Homer CCSD 33C
Goodings Grove Luther J. Schilling William E. Young William J. Butler
Hadley Middle Homer Jr. High
Homer Junior High School eighth-grader Kenny Kriha shares his process for writing “Variations on the Variant of a March.”
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For Immediate Release:
May 20, 2016
Concert features march written by Homer Junior High 8th grader
For years, 14-year-old Kenny Kriha has practiced and performed music written by others.
That all changed May 18 when the Homer Junior High School eighth grader debuted a piece he wrote for the school’s Symphonic Band.
“Ever since I can remember, I have loved music,” said Kenny, who wrote the two-minute march after being challenged to do so by music teacher Jason Thompson, co-director of bands at Homer Junior High.
The challenge was issued in December when students were preparing for the school’s holiday concert.
“Kenny had always been making comments about the pieces the band was playing,” said Thompson. “He would give his ideas about how to make the piece better both musically and aesthetically (horn flashes, etc.).
“So, one day, rather off the cuff, I told him I was giving him an `assignment,’” Thompson continued. “I told him to write his own piece for the band to play so he could include any ideas that he wants.”
To Thompson’s surprise, Kenny came back with a three movement opus.
“I was certainly not expecting that,” he said. “After some discussion, Kenny decided to just work on the first movement to have something ready for the band to play at the final concert. After he made all of the necessary changes the band began working on it in rehearsal to prepare it for its `World Premiere.’”
The final product was revealed at the school’s final concert of the year on May 18. It was met with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
A few audience members even asked for the composer’s autograph.
“That was interesting,” said Kenny.
The talented musician began writing the march by forming the melody first and then “elaborating” upon it by grouping sections — saxophone, tuba, bass clarinet and bassoon in one section; flute and oboe in another; and French horn and alto sax in a third.
He learned to write from the bottom up, concentrating on the low notes (or bass) first and working up to the high notes so that the chords agreed.
It was the first time Kenny had ever written music for a full band. He had once written a duet for saxophones, but never something for every instrument.
“I am pretty amazed at the final result,” said Thompson. “Writing for a band with all the different instruments in different keys and clefs is not an easy thing.”
The music prodigy picked up his first instrument at age 5 when his parents gave him a drum set for enduring a painful tonsillectomy.
Pretty soon, he was searching percussion websites for sand blocks, castanets and guiros (a Latin American percussion instrument) and asking his parents for a mandolin and accordion for Christmas.
“He really started getting into music with his fourth-grade music teacher, Mrs. (Rebecca) Worley,” recalled Kenny’s mother, Laura Kriha. “She introduced him to the recorder, and from there, he never looked back.”
As a fifth-grader, Kenny began playing the alto sax. He has since added three more instruments to his repertoire — the tenor sax for marching band, the bassoon for concert band and the tenor drums for fun.
He continues to play the alto sax for jazz band.
It was the jazzy sound of the saxophone that first drew Kenny to the instrument.
“Jazz is very expressive,” he said, “and I like to express myself through music.”
The teenager knows music will always be a part of his life. He plans to become a band director one day — just like Thompson and co-director Jason Skube.
Directors have “complete power” over the music, said Kenny, and help others grow musically.
His teachers say they expect great things from Kenny.
“(His) determination is beyond admirable,” said Skube, who has always been impressed with the youngster’s eagerness to learn and joy for music.
“Throughout my tenure teaching, I have observed that those who become completely enthralled with all facets of music are scarce,” he said. “(Kenny is) one of those scarcities.”
“I know Kenny has many interesting compositions in his future,” added Thompson. “I can’t wait to hear them.”
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