George Hanson, Tucson Symphony Orchestra music director, and Adam Conyne, Young Composers Project student, study Conyne's score before the 2012 YCP Reading Session.


Writing a full composition came easily to Adam Conyne.

He learned how to play the violin at the age of 5, and picked up the guitar, drums and bass along the way.

Now at senior at Catalina Foothills High School, the 18-year-old has added composer to his growing résumé thanks to the Tucson Symphony Orchestra's Young Composers Project.

Conyne is one of 25 young composers who will come together this weekend to show off their original compositions at the TSO's Young Composers Project Reading Sessions.

For 20 years, the TSO has been giving young musicians, ages 9 to 18, the opportunity to grow and expand their talents alongside the symphony.

"It's really the premiere of new work. We call it a reading session because it's not necessarily a finished piece (but) the continuation of working together and polishing," said Shawn Campbell, vice president of artistic engagement and education for TSO.

The reading sessions give the composers the chance to have their works played by the orchestra after the yearlong program. It becomes a dialogue between the student and the orchestra and the student walks away from the session with a recording of his or her piece.

Conyne's piece this year, "Where Many Paths and Errands Meet," is inspired by "The Fellowship of the Ring."

"This piece is probably my most cohesive and maybe cinematic sounding piece. It starts up slow with a piano and a harp taking over the rhythm, melancholy and sweet, more fast near the middle and it settles back down leading up into a loud sweeping and epic finale," Conyne said.

The composing program serves as a living laboratory that gives students the chance to interact with contemporary composers, orchestra musicians and conductors twice a month. The classes cover all orchestral bases, from ear training, score reading and compositional techniques, to improvisation and performances.

Project instructor Ilona Vukovic-Gay has worked with Conyne since the beginning. He is among the students who have stayed with the program throughout middle and high school.

"Hearing the music for the first time is always an amazing experience. It's really unbelievable. The thing about all of these composers is they each have an individual voice and none of them write in the same style. They are all very creative in their own way," Vukovic-Gay said.

TSO has added to the program over the years, including an introductory level for ages 9 to 13.

"We're getting more and more demand from younger people who are interested in learning to compose for the orchestra but weren't quite ready for the project," Campbell said.

Those students focus on music theory and style while making a composition for the string quintet.

Students in the advanced program create a composition for the chamber orchestra.

Conyne has been with the program eight years and plans to study composition at the University of Arizona. There are seven other high school seniors who will pursue composition in college.

"Coming to the program in fifth grade helped me put all of the music I've been learning into one place and put it on a more creative side," Conyne said.

"It's provided me with an opportunity to see what is possible with music and to really have a hands-on experience to develop my musical self."

If you go

• What: Tucson Symphony Orchestra Young Composers Project Reading Sessions.

• When and where: 7 p.m. Friday featuring the TSO String Quintet at Tucson Symphony Center, 2175 N. Sixth Ave.; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday with the TSO Chamber Orchestra at Catalina Foothills High School, 4300 E. Sunrise Drive.

• Tickets: $5 at the door or in advance at

Rachel Cabakoff is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at