In general, teenagers are simple - whether it’s sports, games, or going out with friends, teenagers enjoy their time as youth. And 17-year old junior from Alpharetta High School Brian Shon is no different; he loves basketball, plays games, and goes out with friends often. On top of a normal teen’s life, Brian adds one thing onto a list of things he enjoys - composing music. Though he considers himself far from a trained musician, Brian’s picked up music theory and follows his ear to craft his intricate symphony works.
“I was messing around with the keys when I was 9, and I figured out that certain chords and melodies came together just like magic,” he recalled over a phone interview. “It’s definitely a time-consuming process to write symphony music than piano music though, just because I’m writing music for sixteen, seventeen instruments in one piece.” When asked about his growth as a musician, he answered: “At first, it was me relying exclusively on my ear to tell me ‘Oh, this sounds good’ and ‘Oh, this doesn’t.’ But after classes in music theory and listening to my pieces as I create, it’s a more structured process now. Certain notes belong in certain places to create that magic harmony and learning about organizing that creative process definitely helped me out.”
Having played the piano since age 5, violin since age 10, and beginning to compose his first works at 9, his first-place win in Georgia’s statewide Reflections contest is a well-earned confirmation for years of composing and musical training. In fact, he’s amassed 7 total awards at the Reflections competitions over the years for his original works. However, he tells a different story to his success.
“Competitively and honestly speaking, my piano skills don’t even come close to some of the excellent pianists that are my age. Same goes for the violin. Bu
t I did develop a deep understanding of both instruments, which helped me create my works. I love both instruments, I just wasn’t exactly a top performer of them,” he told me, laughing over the line. “I owe it to my parents for supporting my choice to turn my attention to composition, though. It’s definitely a rarer thing to do in music, and they supported me fully.”
Since his first simple piano work at age 9, his talent has developed; in fact, Brian was featured in Patch a few years ago after debuting his piece “Midnight Flurries” with the Alpharetta Symphony Orchestra in a local charity concert. After that, he went on to debut another original symphony work, “Nightingale’s Anthem,” with the New Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra at the Infinite Energy Center in front of a crowd of hundreds. More recently, he debuted his string quartet piece, “Aufladen,” in front of fellow composers at All-State’s Composition Contest Winners’ Recital. In total, he’s amassed around a dozen awards for his original works and four debut performances of them.
His creative process? “I couldn’t really point to one thing. Sometimes it’s nature, sometimes it’s food, sometimes it’s just how I feel. Or sometimes I’m just sitting in class and a cool melody pops into my head, so I’ll pull out my phone and sing the melody quietly so I can revisit the short idea later. Once I have a good idea of some musical idea, I take that and run with it as far as I can - most of the time it flops, but every few dozen ideas, I’ll have one that works out into a full-length piece.”
The question of what’s next is a difficult question for him to answer. “I mean, I rap sometimes, I try to sing… emphasis on the try,” he jokes. He’s picked up producing modern rap and pop on top of his classical origins, though he returns to pure classical expression at times.
“Whatever’s next is what’s next. I might drop a contemporary rap album with classical elements weaved in, or write another, even more developed classical symphony work. It’s the possibility of creation that excites me.”