The Incredible Junior Composers Opportunity

By Vickie - Posted on 04 November 2015

Article for Junior Keynotes Magazine,  August 3, 2015

Written by Karen Besonen


Junior Composers 2015:  the Grand Finale Salon


On July 25, 2015, after only a week’s work, the students of Junior Composers stood in front of a full house to premiere their original pieces.

The work is not to be downplayed. The young composers spent a full week working late into the night to dictate the music they heard in their heads.

According to Junior Composers student Jonas Fisher, the time put into preparing the pieces is well worth it because of the training he received along the way.

Fisher,  a returning student of Junior Composers,  spent time learning about the importance of collaboration during his training at the 2015 camp.

According to Fisher,  the musicians did more than compose; they played each other’s pieces, and worked closely with each other throughout the whole process.

“You’re playing each other’s compositions,” he said. “I had to learn how to collaborate and really communicate with other musicians.”

The work produced by these teenagers was of professional quality.  For the audience, being let into the musical worlds of these composers was thrilling.

Each piece introduced us to a new world; some were more tumultuous and unpredictable than others, but all were descriptive enough to give us a full picture.

Fisher’s piece, entitled “Ancora,” featured harp, piano, violin, cello, French horn and oboe. Fisher played the oboe part for the performance. His legato melody passed between the cello and oboe, which is something he had worked on throughout the week.

“I learned [this week] how to appeal to the listeners and create a well thought-out and captivating melody,” Fisher said.

Fisher’s primary instrument is the piano, but he has been attending Junior Composers for three years to develop into a well-rounded composer.

“[I attend] because of the wonderful experiences and knowledge you gain,” he said. “You create a song, not just on your own, but with the help and guidance of your peers and teachers. It is an incredible opportunity.”

Fisher credits faculty member Randall Davidson for teaching him how to write a “pleasing” melody.

Junior Composers summer camps are held on the campus of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.  Some students traveled locally to attend, but for Andriana Taratsas, the training at Junior Composers was well-worth the trip from Virginia.

“This is my first year with Junior Composers,” she said. “I wanted to attend because I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn things about music that I didn’t [previously] know.”

Taratsas’ piece, “Second Try,” featured her own performance on piano.

“My primary instrument is piano, which I have been playing for nine years,” she said. “The [daily 4:00 pm]salons were my favorite [part of the week] because they provided a lot of information…if we choose to pursue music composition as a career.”

Mary-Kate Hines is a fourth-year alumnus of Junior Composers who lives in Iowa. She received a scholarship her first year, and could not stay away afterwards.

“I loved working with [the faculty],” she said. “I don’t take composition lessons outside of Junior Composers, so it was cool to work with them. I’ve learned so much!”

Prior to Junior Composers, Hines didn’t understand the complex concepts of music theory. According to Hines, she will now use this knowledge to continue composing.

The students were not the only appreciative ones. Before the Grand Finale salons concluded, faculty member Randall Davidson stood in front of the audience.

“Thank you for sharing your students with us,” he said. “We could not do this without you.”

For more information regarding Junior Composers and future camps, visit, or contact Pat Steege, Administrative Director, at

You can financially support Junior Composers through Minnesota Gives.  Click this photo for more information.


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