You will not see him when the curtain lifts this month on St. Michael’s College School’s annual Fall theatrical production, but Aidan Taylor’s impact will definitely be heard.
“I do feel honoured. It is a very unique opportunity,” says the Grade 12 student.
And, he says, also just a little bit nervous.
Understandable given Aidan’s role.
“This is the first time in St. Michael’s history that we have a live pit orchestra playing for the Fall Drama. It’s also the first time that a student, myself, is conducting one of the theatrical productions,” says the 17-year-old, who played his first musical instrument not that long ago at 10 years of age.
“Aidan's involvement in the Drama was an extension of the Musical Theatre course and his Independent Study Project (ISP) that is a requirement of the course,” says Mr. Jamie Oatt, Music teacher and Director of this year’s production, ‘The Outsiders’.
So, Aidan is writing the musical score for the production. That has meant more than two hours of work every day over the last two months, starting with sketching out the storyline using words, then isolating themes, before moving onto writing the music.
“After those rough sketches, which are actually pairing notes and themes to where I want them in the book, then you go and sit at the piano and noodle for hours and hours,” he says. From there you usually score the entire show just for a piano, solo piano and after that you expand it to all the instruments.”
For ‘The Outsiders’ --- a novel originally published in 1967 which chronicles the experiences of two rival gangs divided along class lines --- Aidan has composed the score for six separate instruments: two trumpets, piano, guitar, bass guitar and drums.
MIND FULL OF MUSIC
“I have a weird connection with music. I hear it in my head all the time,” says Aidan, the eldest of three siblings. “The comparison I use is if you’re listening to music with ear buds or headphones, that’s like me but I won’t need the ear buds or headphones. I hear it without them, just in my head. And usually it’s new music that I’m composing on the spot and it has the funny characteristics of reacting to how my day is going or how I feel at a specific point in time or what events are happening around me. So it’s almost like I’m composing a score for my own life, spontaneously. And I can’t turn it off so when it happens, I’m stuck with it, even if I’m writing a test, which is a little inconvenient,” he says, smiling.
His Spotify list is bare, according to him, but his musical taste spans several decades and genres. It dates from the 1850’s to the 1970’s and includes classical and jazz. He listens to several notable composers including Stravinsky, Mahler, Ravel and Korsakov and hones his skills by reading the scores of their musical compositions and drawing inspiration from them.
His grandfather gave him a saxophone at the age of 10, but it wasn’t until Grade 10 at St. Michael’s College School that Aidan says his love of music truly blossomed. “There was no event that triggered it. I just started playing music more and I started liking it more.” That’s the year he learned to play the flute, oboe, English horn, bassoon and the French horn.
Every time there was an instrument and no one to play it, Aidan would volunteer himself --- learn it and add it to his expansive repertoire. He plays more than a dozen instruments and counting. His favourite is the English horn.
“He has created his own orchestral compositions and recently had one of them reviewed by the composition faculty at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY,” says Mr. Oatt.
Adds Aidan, “If I had the chance to play in an orchestra and compose, I would take that and be so very happy with it.”
For now, he is focused on making his composing and conducting debut at St. Michael’s College School. And hopefully, he says, making an impression that resonates.
That would indeed be music to everyone’s ears.