra members, for all they have done for the program, and illustrated how they would be dearly missed. “I was thinking about just how many people were in the senior class that I knew, and that were close to me and I said, ‘okay, I’m going to rededicate this’, and I rededicated it to the entire graduating class of ‘16.” The dedication was a touching gesture that the senior orchestra members greatly appreciated.
“I think it was just my interest music in general that led to that and I just wanted to really get involved with it so I was like, ‘I’m going to try writing my own music’, and it just took off from there.”
Constructing and composing this orchestral piece was not exactly always easy. As any composer or artist, Chung struggled with one particular aspect of his composing process, “I am not very good at writing melodies, so getting a good melody was difficult for me. And that’s part of why I gave Rigel 16 bars of solo just so I didn’t have to write as much, and so he could show off a little.” The featured 16 bar solo was improvised by Galgana himself.
Composing combines natural talent in music as well as years of study in music theory and composition studies, and is that much more impressive when a high school student succeeds in this feat. Mr. Thomas, a composer himself, commented on this. “To me, that’s one of the most important parts of my musical career, is composing. So I really encourage it,” describes Thomas. “Any kind of creative way to start that process and to get your foot in the door, I think is the way to go.” Mr. Thomas even applauded the piece, saying he could see the piece being performed again at Canton High School, even after Chung graduates next spring in 2017.
Andrew Chung stunned the audiences with his talent and musicality when he took took the stage to conduct his own piece, and it is without a doubt that many more opportunities like this will present themselves for the young composer, whether it is here at CHS, or beyond.