Young Rochester composer featured in MPR showcase concert

May 13, 2019

The world premiere of a piece of music by 16-year-old Daniel Fleury of Rochester will be part of the Minnesota Varsity Showcase Concert today in Minneapolis.

“Paraphrases for Violin and Cello,” by Fleury, is one of two student compositions that will be performed at the concert. Also featured are five student musicians from around the state who were selected in Minnesota Public Radio’s annual Minnesota Varsity classical music competition.

Fleury, a junior at John Marshall High School, said the composition began as an improvisation.

“I was improvising a Russian theme on my cello,” he said. “I’m always listening to a lot of Soviet-era music.” That particular period is of interest to him, he said, because of the the repressive atmosphere under which great composers were forced to work.

As part of the Minnesota Varsity experience, Fleury was mentored by composer Edie Hill at the American Composer Forum’s studio in the Landmark Center in St. Paul. Musicians Irina Stene (piano), Hocheol Shin (cello) and Mary Alice Hutton (violin) helped polish Fleury’s composition.

“They essentially help you reinforce your piece,” Fleury said.

The biggest lesson, Fleury said, was understanding that a piece of music is more than just black-and-white markings on a sheet of paper.

“It’s not just about technicality and musicality,” he said. “It’s about communicating with the artist.”

Interacting with the artists who will perform the music is important, he said. “It’s the only way to communicate the emotion of your piece.”

Fleury said composing for cello was natural, since he has played the instrument for about nine years. He also plays the piano. “I like the cello because of the range and texture,” he said.

Besides music, Fleury has a strong interest in science. The two often go hand-in-hand, he said.

“It’s not a direct correlation,” he said. “But music helps explore more unconventional ideas in science.”

So for college, what will it be? Music or science?

“I plan to major in STEM, but probably minor in music, or maybe a double major,” Fleury said.

For now, though, he’s got today’s concert on his plate, as well as more music.

“I’m experimenting with other compositions, trying to compose a symphonic work for international competition,” Fleury said.