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AN INTERVIEW WITH RUSSELL PECK
COMPOSER AND SPECIAL GUEST NARRATOR


Mr. Peck, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra will play two of your pieces on its 1989 Young Peoples' Concert. What can you tell us about the music we will hear at the concert?

The concert will begin with a piece called "The Thrill of the Orchestra." It highlights the musical thrills that come from the four sections of the orchestra - the strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. It also shows how a symphony orchestra works when it combines so many different instruments.

The concert will end with a piece called "Jack and Jill at Bunker Hill." It tells the story of famous events in American history at the time of the Revolutionary War.

When did you write the two pieces the CSO will play for us?

I wrote "Jack and Jill at Bunker Hill" in 1976 for the American Bicentennial celebration. "The Thrill of the Orchestra" is more recent. I composed it in 1985.

Did you write these pieces just for children?

Yes. I like to write for young people because they like new music. They also like lots of action in the music they hear. So, I write music that people can move to. Boys and girls in elementary schools also enjoy symphonic pieces that use a narrator or story teller.

Will we get to see you when we come to the concert?

Yes, I will be at the concert to narrate both of my pieces. You know, it is somewhat unusual for the audience at a symphony concert to see the composer. Most of the music played by symphonies today was written by composers who are no longer living! Mr. Copland, who wrote the "Gun Battle" from the Billy the Kid ballet, is the only other living composer whose music you will hear at the concert. He is almost 90 years old!

Well, how old are you?

I was born in 1945, so I will be 44 this year.

What does your music sound like? Is it wild, or scary, or really loud?

I guess you could say it sounds a little modern, but it is very easy to listen to. The best way to answer that question is to listen to it. Take a minute to hear these two examples from my pieces on the concert. But remember, this is just the music without the story. You will hear me tell the story in person when you come to the Ohio Theatre.

Do you write other kinds of music besides music for symphony orchestras?

I did earlier in my career, but not anymore. I guess you could say I am a little unusual, because I composer music only for large symphony orchestras.

Do you like other kinds of music?

Of course I do! I remember listening a lot to Motown sounds in the sixties. I especially liked a group called the Supremes with Diana Ross. I still enjoy rhythm and blues and gospel music. Other than classical music, these are really my favorite musical styles.

When did you first start to compose?

I actually wrote my first piece when I was in grade school. I was in the sixth grade and wrote that composition for piano. Later when I was in the 10th grade, I wrote my first piece for orchestra. I liked to compose solos for my friends and I also wrote some pieces for my high school band.

Where do you get your musical ideas for your pieces?

Well, first, I often get musical ideas by just making things up at the piano. That is called improvisation. Then, I try to put these ideas together in my head silently.

When do you write your music as notes for the orchestra to play?

I actually write down the notes on staff paper only after I have really developed my ideas at the piano. But truthfully, I hate the task of writing out all those notes. It always takes so much time! I guess you could say it's a necessary part of a composer's life.

What is it like to be a composer?

Being a composer is not like any other job. I work all by myself, alone in my studio at home. It is a very solitary life. I can not have interruptions, and it must be very quiet for me to create my musical ideas. Since I don't have an orchestra at home to play my pieces, I have to imagine how they will sound in my head. It is not any easy job!

Do composers make a lot of money?

Some composers do, especially those who write popular music or movie music. But composers who write for the symphony orchestra are not usually very rich.

Thank you, Mr. Peck, for telling us about composers.

You are very welcome. I look forward to seeing you at the concert!

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