Gabriel Harter has had a passion for music since he began piano lessons at the age of 5. Now 16, Harter is a junior at U32 High School and has been studying musical composition with Vermont-based composer Erik Nielsen for 1 year. He’s also been studying classical oboe with oboist Sandra Cathey for over 5 years.
Gabe shares his developing work on Music-COMP for feedback by composer mentors Erik Nielsen, Travis Ramsey and Zach Sheets. His works have been performed by artists Mark Violette and Cynthia Huard, among many others.
Harter describes the process of composing his piano piece, Mizu, which means water in Japanese. “This piece began with my playing a C6/9 chord and feeling a very interesting sense of relaxation,” he says. “The opening tones of the piece, as I wrote them, brought me back to somewhere in my childhood, safe and comfortable. The piece continues to intensify with more dissonant chord tones and faster pacing until it reaches a climax towards the end, from which it returns back to comfort and nostalgia. I chose to write for solo piano because I like the way it sounds and it was the instrument I originally wrote the piece on.”
The genesis of Harter’s piece Symphonic Poem in B minor came about in the summer of last year. “The inspiration [came] from my looking out over the Green Mountains and imagining a castle nestled high upon the wooded crags,” he says. “The opening tones of the piece, as I wrote them, carried a sense of regality and order. When listened to, the piece continues to intensify, building upon this theme until it is swept up into an epic middle section, occasionally returning to the first ideas but straying far from the beaten path. From this point, it returns back to the main theme, almost nostalgically.”
Harter says as his first fully orchestrated piece, Symphonic Poem was a great challenge and learning experience for him. “I once calculated that I spent 40 hours in one week writing and revising this piece. Regardless of how long it took, as my first piece for orchestra, I can say with undeniable certainty that it won't be my last,” says the young composer.
Harter plans to pursue a career in music upon leaving high school.
Broadcast Monday, April 6 at 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 8 at 8:30 a.m., Friday, April 10 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, April 11 at 9 a.m. Performers are Cynthia Huard, piano.
VPR Classical's Student Composer Showcase is produced in collaboration with Music-COMP’s online mentoring program.