Talented Westlake 13-year-old

Photo by Michele Murphy

Violinist Aidan Scheuer was the youngest student accepted to Contemporary Youth Orchestra last year, playing a solo during Kenny Loggins' Severance Hall performance as well as in Ireland. When not performing, he is busy composing. One of his original compositions earned an excellence award from the National PTA.

WESTLAKE — He began to play violin at age 3. He then added viola and trumpet. By 10, he was writing original music compositions. One earned a national award. He has performed with singer Kenny Loggins at Cleveland's Severance Hall as well as internationally, where he soloed as first violinist. Meet 13-year-old Westlake resident Aidan Scheuer.

His enthusiasm for music is palpable. He remembers seeing the same enthusiasm in Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) violin instructor Liesl Hook Langmack, whom he met during music camp when he was 4. He has been her student ever since.

At age 5, he began to study music theory at CIM and travels there twice weekly to continue developing his skills as a performer and composer.

As he explains his interest in composing, Aidan sounds like a musical historian, able to deftly describe the strictures faced by composers during the Classical Era. It's not meant as a criticism at all, because his early interests fell into that category.

Then he describes how more recent composers "have stretched the rules" through the Romantic Era and into today's Contemporary Era. He said he did not understand or like it, at first. Now his focus has shifted entirely.

"Lately, I'm trying to stretch rules further," he said, adding that the piece that earned an excellence award from the National PTA music competition last year, and premiered this year in Washington, D.C., was among "his early stuff." Titled "Fluid Dynamics," it is for violin and electronics.

Also last year, he was accepted into the Contemporary Youth Orchestra, which focuses its study and performances on the works of living composers. He was the only seventh grade student last year. This year, he is one of only two eighth grade students in the 110-member orchestra.

At his first rehearsal, Aidan was introduced to a work by composer Mason Bates. Bates is composer in residence at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and wrote the 2019 Grammy Award winning opera, "(R)evolution of Steve Jobs."

Aidan said Bates integrates a lot of electronics into his orchestral compositions. "His stuff felt exotic, ambient," he said, "You get sucked in. You’re so engaged with the music." Aidan's inspiration for "Fluid Dynamics" was based on a Bates composition.

Asked if Bates was aware of the impact he had on the young composer, Aidan laughed as he described dressing as Bates for Halloween last fall. He posted a picture of himself on social media. Bates saw it and reposted it to his social media account. He hopes to meet Bates in person someday.

However, he had a face-to-face with 80-year-old Grammy Award-winning composer Joan Tower. Aidan took a master class in composing from her and consulted with her over a piece he is currently creating.

He calls his experience with CYO "the best," noting he has performed in 10 concerts since joining.

One that is particularly memorable was a concert featuring Loggins at Severance Music Hall. Aidan played a violin solo during the performance of the 1972 Loggins and Messina hit song "Your Mama Don’t Dance."

As if that was not thrilling enough, he toured Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland last year with CYO. He thoroughly enjoyed introducing the audience to "Symphonic Led Zeppelin." While on tour, he sat as first violin and performed another solo.

Aidan earns good grades at Lee Burneson Middle School, where he plays trumpet for band and jazz ensemble. He and his mom head to University Circle on Thursdays after school for his violin lesson at CIM, then back again on Saturdays for music theory class. He also spends a half day each Saturday rehearsing with CYO.

While he says college is too far off in the future, he focuses on "what I want to work on now."

"Purple Hurricane" is among his latest compositions. He says he doesn’t know when it will be complete, or where it may premiere. "I just have to find an opportunity and take it." He's also working on "Fanfare" for brass quintet.

Aidan wrote another piece for string quartet called "Huge Imaginative Landscapes." It will be performed next month at the Cleveland Composers’ Guild Jr. Student Concert in University Circle.

He uses two apps on this iPad to make music and was happy to demonstrate his creative process. As the music played, he waved his hand as if conducting and bobbed his head in time with its rhythm. Aidan loves using complicated rhythms. "I change meters a lot," he said, pointing to the iPad screen to show examples while explaining how he tinkers with emphasis and duration of each beat for each instrument.

As he plays one particularly unusual passage, his dad, Dean, teasingly voices his objection from another room. Aidan laughs it off and keeps going.

While adolescence can bring disharmony between parents and offspring as they stretch their wings, the Scheuer home appears to be in perfect harmony. That could stem from his dad’s experience as a percussionist, who taught many years including competitive drumlines, or his mom, Carol's, experience as a vocalist with Cleveland POPS Chorus. That's a good thing for a multi-talented teen whose musical creativity pushes the boundaries of tradition.

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