Music composition provides inspired students with emotional outlet

Josie Lorenz | The Chronicle

Modern-day Mozarts are stacking their chords and their chances of making it big.

As brand new hobbies spring up to fill student extracurricular hours, a few melody-minded teens have chosen to return to the classics, spending their time after school composing music. Songwriting requires heavy knowledge of music theory. They must know how to incorporate melodic elements and different styles, as well as how to find healthy balances between aspects of their style.

For sophomore Miles Denbow, the choice to craft his own material was an easy one, after devoting much of his life to learning to play instruments and read sheet music. Denbow has utilized composition to build upon his previous love for music. He often posts his works to his Instagram account, @numerous_activities. Sharing to social media is a sort of homage to where he said his inspiration to write stemmed from, the Internet.

“I’ve always found joy in music,” Denbow said. “I’ve been playing piano, but more recently found interest in writing, notating, and actually transcribing music. This passion was mostly sparked by YouTube videos I came across of people sharing their own music and something just clicked.”

As his interest furthered, Denbow began to spend time at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, which has put together programs for students interested in pursuing a career or future in music. After putting in hard work, Denbow said that seeing the results–his finalized music–made it worth it.

“I did a composition workshop with the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, which is actually where I first wrote a real thing and something I was genuinely proud of,” Denbow said. “It was hard but rewarding. Learning to write music is like learning a second language.”

Denbow’s process relies on the importance of guidance and inspiration to keep him going. Apart from musicians on the internet, he said he takes inspiration from the classics and people dear to him to guide him into his style.

“Right now, [I am writing] mostly solo piano,” Denbow said. “Lots of contemporary classical, like one of my main inspirations, Philip Glass, who writes minimalist music. It’s simple, but it carries a lot of emotional weight. Another inspiration that I take from [is] actually my uncle, who has been giving me lessons. I’m happy to try new things, even though I’m not an expert.”

Similarly, sophomore Sage Choi sets their music apart by using their compositions as a tone-setter to stay in the background and guide the music. Instead of using the actual instrumental composition as the main focus of the piece, they craft it as an addition to the lyrics.

“I am a singer-songwriter, so the music I compose goes more in the background,” Choi said. “I’ve been singing and writing songs since I was eight. It’s a huge part of my life. I love it, it’s my passion.”

Though some may think of background music as unimportant, Choi believes the opposite. The composition has helped them grow as a musician and develop their music as a whole. As they continue to evolve their sound, Choi said that new opportunities continue to arise.

“What I compose really sets the tone,” Choi said. “Every song is different and I can better express that now, [with more] instruments. I think it’s just like opening a new window. I’m trying to tell a story.”

What started as a hobby has now grown into much more in Choi’s life. They aspire to do what they love in the future, which is creating music. They have already started advancing on that path, creating a debut album to be titled “A Work In Progress”, that they hope to put out in December.

Sophomore Miles Denbow practices his original piece, “Hers”, on the piano.

“I hope I can make [music] a career,” Choi said. “I’m never going to give up. If I could do it for the rest of my life, I absolutely would. I’m really excited to put my music out into the world and see how it goes.”

For Choi, composing and creating music isn’t just a creative outlet, but an emotional one. They said they weave their sensitivities into their music, generating a product that prompts reflection and pride. Choi said that this practice feels “almost therapeutic”, while they write songs or craft melodies instead of crying or falling into a depression.

With school and personal life often seeming overwhelming, Choi finds comfort in their music. As they continue to compose, they said they continue to find a way to fit their ups and downs into their songs as they grow as a musician.

“A lot of things have happened to me recently, I’ve been writing more,” Choi said. “It’s [what] inspired me to create an album. This style is me experimenting with different genres of music that I wanted to try, and just different sounds.”

While also driven emotionally, Denbow also finds some of his inspiration through his ambition. One day, he hopes to transform this passion for music into something that can provide him with success in his adult life.

“I can see myself turning it into a career someday,” Denbow said. “I’d love to do something I love, something that works like an outlet for my emotions.”

While composing is often seen as simply a hobby, musicians can utilize their works for more than just others’ enjoyment. Many lean into their music to grow as a person and expand their skills. Denbow said the emotional aspect of music is, to him, one of the most important areas of crafting melodies.

“I consider writing music a form of self-therapy,” Denbow said. “You can actually hear a lot of people’s emotions in music. It’s another reason why you should listen to other people’s music. You get a snippet of how they were feeling when they were writing it. That’s so important.”

Photo contributed by Della Johnson