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Teen Conducts the Symphony She Wrote

This weekend will see the debut of a surprising composition, written by a high school student who plays five different instruments.

Heather Pryse admits she doesn’t have much time these days for her flute – just ninety minutes a day, but then she’s been playing for nearly a decade.

"I started on flute, and then I learned the bassoon at summer school, and then the following summer I learned oboe, and then in exchange for teaching at summer school I got to learn the French horn.   I was also playing tenor sax in the jazz band at that time.

And, she adds, none of it came easy.

"I’ve always prided myself in working my butt off.  I was not innately great at music I would say,  but I was very willing to work at it. "

Now, as a senior at Albemarle High School, she’s become a serious composer.

" I blocked out a section in my schedule so that I could devote it to an independent study on writing my first symphony.  I had a year to write it.  I did it in six months, because I cheated and started over the summer.  I was just too excited."

Heather Pryse plays in the Crozet Community Orchestra, which will perform the symphony she wrote this Sunday.

She shared that excitement with Philip Clark, conductor of the Crozet Community Orchestra.

"Within one sentence she was telling me that  she had composed a symphony, and I said something like, ‘How old are you?’ and she said, ‘Seventeen.’ And I said, ‘Have you composed anything else?’ and she said, “Yes.  Lots of things.  I’ve been composing since I was ten.'"

Clark was impressed and worked with Pryse to refine her composition.  He also prepared her to conduct the orchestra when it performs the second movement of her symphony on Sunday, March 18th at 4 p.m. in Crozet’s First Baptist Church.  The concert is free and open to the public.

For Pryse, it’s a gift – one day before her 18th birthday.  In the fall, she’ll attend college – majoring, of course, in music and hopes someday to compose film scores.

"I’ve always hated movies to be honest, but I’ve always loved the soundtracks.  My favorite movies are ones that have really great soundtracks.  John Williams is one of my compositional heroes."

Williams, for those who pay no attention to these things, was nominated for or won Oscars for the Star Wars movies, Jaws, Home Alone, Jurassic Park and nearly three dozen other films.  Pryse could follow in his footsteps, but first she’ll join the Albemarle High School Jazz Band – one of only a dozen invited to compete next month in Savannah.  

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief