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New music composition club encourages aspiring composers

Founded by two music-loving sophomores, the new club aims to create community and challenge creativity

When sophomore Colin O’Brien noticed that New Trier High School didn’t have any clubs dedicated solely to writing music, he decided to make his own: along with sophomore Anaya Brainch, the pair started Music Composition Club this past fall. The club meets on Tuesdays after school in room W221.

I’ve been getting into composition and this club kind of just came at the right time. I was glad to find a club that I could explore my interests with.

— Alex Kiley

Both started off playing instruments before becoming interested in music composition. O’Brien is a violin player who discovered his passion for composing classical music about a year or two ago, whereas Brainch came across composition while playing piano.

“I’ve been playing piano since I was 6, but during COVID, I was with my piano a lot and had nothing to do. The first song I wrote was kind of accidental but then I turned it into a real song,” Brainch said. “From there, I just kept writing songs until I was like, ‘OK, I really want to do this.’”

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They hoped to create a new community of fellow music lovers within New Trier.

“I wanted to find more people who were interested in music composition and gather them together so that we could share our ideas and learn about it,” O’Brien said.

So far, the club has done exactly that. After a successful four-month trial period, the music composition club was made official in January. Patricia Rohwer, the club sponsor and teacher of several orchestra and music classes, said there has been a great turnout so far.

“[Brainch] used social media to try to get attention and pull people in,” Rohwer said. “Within the first couple weeks, we were having about 9-12 attendees pretty regularly.”

A usual club meeting might consist of a presentation, sharing current works, attempting musical challenges, and giving each other feedback.

“We usually give a daily composing challenge, like, ‘compose something about how your semester is going’ or ‘compose something using a unique rhythm,’” O’Brien said.

Sophomore Alex Kiley, an avid musician and violinist at New Trier, also enjoys the teaching aspect of the club.

“Colin has done some presentations on composition competitions and general music writing. I think he does it in a great way that makes it accessible for students with or without musical background to come and enjoy composition,” Kiley said.

Recently, the club hosted alumnus Ari Fisher, a former student of Rohwer and a professional composer for video games like the ”Legend of Zelda” series. Fisher talked about his career path in music composition.

“He happens to be in the area and one of our co-heads, Colin, takes composition lessons from him. So we had him come in and talk about his string quartets. He just played them and we all listened,” Rohwer said.

For students like Brainch who want to be professional composers some day, this guest showed them what a career in the music and media industry looks like, offering insights and advice from his own experience.

“I’m really into movies and I want to make music for them, that’s actually my dream job,” Brainch said. “When I was little, I would make iMovies all the time and then I started making music for that. The movies I make in TV & Film right now, I write the music for sometimes.”

While many members of Music Composition Club take music classes during and outside of school, a lot of students are unaware that New Trier offers several classes about composition and music theory.

“I’m hoping it gives a little more visibility to our courses that are offered like Music Production, AP Music Theory, and Introduction to Music Theory. I hope it makes those courses just a little bit better known,” Rohwer said.

The overall hope for the music composition club is that students can have the opportunity to grow as composers, pursue their passion, and step outside of their musical comfort zone.

“I’ve been getting into composition and this club kind of just came at the right time,” Kiley said. “I was glad to find a club that I could explore my interests with.”

This story was originally published on New Trier News on April 9, 2024.