The Rock County Composers Lab is an educational program for 6-8 high school musicians interested in composing/creating original music. The program introduces a variety of genres, musical cultures and compositional techniques while also supporting the participants to develop their own creative expression. Led by Los Angeles-based, Janesville-born composer JP Merz, the Composers Lab combines lectures, group musical exercises, collaborative projects, individual lessons, and mentorship to foster a new generation of composers. The program consists of a weekend intensive in the winter, followed by individual, monthly Skype lessons and concludes with a performance of the participants works in the spring by Lawrence University’s Else/If Else: a piano-bass-percussion trio experienced in classical, jazz, and free-improvisation, committed to supporting diverse voices and new forms of musical expression.
What we provide
• performance and live recording of a 3-5 minute piece of original music
• weekend instructional intensive introducing students to a wide variety of musical styles, compositional techniques, and music notation practices.
• workshop and rehearsal with Else/If Else
• 4 Skype lessons with JP Merz
• focus on writing for piano, upright bass, and percussion
Who can apply
Any high school music student in Janesville passionate about music and with an interest in writing music for live instruments, whether you’re interested in making songs, beats, symphonies and everything in between. No composition experience is necessary and all styles and genres are welcome and encouraged!
JP Merz (founder of the Composers Lab)
Jake Wiele (band director at Craig High School)
Else if Else trio (Zoe Markle, bassist / Ben Portzen, pianist and composer / Nolan Ehlers, percussionist)
This project has been funded in part by a Catalyst Grant from the Wisconsin Conference, UCC. and First Congregational UCC of Janesville.
Additional support from: Lawrence University and Craig High School
About JP (lab founder)
"I'm a composer currently living in Los Angeles. Although classically trained, I create music/sound in a lot of different contexts and am constantly thinking about how I can operate within, outside, and around the classical tradition. Growing up in Janesville and going to Craig High School, I participated in a huge range of musical activities: orchestra, jazz band, show choir band, musicals. I see this project as an opportunity to give back to the community which supported me, by creating an environment which fosters student’s individual creative impulses while also engaging them with new sounds and ideas."
More formal bio
JP Merz is a composer whose music has been performed by yMusic, Altius Quartet, Sound of Ceres, Playground Ensemble, and members of JACK quartet, among others, and presented in places such as Carnegie Hall, New Music Gathering, I Care if You Listen, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, and VICE’s Creator’s Project, as well as in record stores, cafes, and living rooms. He is a recipient of ASCAP’s Leonard Bernstein Award, the Andy Warhol Foundation’s Insite Grant with Redline Contemporary Art Center, and the American Composers Forum’s Jerome Fund for New Music. He is currently a doctoral student at the University of Southern California.