Student composer finds the roar of the crowd a sweet tune

HNHS senior Adam Riecke (right) poses with the score of his composition, "Red of Roses," and HNHS band director Thaine Campbell, who directed the school's Symphonic Band in a performance of Riecke's piece.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published May 28, 2009.

Adam Riecke is pretty well-rounded, musically.

He sings and dances, he plays a half-dozen instruments. And he writes music.

Not rap, not rock, not gospel.

Riecke, a high school senior, is composing for an orchestra.

"I like all genres of music," he says. "But I think the sound of an orchestra playing is relaxing."

Riecke had his first premiere earlier this month, when his compatriots in the Huntington North High School Symphonic Band performed Riecke's "Red of Roses" at a concert in the HNHS auditorium.

The feedback, he says, was "all positive. People seemed to enjoy hearing it."

Riecke plans to study music education this fall at Huntington University, and HNHS band director Thaine Campbell says most budding composers don't attempt what Riecke has done until college.

Riecke, though, says, "I just kept picturing melodies in my mind. I thought, ‘I've got to start somewhere.'"

Campbell agrees.

"Who knows what it will foster?" he says. "Getting that first one out of the way is a big step."

Riecke says "Red of Roses" was written as a ballad chorale, a delicate, slow-moving piece. He spent five to six weeks - not every day; there were also rehearsals, performances and homework to work in - composing the piece on a computer, writing each individual part one at a time and then combining the approximately 20 parts into one score.

The title of the piece, he says, came about because of a typo. He had originally intended to title it "Bed of Roses," but he typed an "R" instead of a "B," and liked how it sounded.

As for the music, he says, "I get ideas as I go. At the end, the horn part comes out. That didn't come to me until the end of the piece, so I changed it around."

Riecke had studied music theory in a class taught by HNHS vocal music teacher John Wenning, but writing this piece went beyond what he'd learned in that class, Campbell says. Both he and assistant band director John Gardner provided additional input into the writing process.

"It was a process of trial and error as we listened to it on the computer," Campbell says.

Once the piece was complete, Riecke wanted to hear it played - by a real orchestra, not just a computer synthesizer.

"I asked the directors if we could warm up with it," he says. "I was shocked when I saw it in the program a couple of days before the concert ... We passed it out a few days before the concert. They just had a few days of rehearsal."

When the 57-member band played Riecke's piece in class, he found out it was "only a couple of minutes long."
He says he was surprised to hear what the piece sounded like when played by a live band.

"I was so used to hearing the recording, the synthesized version," he says. "I liked how it sounded. They played it well, but it's not too difficult to play."

Riecke directed the piece in class, but Campbell took over directing responsibilities for the May 12 concert.

Riecke started out singing in the choir as a youngster, then joined the school band in sixth grade, playing trumpet. He switched to tuba in eighth grade; in high school, his primary instrument has become the French horn. But, he says, he also plays piano, percussion and "other stuff." And he's a vocalist in the HNHS Varsity Singers.

And then there was the garage band he played in while in middle school.

"We weren't terribly bad," he says. "We had fun."

The only musical heritage he can point to is his mom and his aunt, who both played clarinet in high school.

"I like to compose music of all kinds - band, orchestra, jazz," Riecke says. "One of my dreams is someday to become a composer and a music teacher, a band director.
"I've composed stuff for horn and piano, but I've never had it played before. It was just an honor to have it played for the public."