We Adopted a Composer!

1st September 2022

On February 5 2022 Leeds Junior Conservatoire students filmed the culmination of Making Music's ‘Adopt A Music Maker’ project, working with their adopted composer Carmel Smickersgill in creating a collaborative new work. 

The ‘Adopt A Music Maker’ project pairs groups including choirs, bands, orchestras and ensembles with a music creator for up to a year, leading up to a premiere, a recording and possible radio broadcast. In this instance, LJC’s adopted composer Carmel Smickersgill got to know the Junior Conservatoire’s students on the advance Performance + course. All these students are aiming to work in the music industry.   

Over a period of months, the students and tutors, Ben Gaunt, Rob Crisp, and Jonny Enright, worked alongside Carmel, writing a piece for the group to premiere at the Summer Festival on Saturday 9 July. The project gives students the chance to work with a professional composer and contribute to the creation of a brand-new work, a fantastic opportunity for young musicians.  

Composition tutor Ben Gaunt with Leeds Junior Conservatoire students. 

Ben Gaunt

Ben Gaunt having fun playing keyboards alongside students. 

Composition tutor Ben Gaunt works with both HE and LJC students at Leeds Conservatoire.

Ben has written music for the London Symphony Orchestra, Icarus Ensemble, Ensemble 10/10, London Sinfonietta, Ligeti Quartet, and many other professional ensembles. Ben's music has been published by UYMP, released by NMC, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

He was nominated for a British Composer Award in 2017 and an Ivor Novello Award for Solo Composition in 2021.  

When asked about the day, Ben said: "I have loved being involved with the Adopt A Composer programme. Carmel is an absolute superstar, and she did a fantastic job of involving everybody in the creative process. The recording session was so much fun, and Carmel deftly coordinated the chaos of working with so many young people - the atmosphere on the day was electric, and you can sense from the performance just how much fun everybody was having." 

With the piece complete, the group recorded a live performance and an accompanying video.  The piece features flute, two violins, trombone, keyboards, two electric guitars, bass guitar, two drumkits, percussion and two vocalists.  

The day was thoroughly enjoyed by all, with the participating students sharing: 

‘Adopt A Composer was really fun. It was really interesting to work with a composer that used all of our ideas to make a really unique song.’ - Winnie 

‘I thought Adopt A Composer was a really inspiring experience. Being able to work with professional composers is not something you get to do every day.’ - Joe  

‘I enjoyed approaching composition with new methods and from a different perspective.’ - Charlie  

Check out the video of the final piece below! With huge thanks to Carmel, Making Music, and everyone involved in this fantastic project!

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