Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Composer Profile: Colin Regan in Conversation with Christian Baldini

Colin Regan is still in high school, and this month he will have an orchestra piece of his given its world première by the Camellia Symphony Orchestra, which is well known for its frequent collaborations with living composers. Not many high schoolers receive such opportunities, but this month, Parker Van Ostrand (another high schooler) will be performing as our soloist with the orchestra as well. This fits within our mission of promoting young talent, as well as creating opportunities for exceptionally gifted composers and performers who deserve a space in the concert platform. This season the Camellia Symphony Orchestra performed multiple works by female composers, African American composers and Latin American composers.

Christian Baldini: Colin, I imagine you must be quite excited about having your work "Solace" premiered by the Camellia Symphony Orchestra in Sacramento. It is a rare opportunity for a high school age composer to receive a premiere by an established orchestra. Tell us about your piece, its title, and anything that you'd like to share about it.

Colin Regan: I am extremely excited and honored to hear my music performed by the Camellia Symphony Orchestra. It has been a dream of mine to compose for an established orchestra for many years now, and it is both wonderful and surreal to know that this is happening. The piece I wrote for the Camellia Symphony Orchestra is called "Solace". It begins with a graceful solo on the French horn, which was the first instrument I learned how to play when I was seven years old. The piece gradually builds as more instruments are featured, including the woodwinds and the cello section, until the initial theme is brought back, this time played by the entire orchestra. I chose to call it "Solace", because it is a rather peaceful and introspective piece, while there are still undertones of tension and disquietude, driving it to its emotional culmination.

CB: How did you become interested in music? Who have been your main teachers or mentors?

CR: I have been interested in music for as long as I can remember. As a toddler, I remember being exposed to a lot of beautiful music; it also helped that several members of my family are very musical. I have had many teachers and mentors over the years, but I truly feel that my biggest "teachers" have been the composers that came before me: Tchaikovsky, Joe Hisaishi, and John Williams, to name a few. Listening to their work has taught me so much about music, not only influencing me, but inspiring me.

CB: You spent a year studying abroad in Sweden. Did that change you in any way, and if so, how?

CR: Living in Sweden did change me. Last year, I got to know so many wonderful people and I got to study at the biggest music-focused high school in the country. By the end of my year there, I felt almost like a different person.

CB: What would you like to study in college? And what are your dreams? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

CR: In college, I would like to major in music composition. My dream is to be able to compose for a profession and spread my music to as many people as I can. I feel that music itself holds an extreme amount of power to move people emotionally, particularly when a medium as lush and complex as a symphony orchestra is being used. I don't have a solid vision of where I will be in ten years, but as long as I can keep creating music, I know I will be content.

Colin Regan is a composer in the Sacramento area. He is currently a senior at George Washington Carver School of Arts and Science and will begin studying music at American River College this fall. Writing music is his deepest passion, and he is beyond excited to be working with the Camellia Symphony Orchestra.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Soloist Profile: Parker van Ostrand in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On May 25, Parker Van Ostrand will perform the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Camellia Symphony Orchestra. This talented young man has already achieved lots of things, and I enjoyed myself enormously talking to him and finding out more about his interests. Below is our interview.

Christian Baldini: Parker, at such a young age, you've already accomplished a lot. Please tell us how you started with the piano, and how did you become interested in it? And share with us any anecdotes and/or whether you were ever interested in other instruments as well.

Parker Van Ostrand: I started playing the piano when I was four years old. My mom played the cello and went to music school. I asked to learn play the piano when I was three years old after seeing a children’s book with a small keyboard on the cover. A year later my parents bought me an old upright piano. Seeing how much I loved to play the piano they decided to buy me a grand piano a few months later.

CB: Which other activities do you enjoy outside music?

PVO: Besides playing the piano, I love long distance running. I’ve been running since seventh grade and have been a member of  my high school cross country and track team for two seasons now. On average, we run 7-9 miles everyday. I enjoy being outdoors, doing workouts with my teammates, and running new hiking routes every time we go on vacation. I also enjoy travelling to foreign countries. This past summer I went to Northern Europe and Scandinavia, and I loved seeing the beautiful landscapes of Norway and the architecture of Stockholm and Helsinki. I also enjoy watching horror movies, creating oil paintings, and swimming.

CB: We look forward to featuring you as our soloist for the first movement of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2. What are some of the features you like the most about this piece?

PVO: To those that do not know Beethoven very well, this concerto is actually the first piano concerto he wrote, even though it’s titled piano concerto No. 2. One feature I really like about this piece is that it is filled with contrasting characters, from playful to lyrical to very mysterious. It’s written in a style very similar to that of Mozart, with some elements of Beethoven’s later works still present. For example, when the piano first enters, the character is so charming and playful, a character that is rarely found in the later works of Beethoven. However, some of the parts in this concerto, such as the end of the cadenza, foreshadow the later styles of Beethoven’s music, often much darker with more drama.

CB: What is a day like in the life of Parker? How many hours do you practice, and how do you balance your music with school activities, and everything else?

PVO: On the weekdays, I practice around two hours every night, after track or cross country practice. As a member of my school’s cross country and track team, we practice every day after school year round for two hours except for December. I also participate in my school’s (McClatchy) Mathletes club, and we meet twice a month to prepare for monthly competitions held at different schools in the Sacramento area. On most weekends, I practice three to four hours a day. During the track and cross country season, we have meets almost every Saturday. During the springtime, I participate in several piano competitions that are both local and further away, such as the Bay Area or San Jose. I also volunteer on Saturdays at the McKinley Rose Garden, where I have painted many oil paintings.
In order to balance my music with school and other extracurricular activities I have learned to manage my time efficiently. I try to complete my homework as much as I can during class time and not procrastinate on projects/term papers.

CB: Why is music important to you?

PVO: Music is one of the most powerful ways in which I can create many different varieties of emotions and  feelings, tell stories, and develop characters. Playing music is very impactful and moving for me, and my goal is always to do the same for the audience. When I play music,  I focus on bringing each note to life. The notes come together to tell a unique story full of emotions and meanings. I love playing music for others, whether it is for a large audience, a family member, my classmates, or the residents of a nursing home. The emotions in the music I play vary from joy and triumph, love and passion, to tragedy and despair.  It is through these shared emotions that I can connect with my audience and allow them to feel the music I am performing.

CB: Where would you like to see yourself in ten years?

PVO: I want to continue playing the piano and pursue a career related to music, whether it is teaching piano, performing, or both. I greatly enjoy sharing the music I learn with others and I want to be able to continue playing for audiences for as long as I can. I also want to continue pursuing my education, specifically in a science-related field. One of my greatest interests is biology and the human body, so I would also love to find a career in the medical field or scientific research.

CB: Thank you very much for your time, and we look forward to introducing our audiences to you soon!

PVO: Thank you! I am looking forward to performing with your orchestra! Thank you for the opportunity!

Parker Van Ostrand is a 10th-grader at McClatchy High School in Sacramento. He began studying piano at age four.  At the age of five he performed at Carnegie Hall after winning gold in the AADGT Competition.  He has returned to Carnegie Hall twice and has performed numerous recitals throughout the United States, Singapore, and Japan.  As a concerto competition winner, Parker performed with the Merced Symphony, Central Valley Youth Symphony, Auburn Symphony, and California Youth Symphony.  This past summer, he toured with the California Youth Symphony to the Baltic and Scandinavian countries.  He was invited to perform with the Parnassus Symphony as a guest soloist in 2017.  Recently he won first place at the 2019 Henry and Carol Zeiter Piano Competition, 2019 Celia Mendez Young Pianist’s Beethoven Competition, the 2018 Mondavi Young Artist Competition, 2017 MTAC State Final Concerto Competition, Pacific Musical Society Competition, and the US New Star Etude Competition.  He currently studies with Dr. Natsuki Fukasawa and Ms. Linda Nakagawa.
Besides piano Parker enjoys swimming, painting, building Legos, and learning Japanese.  He runs cross-country and track at his high school.  One of his goals is to run a marathon, in particular the Boston Marathon.  He is also a member of his school Mathlete Club.