On Sunday, January 24, seven rising-star composers will travel to Minneapolis to begin their participation in the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, where they’ll spend a week learning about the art and business of composing from inside an orchestra. After four days of sessions with musicians, music director, librarians, artistic staff and industry pros, they’ll each experience a thrilling moment: a performance of their music, led by Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra, before a cheering crowd at Orchestra Hall. Audiences will experience the full force of seven creative, distinct musical voices writing new music for today’s symphony orchestra.
As we prepare for the composers’ arrival, here is a peek at who they are, what influences them and what you can expect from their music.
Meet Joshua Cerdenia
Hometown: Cainta, Philippines
Why did you decide to become a composer?
It wasn’t a conscious one-time decision, but something that happened over time. I started my musical life as a pianist and saw composing as a natural extension of playing an instrument. At first I was only interested in writing piano music, but I eventually realized that the great pianist-composers whose music I had been learning—Mozart and Beethoven especially—also made names for themselves by writing music for other instruments too, especially the orchestra.
I think now I've been around long enough to know that composing is hard work and at times can feel burdensome. I always wonder if there is something else I ought to be doing instead. In spite of that, writing music is the best, most powerful, most honest way that I know to express my identity.
Who/what has been a significant inspiration or mentor in your career?
When I was a freshman I was introduced to the music of Christopher Rouse for the first time through his Flute Concerto, performed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. I knew then and there that what I heard was the music of someone who had a strong and honest love of music and the places that it can take someone emotionally. When I came to Juilliard to study with Rouse, I found out that I was right. He has such a deep respect for all kinds of music that came before him (evident in his extensive listening assignments!), which I greatly admire.
What are you most excited to do or learn during the Composer Institute?
I’m excited about a lot of things—being in Minneapolis for the first time, meeting the other participants, working with the Minnesota Orchestra—but perhaps more than anything I’m excited to hear new life breathed into my piece.
Hear an excerpt from Joshua’s Magayon—the work the Minnesota Orchestra will perform next week:
What has been your favorite type of ensemble to compose for?
The orchestra, without a doubt. I think it is a truly special medium, with so much power, depth, and possibility. And I always love a full string section!
Hear Joshua’s Creed for full Orchestra:
What is your proudest compositional accomplishment thus far?
This is it! Having a piece played by one of America’s major orchestras is a rare and unique opportunity, especially for someone from my part of the world. When I began toying around with orchestral music, I had never seen or heard an orchestra in person; it overwhelms me to think I’ve come to this point and that there is much more to do from here.
In five words or less, describe the piece that you will be sharing with Minnesota Orchestra.
Loud and fast (with exception)