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Very Young Composers meet Future Band

As part of April’s New York Philharmonic Residency, we have been exploring ideas of musical creation without borders working with young people from East London and New York. Through musical postcards, emails, pictures, sound files and musical notes, our young composers have been sharing who they are, their cities and their musical ideas to help inspire a musical creation across the Atlantic.

The result? Pieces of music that would be performed by an ensemble of New York Philharmonic musicians and Guildhall School of Music and Drama graduates on our freeStage during the New York Philharmonic Residency.

We spoke to Graydon Hanson, one of NY Phil’s Very Young Composers about his experience composing ‘across the pond’.

‘It all began with musical postcards. I got postcards from Gillie in London and I sent some to him. We were all given the theme of ‘Rebirth’. Gillie and I thought it would be cool if we could be re-born into different worlds. Gillie came up with ideas about a Toy World, a Sweets World, a Jazz and Underwater World. I came up with a Rainforest World and a Tundra World. We thought that there could be a device to go from one world to the next called ‘The Phoenix.’

Gillie’s Toy World and Grayson’s Sweets World

On the airplane trip over to London I was excited about coming to London and meeting Gillie and all the Future Band people in person because I had met them on Skype. When we got to London, we walked around the Barbican exploring the buildings where we would all be rehearsing and performing. The Very Young Composers from New York and Future Band from London, performing together and having their pieces played by musicians from the New York Philharmonic and Future Band!


In the afternoon, we all met for our first workshop session at the Barbican. The exercises we did were really fun and I liked the naming one; everyone went around the circle and said their name in different ways with different physical actions. The next day we had a whole day of rehearsing the pieces in Guildhall where I finally met Gillie in person. It’s been was fun to get to know all the other composers and work on our ideas and music. It was great to hear all of the pieces together and the different ways each composer made their music. Gillie is a great jazz pianist!


On Sunday, we all met for a final rehearsal of our pieces with the New York Philharmonic musicians. It was exciting to hear Joe playing the vibraphone part of my piece, The Tundra and I enjoyed conducting my own piece, even though I was nervous about it.

The performance went well and the audience really enjoyed the music. The whole concert was great and it was wonderful to hear my piece and Gillie’s piece played together! I can’t believe it’s already finished and I can’t wait to come back to London again. I hope Future Band can come over to NYC and we can work together again.’

The project was a collaboration between New York Philarmonic’s Very Young Composers and Barbican and Guildhall School’s Future Band. The performance took place on Sunday 19 April 2015.

Learn more about Future Band.

Lead photo: Chris Lee