The American Youth Symphony (AYS), in part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Sounds About Town series will give the world premiere of Los Angeles native and Emmy award-winning composer and pianist Kris Bowers’s new violin concerto. Debuting February 8, 2020, at Walt Disney Hall, the piece played by violinist and former classmate Charles Yang titled “For A Younger Self” is an ode to Bowers’s younger self and their careers at Juilliard.
“When I first got commissioned to do this, we talked about what that felt like, starting Juilliard. How we had to adapt to not only the intense environment of the school, but also the intense environment of New York.”
“That’s kind of the mindset I was going into the piece with. But it also started to have such a youthful sound to it,” he continued. “Charles is almost like our hero through this journey. It’s kind of like a discovery of self.”
Having begun playing piano at age four, he found his passion for jazz at eight and began composing at nine. At age 13, while studying jazz at Colburn School for Performing Arts, he began composing for large groups including his school’s jazz band.
“My parents decided before I was born they wanted me to play piano,” he laughs. “I remember at some point I wasn’t really into practicing, especially classical music. They put me into jazz lessons and told me I had to keep the classical lessons going at the same time.”
“I think up until that point, I thought it was fun and I liked being good at something. But I think at the point that I started working on jazz. Being able to improvise and use my ears to learn songs off the radio and all that stuff. That’s when I started to really enjoy it myself.”
For Bowers, his love of jazz allowed for freedom that he soon found would be necessary for his journey as a composer. “A big thing was just, the improvisation. Having a space where I could do whatever I wanted in there. The rules were a lot more seemingly relaxed and I think that that freedom was nice to experience at a young age.”
As he grew, he was able to find an equal balance between his composing and playing of the piano. Granting him the opportunity to record and perform with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Q-Tip and Jay Z. His talent also stretches to the gaming world as he has appeared on Madden NFL 19: Longshot, and will appear on this year’s Madden 2020.
“I just I’ve always had such a wide variety of tastes when it comes to music. When I was a kid, I listened to everything from jazz, R&B, classical, rock music, pop music and rap. I really enjoyed all of it pretty equally,” he reflects. “And so I think I’ve just always wanted to pursue a career that allowed me to explore all those different genres.”
Other major accomplishments include scoring shows such as Netflix’s “Dear White People,” Amazon TV’s “Snowy Day,” which won a Daytime Emmy and documentaries like Kobe Bryant’s “Muse” for the SHOWTIME Network in 2015.
Regarding his Emmy win, he expressed, “it’s one of those things for me where it’s something that you dream about when you’re a kid but like once it happens at least for me, I already have my eyes set on whatever is happening next.”
Bowers is fueled by not only his passion but the idea that he can be an example and vision to young Black and Brown pianists around the world. As an influencer in the industry, he has humbly taken on the task of being open and honest with anyone who reaches out to him. His best advice being, “Be yourself.”
“Spend a lot of time discovering what it is that that’s important to you and what you care about. Then pursuing that with an obsessiveness.”
“I think that the more I interacted with people that I really admired, the more I realized that it was the same thing they just were. They just were obsessed with, with whatever it is that they were trying to accomplish and create.”
One of those people happened to be Kobe Bryant. Bowers was introduced to Bryant through one of his classmates from Juilliard. He recalls upon accepting the offer, the former NBA All-star wanted to talk with Bowers to gather an understanding of just how committed and passionate he was to his craft.
“No matter what you were doing, if you were working on cutting a trailer or we’re working on this documentary; he wanted to sit with you face to face and just have you talk about your craft and see if you’re as passionate about your craft as he is or was about basketball at that time.”
Bowers continued, “Being around that was one of the things that honestly reinvigorated this passion for me.”
“His whole thing was he trusted. Once he had that first initial conversation with you about how much you cared about your passion and your craft, it was just complete trust,” Bowers detailed. Detailing the feeling of working with the late great Kobe Bryant, “It was like, as long as you are pushing yourself as much as you possibly can, then [he] trusts your judgment and trusts your choices.”
Honoring his friend, Bowers says, “That demand for being great was what pushed me to try to grow exponentially. My composition for orchestra has grown in the last five years exponentially, and a lot of that’s due to the work that I had to do with him.”
“Trust the process,” he shares after reflecting on his journey. “I’ve always been incredibly impatient. But trusting I was doing the work and that it was going to pay off, therefore, finding enjoyment and love in that process I think is kind of the biggest thing.”
To get tickets to LA Phil’s Sounds About Town series concert visit www.AYSymphony.org/tickets or call 310-470-2332.