Last month, Kevin Charoensri received an opportunity that most 15-year-old composers don't get to have. He led and heard a band of 70 international students play his original song in Sydney, Australia.
Kevin, who is entering his sophomore year at Santa Fe Christian Schools (SFCS) in the fall, conducted his original piece, "Return," as part of his school band’s eight-day trip to the land down under in mid-June for the Sydney Youth Musicale festival at the Sydney Opera House.
A few months before the trip, Kevin — who has had his school band perform his original pieces at smaller-scale events like concerts and recitals — asked his band director, David Hall, if he could write a piece for the festival. Hall obliged, acknowledging Kevin's talents as a budding composer.
For the performance — which included Kevin's piece and four additional songs — two dozen players from SFCS were joined by musicians from Linfield Christian School in Temecula, SFCS' sister school who invited them on the trip, and students from Shire Christian School in Sydney to make up a total of about 70 players, ranging from the eighth to 12th grades.
"Just getting the full instrumentation and so many people, who all have the same goal and intent, to play my music in such an amazing way was incredible," said Kevin, who lives in Carlsbad. "I was quite impressed and proud of them."
The teenager, who has been composing music since he was in sixth grade and wants to write film scores as a career, spent months writing the five-minute, six-section song as an homage to his school's return to Australia since its first trip in 1999. The five-minute, six-section song evokes different emotions, Kevin said.
The three schools only had three rehearsals together prior to the performance, but the young composer said the students pulled off his piece "incredibly."
"It wasn't an easy piece, and I knew that going into it," he said. "We had a few 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds, possibly even younger, who were just starting out on their instruments. Some of them were so small, and I was impressed by how well they could just perform it. Everything was so tight, fast and pressured, and they managed it. They just did an incredible job making it into something I could never imagine."
Hall, the band director at SFCS, said Kevin received a standing ovation after he finished conducting "Return."
"It was a great experience for that young man," Hall recalled. "When he finished conducting the piece, the whole place erupted in applause."
Hall, who has taken his students on trips to places like the Bahamas and Prague, said the group excursions allow his students to bond and gain more experience as performers.
"These types of trips open up the students' eyes, gives them a taste of a new culture and gives them information about different places that we're going and really opens up their experience to excellence in performance in music," he said. "They just get exposed to a really high-caliber of excellence. My hope is that they come back and grow from that experience so they become even more committed to doing what they did to get the opportunity to be on one of these trips."