Liam Ritz  is just 16-years-old, but is already accomplished in violin, saxophone, bassoon, piano and flute. 

Ritz can now  add ‘composer’ to his list of musical accomplishments

He’s one of four students, along with Ben Duff, Katie Lloyd and Heather McBrien, from Westmount Secondary School who got to compose their own works of music to be performed by members of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra’s at a concert Friday night,

The teens worked closely with HPO composer-in-residence Abigail Richardson-Schulte for months  to create their pieces, which are  being performed as part of the HPO's What Next festival.

The performance is part of the HPO's What Next Festival of New Music.  The details are:

Simulacrum Featuring Compositions by Four Westmount Students Tonight at 7:30pm First Hamilton Christian Reformed Church (181 Charlton Ave. W.) Tickets $15

 "It’s just an amazing experience to work with musicians of that caliber," Ritz said, who plays violin for HPO’s youth ensemble.

"As a student, it’s not very often, aside from your music teachers, to work with people who are at that level."

Richardson-Schulte first met with the students in September and started them off with a basic form of musical storytelling: writing a nursery rhyme. From there, the students wrote short pieces for piano, then duets and finally, a unique composition to be played by flute, clarinet and bassoon.

"They’re really seeing music from the inside out," she said, or the Westmount students. "In Liam’s case he is already looking towards a career in composing...The other three, they love music, but they have never composed before."

Richardson-Schulte was keen to partcipate in the project. A composing mentorship program is exactly what got her started. She’s involved with the Canadian Contemporary Orchestra, and the Composer’s Workshop, in Toronto, an organization that gives composers coming out of graduate school the opportunity to work with professional musicians.

Ritz composed a three-vignette piece entitled, Hamilton Images, with each part honouring one of his favourite parts of the city. The first vignette, about Cherry Hill gate at the Royal Botanical Gardens, is slow and melodic evoking the sounds of chickadees. The second is about the escarpment, starting with the sediment and building up to the neighbourhoods above. The third is about the downtown Farmer’s Market, which features a Polish jig in the middle, prompted by the man Ritz always saw playing his accordion outside.

"[The musicians] were surprised at how sophisticated the pieces were," Richardson-Schulte said

 Almost as challenging as writing the music is speaking to the audience about their inspirations.

 "Usually as composers, we go through university and get the opportunity to first to speak to fellow composers in class, and then a concert situation where there are other composers in the audience," she said. "We gradually learn to do this, but they’ve been thrown right in."

As for what’s next, Richardson-Schulte said the students could enter their works into contests and get a recording they can use for the future.

But Ritz is still just relishing what’s happened.

"This is an opportunity who people out of their undergraduate would love to have," he said. "Just out of Grade 11, I was given it. It’s unbelievable."