Young Composers Project Student Austin Lee Shares His Thoughts on the Program and the Impact It’s Made on His Life

by Tucson Symphony
Young Composers Project Student Austin Lee Shares His Thoughts on the Program and the Impact It’s Made on His Life

Tucson Symphony Orchestra Young Composers Project is a hands-on learning experience that guides students (ages 8-18) from understanding basic music theory through the creation of a new work for symphony orchestra. The program culminates with the Young Composers Festival each May where the students’ compositions are performed by TSO musicians.

Young Composers Project (YCP) advanced student Austin Lee started the program when he was in the 4th grade. Now in his 7th year, the BASIS Tucson North high school junior was first encouraged to join the program by his mom, but stayed in the program because, “it’s a very cool experience. The teacher of the beginner class was a very great teacher. I learned a lot through her guidance, and I enjoyed the class, so I kept doing it.”

For Lee, participating in the festival is one of the best parts of the program, “it’s always cool to be able to hear what you’ve been working on the entire year played live instead of on a computer. The computer is completely different than what you hear live in a room with real players who play something that you’ve worked really hard on. You’re always in awe when you listen to the piece performed by the TSO musicians.”

This year the piece Lee has been working on is inspired by Chopin. “It’s dramatic. I’d say it has low lows. It has high highs. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but it’s something I’m exploring this year, different from what I’ve done in previous years.” Lee also generates ideas from his own piano playing, which he started at just 3 years old, “I get ideas from playing on the piano and kind of just improvising and because I’m a pianist, I know what’s possible and what’s not. And so, I do sometimes have to test it out and see, okay, is this even physically possible?”

Although Lee does not plan on pursuing music professionally (he plans on a career in engineering), he says “music is always going to be a part of my life, but I think as I grow up, I see music as a hobby.” He attributes his expanded creativity and ability to think outside the box to YCP. As far as advice he would give young YCP students just starting the process, Lee said “When you have doubts and struggle, remember it’s all part of the process and in the end your hard work will pay off and the result is going to be amazing. Just keep going, let it flow and keep music part of your life your whole life.”

You can hear Lee’s piece, along with all the pieces composed by students in YCP, during this year’s Reading Sessions.

YCP Registration for 2024-2025 program opens on May 1, 2024. Contact the TSO Education Team at, or visit to learn more.