Kirsty Devaney – Founder of YCP
Role at YCP?
I set YCP up when I left the Conservatoire in 2013, due to noticing a lack of composing opportunities for young people in the UK. Although composing is done in schools I found it was often directed by examination requirements and these were restricting creativity. Therefore I wanted to create a place that young music creators could come to experiment and explore new ideas with limited restrictions but in an environment that was supportive and welcoming.
How did you get into composing?
I started arranging music before composing my own. I was in my school orchestra and noticed that the music wasn’t arranged very well for our ensemble size and the abilities. Therefore I arranged music that reflected the abilities of the individuals so that those who were confident could be challenged, and those who had less experience in playing could play something they felt confident with. This then lead to composing my own music for the group. I also started more through doing GCSE and A-Level composing.
What do you enjoy composing?
A lot of my composing work involves composing with and for young and non-professional ensembles. In 2011 I was shortlisted for a British Composer Award for music for amateur ensembles. I have also started to explore freedom and improvisation in my music, for example giving a performer the pitches but not the rhythms.
Minifact: I have a phobia of red jelly…
George West – Co-Leader
Course/Year: First Year Masters in Experimental Performance
How did you get into composing? Back in high school I took up the saxophone and really enjoyed arranging pieces for my school band. I really enjoyed being creative and began experimenting by mashing musical material together. Eventually I started to create my own performances.
What music are you currently working on?I’m working on a piece about clean water and sanitation, a piece about supermarkets, another piece about having short showers to reduce our water waste and also a piece about curating the world’s worst art gallery.
What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? Last year I was lucky enough to write a piece for symphony orchestra, I chose to highlight the climate crisis by creating parts for the orchestra purely out of recycled sheet music I collected from bins in the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. I ended up conducting the piece myself after the conductor refused to, despite this I had a blast making and conducting a piece about the biggest issue we’re facing.
What do you find challenging? Right now, with everything that’s happening I’ve found it really hard to stay motivated and make things. Slowly but surely, I’m getting there!
Minifact: I have a blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do!
James Abel – Co-Leader
Course/Year: 4th year composition
Hometown: Ludlow, Shropshire
How did you get into composing? I really enjoyed it during my GCSE’s and A levels. I realised I was spending more of my time at college composing then doing actual A level work.
What music are you currently working on? I’m currently working on a few projects; one for a large ensemble, an orchestral project which is exciting, and just a few bits for my portfolio.
What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? My most memorable composing experience would definitely be the piece I did with the Leap ensemble for YCP.
What do you enjoy about composing? What do you find challenging? I enjoy the challenges it provides me when working on a piece. All the decisions I have to make in order to finish a piece interest me. Also, the eventual performance of a piece is enjoyable because you get to witness something that has only existed in your head and on paper for a long time.
Minifact: I’m a Hufflepuff.
Catherine (Cat) Mole
Course: 3rd Year BMus Composition
Hometown: Mickfield, Suffolk
How did you get into composing? Though GCSE music, A level and then taking part in YCP a few years ago then confirmed for me that composition is something I want to pursue in my future.
What music are you currently working on? Musical performance combined with a visual aspect, that being movement or graphic scores.
What do you enjoy about composing? What do you find challenging? I enjoy the freedom of composition meaning that I can write for whatever ensemble I want as well as composing in any style that I want. A big challenge for me is having confidence in my own music.
Minifact: Spaghetti Bolognaise is my favorite food. (sometimes it’s Hoola Hoops)
Course/Year: BMus Composition Year 3
Hometown: From the little old city of Lichfield.
How did you get into composing? I joined the composition game quite late on at school. My first study was always the trumpet and I was adamant that was what I wanted to study at uni. However, during my A-levels I started a youth jazz band and wrote arrangements for us to play which started my interest in writing music. In my second year of A-level I found out about YCP and joined as one of the students, clarifying my love for composition and encouraged me to study it full time at conservatoire.
What music are you currently working on? Currently, I am working on a project with the historical performance department. I am working with a recorder trio with electronics, so my fingers are crossed as this is the first time, I’ve worked with electronics but am excited to learn.
What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? My best musical experience was getting the opportunity to play with the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble at the European Building in Brussels. It was a really fun tour and an experience I’ll never forget.
What do you find challenging? The thing I find the most challenging about composition is to not feel guilty about sitting down at the computer for hours and not having much to show for it. I find my inspiration for composing comes in bursts, and if I’m not in the right mindset to write I can get distracted easily. To overcome this, I like to get out the house and go for a walk or take my mind off of writing. I find my most successful writing is when I feel relaxed and can just enjoy the process.
Minifact: A random fact about me is that I love to go camping and being outside. I was a part of the scouts for most my life and after university I hope to join the scouting family again and continue my love for camping. (Maybe even go camping whilst traveling across the world fingers crossed)
May Wong (aka May Chi)
Course/Year: Second Year Masters in Composition
Hometown: Hong Kong
How did you get into composing? Ever since I was young, I enjoyed writing and improvising little pieces on the piano. However, it was GCSE Music and a couple of societies at school that took my passion for music a lot further than I envisioned. I eventually decided to study Music at university over Art, which I was initially going to pursue. I did a Music BA at Bristol University with the mindset of going into Russian Musicology, until I realised I got a lot of joy from writing music as opposed to sitting in a library, frantically typing or finding books to reference.
What music are you currently working on? I’m currently working on an electroacoustic-esque piece for string quartet. I enjoy working with small ensembles, as it pushes you to think beyond their limitations. I’ve also found it interesting finding effective ways to create/ convey specific sounds and emotions. I’m also working on my debut album, which will feature Alternative Rock, Indie Folk and Ambient elements.
What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? Probably releasing my first EP “Blue” in 2019, it was the first time I properly put my work out there and collaborated with a variety of creatives on a proper project.
What do you find challenging? Managing my levels of productivity when they’re at either ends of the extremes – I’m either overworking myself, or struggling to find the willpower to compose. I find it really essential to take extended breaks from creating, although it’s not always possible to do so depending on when deadlines are.
Minifact: I contemplate moving to the middle of nowhere a lot.
Regular Visiting Musicians & Composers
Joe Cutler – Head of Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire
Role at YCP:
Joe visits YCP 1-2 times a year to give composing masterclasses and small group tuition during the full scheme. Joe also talks to the students each year about studying composition in Higher Education and what to expect in a composition interview and studying at a music Conservatoire.
How did you get into composing?
Initially I just distracted myself with doodling in the violin and piano when I should have been practising, and that developed into composing actual piece. Then at University I really began to take it seriously.
What do you love about composing?
I love the moment when a piece you’ve been struggling with, suddenly clicks into place!
Role at YCP:
Judith works for Sound and Music, an organisation aiming to ‘maximise the opportunities for people to create and enjoy new music.’ Judith comes to visit YCP to talk to the group about how Sound and Music can support their composing development including the Sound and Music Summer School.
Role at YCP: Peter was a mentor for 2 years and is our electronics master! He will be coming back to YCP leading an intro session on electronic music and supporting a small group to produce some music for the YCP concert through the year.
What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? In my second year at the conservatoire I was very lucky to be able to write the music for one of Birmingham School of Acting’s shows (Romeo and Juliet), which was great fun and I got to play around with lots of folk music.
What do you enjoy about composing? What do you find challenging? I really enjoy the process of discovering a piece as I write it. Pieces never turn out exactly how I think they will when I start writing them, but I love finding out what the finished piece is like. Sometimes I’ll get stuck for ages on piece and it find it really challenging to find the approach or idea that solves the problem, though it’s really satisfying once I’ve solved it.
Minifact: I play in a Ceilidh Band