Jaelem Bhate has reached a milestone in his career: his work will soon be performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
The UBC music student’s orchestral scores stood out and were one of the six accepted for the Jean Coulthard Readings, which gives emerging B.C. composers an opportunity to have their work performed by a professional orchestra.
“I’m very excited... it’s an extraordinary experience to have something in your head put on paper, and then have that presented to a group of people,” said Bhate, a UBC master’s student in orchestral conducting who has a bachelor’s degree in percussion.
Although the Hugh Boyd secondary grad has composed for numerous singers, UBC Symphony and his jazz band, it is the first time his orchestral composition was accepted by the Reading, after seven persistent attempts.
“It’s one of the few opportunities to have anything played by a professional, since that level of excellence is so competitive,” said Coulthard.
“You never know what others are going to think about your idea or whether it will be executed the way you feel it should be.
“At the end of the day, I hope it’s as good as I think it is when I hear it live. The first time hearing it is always a special moment for any composer.”
The six-and-half-minute piece is inspired by the nature of northern lights and what it means to different cultures, according to Bhate, who has a strong interest in science and often reflects it in his work.
“For example, in Native American culture and Aboriginal culture in Canada, many believe that it’s spirits and passed-away relatives who are dancing and communicating with the real world,” explained Bhate.
“But to Australian Aboriginal people, they believe that it’s a little bit more sinister. They create fire and are more aggressive in their dance.”
But he said the beauty of composing is that everybody can have their own feelings and understanding about the piece.
Bhate’s music writing career started in high school, when his music teacher, Garth Bowen, let him and other students have access to a recording studio with a keyboard.
“That was how the whole thing started. I just tried to create different sounds and experiments and figure stuff out, and I was experimenting in jazz orchestral music,” recalled Bhate.
Now he can write music anytime anywhere when inspired.
“It happens more in my head now, which is a fun experience, because I can actually write in the community and the environment without being tied down to a piano or pitch source all the time.”
To catch his music ideas and inspirations, Bhate carries a notebook with him all the time.
“Many of my works were created on the bus from Richmond to UBC,” Bhate laughed.
Although music has always been part of his life, Bhate nearly missed a music career by enrolling in science.
“I’m the first musician in my family. My sister is a doctor, so that wasn’t much of a path,” said Bhate.
“I went into science but it wasn’t my cup of tea… When I was going back to my second year of science, I realized that I’d much rather be going back to the school of music.”
Bhate will hear his work played for the first time along with the audience at the Readings next week.
Entry to the Jean Coulthard Readings is free and open to the public on Feb. 19 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver.