Young children in the state of Georgia are competing head to head with original musical compositions. In 2003, a mere year after the founding of the Carroll Symphony Orchestra, the Young Composer Competition was created to teach and inspire children through music. Submissions from kindergarten all the way through high school are currently being accepted for the competition.
Terry Lowry, music director for the Carroll Symphony Orchestra, determines the length and tempo for the music submissions each year by composing a short musical theme to guide the students.
This is the third year the Young Composer’s Competition has been open to the entire state of Georgia.
“The first few years it was just in Carroll County, and a few years later we expanded it to Haralson County,” Lowry said. “For our tenth anniversary, we expanded it to the entire state.”
The band directors and chorus teachers encourage their students to write a short piano piece based on the theme. Once all submissions are in, the pieces are sent off to a university composition professor for judging. The pieces are separated and ranked in three categories: high school, junior high and elementary.
The top ranked pieces from each category then take orchestration lessons with Lowry for three weeks.
“The winners come to me every day, or every other day to learn all of the instruments of the orchestra: what they sound like, how high they can play and how low, how loud and how soft, as well as how they sound in different combinations,” he said.
The winners also listen to different kinds of music from different time periods, pick out their favorite passages and analyze how the composer orchestrated it.
In 11 years, the Carroll Symphony Orchestra has premiered over 90 compositions by kindergarten through 12th grade students.
The students have until Nov. 25 to submit their original composition. Typically winners are announced in December and the winning pieces are played at a concert on July 4.
“Ten thousand people will be at the Sounds of Liberty concert when we play the pieces,” said Lowry. “So ten thousand people will hear it [live]. Plus, it will be live simulcast on two radio stations.”
Lowry hopes to expand the competition even further in the future. One major component Lowry will need to iron out if he hopes to expand will be the logistics of how the winners would attend the three week orchestration lessons.
In prior years, students have to find a way to get to Lowry for the lessons, or Lowry would meet them half way. This past year, Lowry tested the video chatting program, Skype, to conduct the lessons.
“If Skype or [other] distance learning technology improves, then perhaps we could do it that way,” he said.
Lowry is exploring the possibility of launching the competition nationally, or even one day, internationally, but for now, the Carroll Symphony Orchestra plans to take it one step at a time.