Guest composers to join Nelsen choir

The Nelsen Middle School Concert Chorus performs often — about once a month. And not just at Nelsen, but at community events in Renton and Seattle.

The Nelsen Middle School Concert Chorus performs often — about once a month. And not just at Nelsen, but at community events in Renton and Seattle.

“We’ve kept really busy with performances,” says Brian Hoskins, Nelsen choral director.

Every performance the Nelsen concert chorus gives is unique, but none are quite like the Guest Composer Concert May 17 at Carco Theatre.

“It’s kind of a very unique thing; it never happens this way again,” Hoskins says.

The concert will feature songs by four composers: New York jazz pianist Pete Malinverni — accompanied by his wife, jazz vocalist Jody Sandhaus; Stephen Hatfield; and Seattle composers and artists Scott Warrender and Wes Weddell. All but Hatfield will be at the show and will introduce their pieces to the audience before each performance.

The Guest Composer Concert 2008 will feature a piece each by Weddell and Warrender, a piece just by the Concert Chorus, a duet or two from Malinverni and Sandhaus and a suite of gospel, funk and jazz music by Malinverni called “Joyful!”

Malinverni and Sandhaus joined Nelsen’s Concert Chorus for the first Guest Composer Concert, in 2006.

Malinverni was Hoskins’ jazz piano teacher when Hoskins was a music-education graduate student at the Steinhardt School at New York University. Hoskins is also friendly with the two Seattle guest composers. He used to sing in a chorus Warrender conducted. He played organ on one of Weddell’s albums, and often performs with the folk musician.

Hoskins says the typical middle-school kid doesn’t get the opportunity to perform music along with the original composers and hear the composers explain how the music came about.

But Hoskins ensures the 62 sixth, seventh and eighth graders in Nelsen’s Concert Chorus aren’t typical middle-school kids. Hoskins says the guest composer concert fits in with his “mission” as a choral director.

The music featured in the May 17 concert is challenging, but Hoskins never doubted his students could hit the notes.

“I believe in the kids,” Hoskins says. “They can do anything as long as you give them the tools and skills.”

The two Seattle guest composers, Warrender and Weddell, were also scheduled to meet with the chorus before the concert to share their music-writing techniques and experiences.

Hoskins hasn’t heard of many other middle-school choral conductors hosting performances like Nelsen’s Guest Composer Concert.

“I’m glad to break some ground on it,” he says.

Some of Hoskins’ students are interested in pursuing music as a career. For other students, he says the Guest Composer Concert will be one of their “bigger experiences.”

“I’m excited about it,” Hoskins says of the concert. “It’s a lot of work, so it will be neat to see it come together. And I’m just excited for the kids to have this experience and share it with their parents and the community.”

Emily Garland can be reached at or (425) 255-3484.

Choir concert

The Nelsen Middle School Concert Chorus Guest Composer Concert is Saturday, May 17, at 5:30 p.m. and again at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students/seniors. The show is at Carco Theatre, 1717 Maple Valley Highway. Call 425-430-6706 for tickets, or buy them at the door.