In place of an annual conference, winners were invited to record their winning compositions
As a child growing up in New Zealand, Clelland Ukiah Reynolds spent as much time smacking his twin sister with his flute as he did learning his instrument. Now Reynolds is a commercial music major at BYU, as well as an accomplished flute player. He was able to combine these two interests to be named the national First Place Winner of the 2019-2020 MTNA Young Artist Composition Competition.
The winning piece, titled “Current Mood(s),” is the result of a journey that began for Reynolds at age 14, when he became a student of private instructor Clare Penny and started taking the flute more seriously. “I owe a lot to Clare. She really helped me gain confidence as a musician,” Reynolds said. “It’s largely thanks to her that I came to BYU and made it into the School of Music.”
As Reynolds progressed on the flute, he also began writing music. “I wrote a few works in high school during music class using the music notation software Sibelius on a school computer. I think I really developed my love of writing music then,” he said. “My first work was a very basic piece for flute and piano called ‘The Flamboyant Queen Sits Down for Lunch.’”
Reynolds’ winning song originally began as a simple assignment for a BYU composition class.
“At the time I was working on my portfolio to apply for the commercial music program,” he said. “I was arranging a different piece for an ensemble of 13 instruments and I knew my application would mostly ride on that, so I wanted to get this flute and piano piece out of the way as quickly as possible.”
The project quickly took on a life of its own. “I took the first perky melody that came to my head and started exploring wildly from there. Soon enough, I got carried away and started falling madly in love with the piece and spent far more time than I initially planned,” Reynolds said. He ended up using the work in his commercial music portfolio.
Reynolds had previously competed in the performance division of the MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) competition, so when he learned there was a composition division, he thought that “Current Mood(s)” would be a good fit. “I didn’t expect to win even at the state level and just thought it would be a great way for me to get some professional feedback as a budding composer,” he said.
Reynolds did win at the state level, and then won his division before being named the national winner. While the winning compositions are usually performed at the annual MTNA National Conference, COVID-19 concerns caused MTNA to hold a virtual conference instead.
“They invited me to make a recording of my piece,” Reynolds said. “With a few days’ work, my phone camera and playing with a MIDI piano track in my bedroom, [the video] is what my kiwi ingenuity — and Logic Pro X — managed to deliver. Even though I’m disappointed I didn’t get to go to Chicago, I was glad to do my part in social distancing to help us all get through this tough time.”
Since writing “Current Mood(s),” Reynolds has written a piece called “New Home” for strings, piano, glockenspiel, flute, oboe, bass clarinet, french horn, bassoon and drum. He is also currently working on a wind quintet.
In addition, Reynolds has a keen interest in video game music, and is in the process of writing the opening and closing music for a friend’s Dungeons & Dragons podcast. “I think it is such an underappreciated genre, and I’m super interested in becoming a composer for different types of media,” he said. “I love music that connects to a wide range of people while expressing deep emotions.”
As for his future plans, Reynolds said, “If I can somehow, somewhere write or work in music for a living, I’ll be happy. Being rich and famous would also be great, but we’ll just have to see about that.”
Watch Reynolds performing his winning composition below.