BI boy, 6, starts composing on the grand piano

Mozart and James Pearce Ullrich of Bainbridge Island were about the same age, 5, when they composed their first song.

We’re not saying James, now 8, is another Mozart, but it’s worth noting both of their accomplishments at such a young age.

Parents Jeff and Anna Ullrich bought James a Casio keyboard when he was just a few years old. When he watched Little Einstein on TV, his father said James would cover the melody.

Ullrich plays several instruments – piano, guitar, percussion, French horn, clarinet… “There are a lot of instruments in the house,” he said.

It likely inspired James to start playing, but Ullrich said his son’s interest inspired him to start playing again after years of neglect. Ullrich even played with James at a few recitals.

“Families sharing music” is one of the goals of James’ piano teacher, Laetitia Lehman-Pearsall.

While Lehman-Pearsall emphasizes improvisation and creativity, she has worked with James on songwriting since he started lessons with her about 2½ years ago due to her interest. for it. His most recent composition is called “Sinpar, just a made-up name”, he said.

Lehman-Pearsall liked it so much that they enrolled him in the Young Composers Project of the Washington State Music Teacher’s Association. He won the kindergarten to second grade category. As a result, he will play at the association’s annual conference in Longview from June 23-25. It will probably be in front of his biggest crowd ever, as his recitals only had around 50 people.

His mother said James didn’t get nervous before playing, but she did. “I was terrified” before her first recital, she says. “He likes to play; attention to be center stage.

Anna said James started taking music lessons in kindergarten, but not for any particular instrument. Although James now plays very well on their little grand piano, Anna said: “It clicked, but it took a lot of practice and frustration. He wants to create something original and to express himself.

Now he has a piano lesson and practices about 20 minutes five days a week. So that’s not all he’s interested in. He also enjoys reading, writing poetry and limericks, swimming and playing video games. Recently, he got into coding. And he also likes to play with their black lab Bubba.

Anna said that James “listens to classical music when he drives the car with me”. Like Mozart, James enjoys it, but the future Wilkes Elementary third-grader said he enjoys “all kinds of music.” His mother said he loved contemporary artists such as Lizzo, Dua Lipa and Jack Harlow.

For a recital, he played his own version of a Black Bear rap song. Heard it on the radio, found some sheet music for it, and thought it was a bit long so he shortened it. “The rap song was all about him,” Ullrich said. “It’s quite melodic.”

James said he had composed a handful of songs. No musician influences him. “I use my own style.”

Ullrich said: “He always sits and plays on this little Casio. If he’s playing something new that I’ve never heard before,” he’ll start writing it. James said his father used a program called Music Score for this part of the process.

“Jeff digitally captures what he’s playing so they can listen to it,” Anna added.

Lehman-Pearsall said James had an ear for harmony and had “a unique perspective for someone that age”. She said she didn’t force composition on any of her students because “I hate that part”, referring to the grading, which she called “tedious”. But James seems to like it. “Everything is self-generated.”

One good thing about the contest was that a composer gave James feedback on “Sinpar”. Ullrich said he was proud of the maturity with which his young son handled criticism.

“He incorporated some of the comments,” Ullrich said. “He added some variations. But he didn’t incorporate all the comments,” since it was just an opinion.

Sounds like something Wolfgang Amadeus would have done.