Caelan Jansen is getting a crash course in composing from the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

Jansen, 17, is working with former ESO composer-in-residence and current principal trombonist John McPherson to create an original composition that the orchestra will perform this fall.

“I really love composing and I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn how to become a better composer and also get my music out there,” Jansen said about applying for the ESO’s 2019 Young Composers Project.

‘The next step’

Each year the project awards an Edmonton high school student with a $1,250 bursary to put toward post-secondary studies, along with the opportunity to take part in a mentorship with an ESO composer, develop a new work, and hear it performed by the orchestra in front of a live audience.

Jansen is this year’s winner.

“This will be the third year I’ve done this project, which has been going on for over 20 years,” McPherson said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.

“It’s always incredibly satisfying just to help someone learn how to write for orchestra, how to gather their thoughts, how to develop ideas, how to condense them into a piece.

“All these challenges are very exciting and it’s so fun to choose these very talented high school students to help them take the next step in their career.”

The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra rehearsing with conductor Alain Trudel. (Tara McCarthy/CBC)

Jansen was only 18 months old when he was introduced to music through Kindermusik lessons.

He went on to study the piano and electric bass, and eventually fell in love with the double bass. A student in the French immersion program at Ross Sheppard High School, Jansen has played in the concert, jazz, and honour bands, and currently plays in the Edmonton Youth Orchestra.

Jansen will work with McPherson over the next six months to prepare an original composition to be performed by the ESO in front of more than 2,000 audience members at the Symphony Under the Sky showcase in Hawrelak Park this September.

Jansen, who is set to graduate high school this year, said winning the 2019 Young Composers Project is in line with his goal to attend the University of Alberta and study music. The mentorship is already off to a good start, he said.

“I got a lot of cool pointers on how to make my piece better because I just had a few themes and then I didn’t really know where to go with them.

“I’m really looking forward to learning how to orchestrate better. That has always been hard. And then, of course, the debut, because that’s going to be real cool to see.”

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