Student Feature: Violinist & Composer, Sylvia Pine

This month’s student feature showcases violinist and composer, Sylvia Pine. In addition to being a fabulous violinist and member of CYSO’s Philharmonic Orchestra, Sylvia is also a young budding composer. She considers her time in CYSO important as it helps her understand the inner workings of the orchestra, which she hopes to some day write for. Sylvia is the daughter of violinist Rachel Barton Pine, a long-time friend and collaborator of CYSO, and now a CYSO parent!

Already accomplished for her young age, one of Sylvia’s pieces was selected by Music Director Allen Tinkham to be performed by Symphony Orchestra at CYSO’s upcomng Gala on February 25. Maestro Tinkham said of Sylvia, “To call Sylvia precocious would be an understatemtnt. She is an extremely talented young composer and certainly the youngest composer CYSO has ever featured. What’s impressive is not only her work itself, but the strength of her opinions about it; she knows what she wants her music to do and she goes for it. I look forward to watching her skills develop, and anyone interested in the future of music should keep an eye on her.”

Read on to learn more about Sylvia’s impressive accomplishments as a composer and performer.

Sylvia Pine

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Sylvia Pine and I’m 11 years old. Violin is my main instrument, but I also study voice and play medieval rebec and vielle, renaissance violin, baroque violin, electric violin, viola, and piano.

Tell us about your experience in CYSO.

I joined CYSO in Preparatory Strings and progressed through Debut and Concert Orchestras. My goal from the start was to join Philharmonic Orchestra so that I could study with Maestro Gray. [I was accepted for this season] but sadly he died right before the season began. He had been a family friend my whole life and I really miss him.

Unlike many people who play in orchestra to learn how to be an orchestral musician, my main reason for participating in CYSO is to study symphonic repertoire as a composer. I also want to experience orchestra rehearsals and concerts from the inside, so that when I grow up and visit orchestras who are performing my compositions, I’ll know how it all works.

Sylvia performing at her Carnegie Hall debut in Weill Recital Hall.

How did you get started as a composer?

When I was four, I composed my first melodies and began to write more short pieces after that. From that point, I realized that I wanted to become a composer. My goal for all my pieces is for them to have melodies that are “catchy” and easy to remember. They’re mainly made out of melody fragments that pop into my head; I discard the ones that aren’t memorable enough. I put all the fragments I think of into a book and use them when they’re needed.

After writing lots of little pieces for voice, solo violin, and violin duet, the first big piece I wrote was a theme and variations for solo violin called The Glow of the Lamp. I performed it for some competitions, and my mom performed it, too. I had the pleasure of writing multiple brass quintets, a string quintet, and a wind quintet as projects for the Tucson Symphony’s Young Composer’s Project and for my CYSO composition seminar. Then, I wrote my first string orchestra piece, titled Rising Storm. It was premiered by the Kanack School Orchestra in Rochester, NY, and was recently performed by the Music Institute of Chicago Academy Orchestra. This spring, it will be played by youth orchestras in DuPage, Tampa, and by CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra at the upcoming Gala.

Sylvia performs her own composition, The Glow of the Lamp.

What projects are you working on right now?

Right now, I’m working on a commission from Elizabeth Faidley (a violin teacher at the Manhattan School of Music, who I know from summer camps) to write an etude book. I also love writing in various other styles. For example, I’ve written lots of Scottish fiddle tunes (mostly jigs and strathspeys), a couple American fiddle waltzes, cadenzas for all of my classical period concerti by Mozart and Haydn, renaissance variations, and my first medieval-style piece, which was performed by a professional early music ensemble in Utah.

It’s so wonderful when people play my pieces. It gives me an overwhelming feeling of happiness that I hope I’ll be able to continue feeling throughout my life. I always feel very grateful when people spend their time working on my pieces. I always hope that they enjoy my pieces as much as I enjoy hearing their performances. I want my pieces to make people feel emotions, and to make them think about the world around them. One of my hopes for my pieces is for them to really have meaning, and not just be notes.

I always feel very grateful when people spend their time working on my pieces…I want my pieces to make people feel emotions, and to make them think about the world around them.

Sylvia Pine

What have you learned from being a composer?

Being a composer has taught me how music impacts other people and how important it is for new music to be brought into the world so it can touch people’s hearts in new and different ways.

Sylvia, center, and members of 5th Wave Collective after a reading of Sylvia’s woodwind quintet written for CYSO’s Composition Seminar.

What connections do you see between composing and performing?

Becoming a good solo and chamber music performer is really important because it helps me do a good job performing my own works. I always feel like I want to do nothing but improvise and compose all day, but it’s also useful to study other composers’ pieces so I can get good ideas. One dream that I have is to write an opera and sing in it!

Anything else that’s interesting or unusual that you’d like to share?

A number of years ago, Jessie Montgomery advised me that improvising was really important for an aspiring composer. I have more than 50 “Improvs on Instagram” videos on my Instagram, @SylviaPineMusic, and it’s been really exciting to hear from students and teachers who have started doing more improvisation after seeing my videos. I also have a YouTube channel where you can see my performances and original works.

Also, please spread the word about helping support efforts to save the pangolins, the most trafficked mammals in the world!

Lastly… Rats are cool! Dragons rule!

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