Music in the making

Jordan Murray

As Ben Beckman ’19 sat down to film a last-minute audition tape for one of the most prestigious music programs in the country, he made sure to position the camera so his pajama pants would not be seen. At that moment, Beckman had no idea that this last minute video would get him the opportunity of a lifetime, a composition apprenticeship with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.

“I was kind of dumbfounded,” Beckman said. “I applied just on a whim. The night it was due, [I was thinking] there’s no chance I’ll actually get it this year, but I was just like ‘Screw it, I’ll just make the [audition] video.’ I was walking down the stairs right by the cafeteria, and I saw an email from Carnegie Hall, saying ‘Congratulations, you’ve been selected for the apprenticeship with NYO.’ I nearly fell over. I ran down the stairs, and I was feeling faint and sat down. It was unreal.”

Every summer, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute sends out an online application for students to apply to be part of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. The students are taken on a tour to musical capitals all over the globe. This year’s tour begins with performances at Carnegie Hall and Tanglewood Music Center and then continues with concerts in Great Britain, Germany and the Netherlands.

Beckman said he has begun taking music composition more seriously the past few years.

“I started taking formal lessons at around 11, and I had a breakthrough in ninth grade when I realized that everything written up to that point was a bad knockoff, of Mozart,” Beckman said. “Then, I really started taking composition very seriously around junior year.”

The program asked Beckman to write a three to four-minute piece. He is currently still working on the piece but has an idea of what he wants it to be about.

“I’ve been thinking about what this orchestra is and how we are going on tour to Europe and [how the orchestra] is playing a bunch of European music,” Beckman said. “I really wanted to write a piece in some sort of sense that was about America, but I didn’t want to make it a cliche or overly generalized, so [I was] thinking of America as kind of the new world or the new West of Europe, back in the days of colonization and imperialism. The idea is to capture the idea of what it meant to go West.”

Beckman said that he is really excited about the opportunities this program will bring him and hopes that he will gain more exposure in Europe.
“I want to be a professional composer,” Beckman said. “My music has never been performed in Europe. It’s never been performed outside of the U.S., I don’t think, so that’s really exciting. Hopefully, this could be the start of an actual [career].”