In his dark square-framed glasses, Jared Richardson looks confident and at ease sitting at the helm of his baby grand piano.
It’s not surprising. The 17-year-old View Royal virtuoso has played piano since age five and started composing music at age 11. He has his sights set on writing music for Hollywood movies, like John Williams or Hans Zimmer.
As difficult and rare as it is to make a career as a composer, Richardson is well on his way. The recent Spectrum secondary grad is the first young musician to have an original score accepted to the Symphony Splash program.
Written at age 16 after a family hiking trip to Kananaskis, Alta., Richardson’s Winds of Kananaskis is on the lineup after Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers and before Remembering the Beatles for the wildly popular Victoria Symphony concert in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
Victoria Symphony music director Tania Miller first heard Kananaskis at a young composers workshop in April this year, and knew immediately it had the spark of brilliance.
“Tania Miller called me and said she’d like to perform it at Symphony Splash,” Richardson said. “I was surprised. I was like wow, that’s cool. Symphony Splash will be the first full performance I’ve had.”
He originally composed Winds of Kananaskis for his high school band and later expanded it for a full orchestra – 25 different instruments. The original score took a few weeks to assemble and a few weeks more for an orchestra. He used software to get a sense of the overall sound, but hearing it emerge from the symphony workshop was more than he’d hoped for.
“I used a computer program with a virtual symphony, but to hear real people playing it, the sound is so much better. Hearing it brought to life is an amazing experience.”
Miller says Richardson’s work was selected from a group of composers mostly in their 20s and 30s. It’s almost unheard of for such a teenage composer to produce work of such depth and imagination, she said in an interview.
“To compose at such a young age at such a deep level of music and music making is rare. Most students at Jared’s age are just learning to play notes and rhythms,” Miller said.
“(Winds of Kananaskis) is very joyful, upbeat and spirited melody. For me, Jared’s piece has got a young pulse running through it, that will get everybody in the excited spirit that we all have a Symphony Splash.”
This is the first young composer score in Splash, but it won’t necessarily be an annual part of the show. Miller said its extremely rare for a young musician to generate that quality of work.
“Jared is unique. I’ve never seen work like this from somebody at a high school age. Kids in high school are not usually at that level.”
Richardson started composing music by playing around on his piano, and it grew from there. Since composing Winds of Kananaskis he’s written two more orchestra pieces and has an overall body of work of 70 scores covering jazz, classical and a few small films. “One film was called ‘Math Ninjas.’ It was small budget but good practice,” he said laughing. “I plan to be a film composer for a career.”
This September he’ll start a music degree at the University of Victoria, with the long term goal of entering the film scoring program a the University of Southern California.
“Every year they have a young soloist for Splash, but this is the first time ever for a young composer,” Richardson says. “I won’t get to conduct the orchestra, but I’ll be watching.”
Richardson and his brother Ash regularly perform jazz at the Superior restaurant in Victoria. Richardson’s music can be heard at www.jared-richardson.com. For more on Symphony Splash www.victoriasymphonysplash.ca.