Archive for the ‘Composing Insights’ Category

Kerwin Young is among four composers honored by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra readings scheduled in early March 2019. National recognition by any major orchestra is no small feat, and definitely a well earned accomplishment through much persistence. Kerwin’s American Caravan is scheduled for two readings during an intense week of events. During the DSO residency, each composer will participate in educational outreach with a youth ensemble, performing and analyzing re-orchestrated and reharmonized versions of their work.


I had the pleasure of catching up with our beloved maestro after his return from Saint Louis, where Titus Underwood (principal Oboe – Nashville Symphony Orchestra) and Peter Henderson (Piano – St. Louis Symphony) premiered Kerwin’s “A Composers Passion“.

Kerwin mentioned how this chamber work, originally composed as a movement for Songbirds: Suite for Violin and Piano, ended up not being used. Young says, “This piece had been a dedication to Leontyne Price, and it was written with a lot of deep feeling. I know when I’ve got something good; so I put it aside, knowing that it would eventually get performed. Thanks to the Intercultural Musicians Initiative, it’s premiere was very well received, and it was a memorable event.” 

Kerwin, still composing Symphony No. 7, had this to say: “I’m almost done with Symphony No. 7; I’m neck deep in the final movement now. I want it to be longer than my Symphony No. 2, which is sixty-six minutes, and my longest work so far. I also want it to be more epic than my previous six symphonies. I’ve got it around seventy minutes now, and I’m lovin’ it! I’m happy with what I’ve got so far, but I’m taking my time finalizing it. It’s basically complete; I’m just fine-tuning some things here and there; filling in the gaps and making corrections. I’m writing music that I want to hear, and with a look that I want my published scores to be known for. I think every composer ought to do that; have an identity”Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age

Kerwin has also expressed the significance of 2019 being a year of assorted anniversaries and celebrations. On the downside of things, 2019 makes 25 years at unsuccessfully acquiring the opportunity to score his first feature film. On the upside, 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of Public Enemy’s Muse-Sick-N-Hour Mess Age album; and it’s been 30 years since Kerwin’s first Bomb Squad album projects: Fear of a Black Planet (Public Enemy, 1989) and Amerikkkaz Most Wanted (Ice Cube, 1989). Kerwin had this to say, “If you only knew how much I want to be scoring major motion pictures! That’s what got me writing for orchestra in the first place. What I’ve had to go through thus far….It soon come!” 


Namhiya Ati, 19 February 2019.








Kerwin Young begins 2019 composing the film score to Miss Jackson, a dramatic film short directed by Seneca Robinson. Maestro Kerwin Young is quite pleased by the creative chemistry this composer-filmmaker collaboration offers, and looks forward to a lengthy alliance.

Symphony No. 7 now has the first three movements complete, and Young affirms to have a final draft by mid-March 2019. The running time is already at the 50-minute mark, and Young surmises it will exceed the duration of his Symphony No. 2 (Khemet West), which is sixty-six minutes.

On January third, The American Composers Orchestra awarded Kerwin with a composer residency through its EarShot program with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Congratulations Mr. Young!

2019 is also the 25th anniversary of Public Enemy’s Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age album, which was produced by Chuck D and Kerwin Young.

More to come…..


N. Ati

Super-Mega props to my buddy Brian Tyler for a kick-ass score to Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone. A few months back, I read in Film Score Monthly that Brian had the gig, but totally forgot; until I saw his name appear in the opening credits. What I love a lot is that it’s a far breath away from the more action driven music we’ve grown accustomed to hearing from Brian Tyler. I’m also loving the show as a whole, and I plan to continue watching. HOT!


Music I’ve been diggin’ on lately is Rachmaninoff’s The Isle of the Dead, Sun Ra, Fletcher Henderson, and Giacchino’s score to Incredibles 2.


As for my personal endeavors, I’ve edited my Symphony No. 1, Bolivar, and U.S. Marshall Bass Reeves. And, after some amendment to Reclamation, and Symphony No. 5, I can begin to focus on the new works in progress as Guanyin of the Southern Sea.

Of course there are ALWAYS recording production projects I’m working on, but I NEVER mention those until after they’ve been released; and that also goes for project ideas I’m working on. But, I’m still pushing to score my first major motion picture, and to be busy composing for media and concert orchestra (earning); not jumping through hoops for anyone. It would be great if I were busy doing that.





Hot off the press is the newly composed and completed ballet suite, Dumas – Pushkin Suite. Mentioned in my latest blog, it remains highly anticipated in Europe (France, Russia, Prague, and Berlin). It’s a homage to two of the greatest literary artists since the early nineteenth century, Alexandre Dumas and Alexander Pushkin. It’s a twenty-two minute epic suite for orchestra.

Up next, I am completing my long awaited concerto for zheng, orchestra, and women’s chorus, Guanyin of the Southern Sea. This work has been almost nine years in the making! Revision after revision. It should be completed no later than December 2018. I’ve contacted some incredible zheng performers as well. I have to admit that I’ve actually known some for quite awhile. This work has taken so long because I’ve been wanting to figure out how to approach writing for zheng, not repeating myself when compared to previous works I’ve written for zheng. The guzheng is one of my favorite instruments, and I don’t like repeating myself. Oh yeah, here’s a little side note…Guanyin of the Southern Sea will receive premieres in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, and Singapore.

Revisions to Reclamation and Bolivar are also underway; with no set deadline for either. I’ve got enough concert works in the shed (incomplete sketches, proposed ideas, and finished works needing amendments) to keep myself busy in-between media scoring assignments.

Film scoring mock-ups, utilizing the many sound libraries for my mock-up cues, have provided me with a new inspiration. I’ve been re-introduced to certain combinations of colors that I’ve long since abandoned or have forgotten about. Since the fall of 2017, these colors have found their way into my concert works. Some pretty awesome combinations of instruments that I’ve been using. I’m sure you’ll like to know which! But, now is NOT the time.

Once upon a time, my scoring process was quite different! I started out as a media composer before sound libraries existed. I’ve come a long way from pencil and sketch paper, external modules and synths racks to the current one-stop DAW.  So, I’ve grown with the new advancements in tech and so forth since the early 1990’s. It’s wonderful! However, I continue to blend the new with the old.

While on the subject of media scoring, I use a few different DAWS depending on the size of the project and the required speed of turnaround. Pro Tools is always a mainstay for mixing and mastering. On the creative side (the writing end of it), I prefer Digital Performer and/or Logic Pro for the larger projects, and for projects that have a lengthy timeline for turnaround. On the smaller projects; those often requiring a quick turnaround, I’ll work in Studio One Pro. Although the video engine in Studio One isn’t the greatest, it serves my needs for that particular workflow. I use what works best for me; what I’m comfortable with. I could care less about what other composers are using. A composer and/or producer must use those tools that best serve him/her, and that can perform at a high level. It’s about creating the optimum workflow for oneself, and finding the tools that best serve YOU and the people who have hired you.

When prepping my scores, I use Sibelius. I also fidget around a bit with Notion whenever working in Studio One. On larger projects, when I have the time to write and am not rushed, I’ll sketch my cues down on paper with orchestration notes and harmonic outline. I’ll input that into my DAW and will go from there. However, on the smaller projects, I’m at the piano going through sounds and trying things out that way.

Regarding templates, I’ve got a few custom templates for scoring; but generally, I’ll start from scratch with each new project. If I’m really pressed for time, I’ll load up one of my pre-assigned, custom templates and get right into it. Though generally, I like to create a new palette for each assignment. In this regard, it’s the same as when I’m composing a concert work. There’s a story, and that story needs to have a certain ambience to support it.

Until next time!



On April 22, 2018, the University City Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of maestro Leon Burke III, premiered my Season of Autocracy. University City Mayor, Shelley Welsch, on the final day of her term, issued a proclamation in honor of the concert; including the premiere of Season of Autoctracy and its composer, Kerwin Young. I had a fantastic host, Ms. Janet Riehl! I was indeed treated like a king for entirety of my stay. Great food, great art, great people, and I also had the pleasure of seeing the St. Louis Symphony with guest cellist, Narek Hakhnazaryan.

Missouri has now been like a second home to me since I was thirteen. You may not know this, but once upon a time, I wanted to play professional baseball since the age of seven. Below is an article featured from the Columbia Daily Tribune’s Sunday newspaper during the summer of 1984, while I was attending the Mickey Owen Baseball School in Miller, Missouri. Though at the time I was living in Roosevelt, NY, I’ve always claimed Queens, NY as my home; and still do.

While a junior in high school, I separated my right shoulder in 1987, during a pickup basketball after school one day. The very next day was baseball tryoKerwin at Mickey Owen Baseball School 1984.jpguts. I batted well, but in the outfield, a line drive was hit deep to me. I fielded it, and then threw the ball to the infield. The ball never made it. The ball went straight up into the air and landed three feet in front of me. I picked the ball up, and then ran it in to my coach, told him my arm was shot, and I’ve got to move on and leave baseball behind. I was personally hurt, but right in that moment, I knew I could make it with music; so the choice was instantaneous and with confidence.

I find it ironic how Missouri has been a place of return since my baseball days. In 2009, I enrolled at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.
While at UMKC, a chance encounter happened when Catherine Lehr Ramos, former St. Louis Symphony cellist, and I met during a Western Music History class. Our friendship led to the commission of Cellét (a masque for ten cellos), which premiered in 2016, in St. Louis at Catherine’s annual cello festival. It was at that festival when maestro Burke and I were introduced, and then began our dialogue and collaboration leading to the April 22, 2018 concert premiere.

This recent premiere was my first by any orchestra. What you may not also know is Season of Autocracy was composed over a three-day period immediately following the completion of my Symphony No. 5 (Perseverance). After its completion, I then wrote Symphony No. 6 (The Plagiarist); which happens to be my favorite!

Orchestral Notes, Two

Posted: August 29, 2017 in Composing Insights, Press

Every orchestra in America that isn’t serving it’s community with music composed by living composers, and programming that does not engage or reflect the ethnic diversity of its city or community at large, should be terminated. Any orchestra not serving it’s community and/or humanity is misusing the power and gift of music! It’s no good.

Conductors and programmers alike should be fired; as many are no doubt working against the culture rather than with it.

Why be a part of something that doesn’t act toward the interests or benefit of the people? We need new orchestras! We need new orchestras led by forward thinking programmers, conductors, and musicians who appreciate all music, and who are willing to develop orchestras for presenting fresh ideas on top of a respected, proven foundation.



Orchestral Notes, One

Posted: August 29, 2017 in Composing Insights

When an orchestra decides to program a particular orchestral work by a composer, generally that means they are committed to honoring the instrumentation.

After seeing the L.A. Phil perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad”, I refuse to let ANYONE convince me of diminishing my designated instrumentation for any piece I’ve composed!

To all you composers out there, be bold, and write the damn music that you envision being performed. Do not, under any circumstances, rescind and make it less than your true intentions. The instrumentation for Shostakovich 7 is 3343/8661/timp+7, 2hp, pf, stgs, and it’s duration is 80 minutes. Be BOLD!

What do you say to that?!
Write the damn music that you want to hear!!!!