Teen composing a future

Barbara Ingram School for the Arts senior finds music to be his passion

August 24, 2010|By ARIANNA CHURCH
  • Ian Karraker, 17, of Boonsboro, composes music at his keyboard. Ian attends Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.
Photos by Arianna Church,

You've heard of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and maybe Cage, but have you heard of Karraker?

Ian Karraker, 17, of Boonsboro, plays the violin and timpani as a senior at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts; however, his real passion and talents lie in his ability to compose music.

Starting at the age of 11, Ian slowly started experimenting with writing his own pieces. He admits that "the first few pieces were horrible."

Ian got his experience by composing for his friends' movie projects and for the Boonsboro High School Orchestra. When he decided to attend Barbara Ingram his junior year, the resources available allowed Ian to move on to bigger and brighter things.

"Most of what I knew about music theory is what I could teach myself," he said. "And music theory is something you need to know. Studying theory at BISFA immensely improved the quality of my writing, everything was stepped up a notch."


Since attending the school, Ian has written pieces for The Hagerstown Choral Arts, scored Boonsboro High School Drama Department's feature of "A Christmas Carol," arranged pieces for BISFA's music Christmas show, had his composition featured in BISFA's spring orchestra concert and has written personal pieces for several of his classmates.

He also attended the Oberlin Conservatory Summer Composition Workshop at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.

Oberlin is America's oldest continuously operating conservatory, which The New York Times has called "A hotbed of contemporary classic players." The workshop selects only a few talented adolescents to attend its annual summer programs.

Ian describes his pieces as "very tonal, very based in the style of traditional western literature."

"And I strive to follow the rules of counter point and what not typically," he said. "I like writing emotional pieces because they make you feel something."

At the Oberlin workshop, Ian had a chance to learn extended techniques in master classes with composers from Oberlin, who taught him how to write modern pieces instead of in the classical style that Ian favors.

He said his inspirations are Howard Shore, John Williams and William Hollin, head of the music department at Barbara Ingram.

Ian said the staff at Barbara Ingram have been encouraging and have given him the opportunities to showcase his work by showcasing his pieces in their concerts.

Ian's upcoming projects include an opera, which he intends to use for college applications, writing for his friends and composing for BISFA's choral program.

Ian has various techniques for composing, drawing on inspiration anywhere it strikes him.

"I've started composing in the middle of church before," he said. "I've also heard things that I pass, and it gives me an idea. When I was in ninth grade I was walking down the hallway and I walked passed a bathroom or a closet or something. The sound of the air conditioner was really cool or different somehow."

Ian gets ideas for his work through ordinary things, by mistakes he makes while practicing or experimenting with chords. Ian said he can hear the song in his head and put it down on paper as soon as something is available.

"I'll work whenever I can, on the school bus, in a waiting room," he said.

Ian said he hopes to have a career scoring films and maybe teaching other kids interested in composing.

"I love composing very much and although it kind of crept into my life unexpectedly, it has certainly ended up being quite a blessing and I couldn't see myself doing anything else," he said.

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