Local teen wins composer competition

Heather Latter

At just 15 years old, Anna Schwartz is a budding composer, having recently won a student competition at the provincial level.
Schwartz was encouraged to enter the competition by her vocal teacher, Renée Martin-Brown, who is a member of the Manitoba Registered Music Teachers’ Association.
She subsequently entered her song, “My Perfect World,” in the association’s Canada Music Week student composer competition and in May was notified that she earned the winning entry for Category ‘B’ Class 2 for Manitoba.
“We sent it in quite a while ago so I was not quite prepared when I actually got the letter,” admitted the Miscampbell resident.
“It was a really interesting experience.”
Schwartz said “My Perfect World” was a piece she already had written.
“It’s one of my favourite songs that I’ve written,” she remarked, adding she performed it in the vocal division of this year’s Rainy River District Festival of the Performing Arts.
“In terms of genre, it’s probably a folk song,” Schwartz explained. “It’s written for one voice with a piano accompaniment.
“The words are just very uplifting and encouraging,” she added.
Schwartz said the category she competed in was for composers aged 15 and under. And Class 2 was for compositions written for a single voice, with or without piano accompaniment.
“It didn’t take me very long, probably about a week, to write all the lyrics and the melody,” she recalled.
“I didn’t change many of the words, but I changed a lot of the melody and played around with the accompaniment.”
She received a $75 prize for her winning entry, which now has been forwarded to the national competition for judging this summer.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Schwartz enthused. “I hope to do well.
“I don’t really know what competition I’ll be facing. I imagine pretty stiff competition,” she conceded.
“We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Her mom, Connie, said it’s all part of the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Associations’ Canada Music Week, which is set for Nov. 16-22.
The aims of Canada Music Week are:
•to bring to the attention of the public, through various means, the importance of Canadian music;
•to support composers and performers of Canadian music;
•to introduce contemporary music to young Canadians and stimulate a keener appreciation and understanding of this music; and
•to encourage music educators to widen their knowledge and experience of Canadian works.
Scholarships are awarded to winners in each category, with the Helen Dahlstrom Award given annually to the best national composition as selected by the adjudicator.
“I think [her composition] was great,” said Connie Schwartz.
“I think one of the best things was when she received the news that she won, she also received an adjudication sheet so she got written feedback from one of the judges who looked at her piece.
“I think that’s invaluable to a young composer because he gave her some suggestions about things she could do differently and told her what was good, what she might want to look at changing, so I think that’s great,” Schwartz added.
Anna Schwartz’s composition was adjudicated by composer David Dahlgren of Winnipeg.
“I’m sure you will find his remarks encouraging and very useful in guiding your future activities as a musician and a composer,” Jane Duerksen, CMW Manitoba Competition co-ordinator, noted in her letter to Schwartz.
“Thank you for sharing your musical ideas and creativity with us,” she added.
Although she wrote “My Perfect World” when she was 14, Schwartz began composing a year earlier.
“The person who got me into it was actually my dad’s brother, my Uncle Ryan,” she explained.
“He also plays the guitar and sings,” she noted. “He’s actually written some songs and has produced an album a few years ago.
“He was the one who got me into playing the guitar and singing, and trying to write my own music.”
The teen said she enjoys composing because it’s a way to express her emotions and how she’s feeling on a certain day.
But she added it was her mom who was her first music teacher.
“She started to get me into music when I was about three,” Schwartz said. “We started with the piano.
“I played around on the piano for quite a few years and then again, my Uncle Ryan was the first one to get me into guitar and singing about two years ago.”
Schwartz earned the coveted piano Rose Bowl at the Rainy River District Festival of the Performing Arts in 2014 and also performed in the vocal division this year.
In the past few years, she has sang with a home-school choir, the Rainy River District Youth Choir, and the Fort Frances Choraliers (Christmas cantatas).
She now is a member of a vocal ensemble that includes Brianna Eldridge, Katelyn and Joelle Bruyere, and Callahan and Christian Wiedenhoeft.
Schwartz also recently took some Royal Conservatory music exams, completing her Grade 7 vocal exam and Grade 9 piano exam.
And about a month ago, she did the theory equivalence for Grade 9 piano called Basic Harmony, as well as the History 1 exam.
In addition to these musical accomplishments, Schwartz has perfect pitch (also known as absolute pitch)—a rare auditory phenomenon characterized by the ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone.
Schwartz’s mom recalls her being about seven or eight years old when they realized this blessing.
“I was doing something on the piano one day and just playing individual notes, and she was sitting on the couch,” she recounted.
“She couldn’t see what I was doing on the piano.”
Connie Schwartz said she played a note and her daughter said, “That’s an ‘E.’”
“So I played another note and she knew it,” she added. “I remember saying to her, ‘How do you know that?’
“Her answer? ‘Because it is.’
“It’s like pointing to a letter ‘B’ and saying how do you know that’s a ‘B?’” she explained.
“I don’t have it, her dad doesn’t have it, I don’t know that anyone in our family has it,” Connie Schwartz stressed.
“I don’t know where it came from.”
“It helps to write melodies sometimes because I can hear the melody in my head when I’m writing it,” Anna Schwartz said of her special talent.
“It helps when I’m singing too because I can hear the melody in my head.”
With all her musical achievements, the teen has a love for music and plans to pursue it in the future.
“I would like to go to university for music,” she remarked. “I would probably major in piano.”
Following university, Schwartz sees herself using her talents in a variety of ways.
“I’d like to teach some and I’d like to continue to compose,” she noted. “I’d also like to perform some outside of university.
“Piano mostly, possibly with an orchestra in a larger centre.”
Schwartz already has written some studies for piano, as well as other vocal pieces, and is working on more, including a piece for her vocal ensemble.
She also is currently attending the International Music Camp at the Peace Gardens, where she’s participating in both piano and music composition sessions.
“I’m really excited to learn and experience new ideas in music, especially in composing,” Schwartz enthused.