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11-YEAR-OLD COMPOSER'S 'GARDEN' REVEALS MUSICAL SKILLS

Natalie Bock, entering the sixth grade at Lewiston-Porter School, has struck a positive chord in state music circles.

Natalie, a violinist who made the fourth-grade orchestra as a second-grader, has composed music for a string quartet that will be recorded on a compact disc called "Hey, Mozart 2," which will go on the market next May.

Her composition, called "The Garden," was one of 15 selected from among 330 submissions to the Hartwick College Child Composer Project last January in Oneonta. The college program, in its second year, looks for melodies composed by children up to 12 years old who attend school in New York and selects the best to be recorded by professional musicians.

The achievement surprised Natalie, 11.

"I never expected it," said Natalie, who was 10 when she composed the piece, her first composition.

"The Garden" echoes the warmth of early American music, with a touch of Mozart.

She explains how her "Garden" was cultivated.

"I was at home and just found myself humming it one day. There really wasn't any inspiration. It kind of popped into my head and got stuck there. It kept bugging me, and I thought, 'Hey, this song's original.' So I put it down on paper," Natalie said.

The real work came after she decided to adapt the tune for a string quartet.

"It wasn't a real song (at that point), so I decided to turn it into one. I wrote down the violin part and then started turning it into a quartet by making up the harmonies for the violin, viola, cello and bass," she said.

Natalie had help from her father, Norman, and her sister, Hannah, 16, who played the appropriate notes on the guitar and flute, respectively.

"I had them play the notes I wrote down so I'd know what it sounded like," she said.

"My family's very musical. Hannah plays the clarinet, saxophone and piano."

Natalie said she showed the composition to Vicki J. Mehr, her mentor and string instrumental music instructor at Lewiston-Porter Intermediate Education Center, who said the timing was just right for Natalie's composition to be entered into the Child Composer Project.

"The remarkable part is she came to me with the composition in November," she added. "It was not assigned. It was a completely independent thing she did on her own. She had handwritten all the individual parts for the score. She's not a viola or a cello player, but she figured out all the fingering and did a lot of independent things that are not typical of a fifth-grader to be able to do on her own."

Mehr said the Hartwick program "was designed to address a problem that many professional orchestras face: a scarcity of music appropriate for children's concerts.

Alejandro Rutty, an assistant professor of music at Hartwick who is artistic director of the project, felt that the best way to tackle the problem was to turn to the children themselves.

Mehr said the school's fifth-grade orchestra performed "The Garden" at several concerts, including one in Buffalo's Kleinhans Music Hall. She said Natalie also got a chance to conduct the orchestra performing "The Garden.

Natalie said she named her piece "The Garden" because it emotes "a happy calm.

"I kind of trace it to the small garden I have in my yard, she said. "It kind of reminds me of that because my garden makes me feel comfortable and relaxed."

What's next?

Natalie said she is composing a symphonic composition based on "The Diary of Anne Frank." "Anne Frank's my hero. I wanted to do something for her. It's a work in progress," she said.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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