Young Lino Lakes composer wins national honor

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 4, 2013 - 2:10 PM

Grant Luhmann is one of about two dozen young composers to win a national award from the ASCAP Foundation.

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Grant Luhmann, 18, worked on a piece of music in his work area in the basement of his home in Lino Lakes. “My rule is I have to write every single day,” he said.

Photo: KYNDELL HARKNESS , Star Tribune

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Grant Luhmann composed his first musical score in the eighth grade. He persuaded his music teacher to have the middle-school band perform it at the annual spring concert.

It was a lively, upbeat piece called “Dance of the Meadowlark.” Luhmann conducted as his classmates performed.

He had never conducted before. “I was surprised I was able to pull off the tempo and time signature changes,” he said. “That taught me how exciting a public performance can be.”

Since then, the Centennial High School senior has composed dozens of pieces, drawing inspiration from such sources as the haunting words of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” the death of the albatross in the “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and more abstract concepts of unity vs. disunity.

His works have been performed by the Grammy-winning Parker String Quartet, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and the Encore Wind Ensemble.

Now, he is one of about two dozen young composers to win a national award from the ASCAP Foundation. He was named one of the Morton Gould Young Composers Award winners.

It’s the latest in a string of honors for the Lino Lakes composer. An accomplished oboist, he is in the top ensemble of Minnesota Youth Symphonies.

“You are going to hear a lot more from him,” said his oboe teacher, Julie Madura. “He is off-the-charts intelligent and extremely sensitive. He is a very together person and his family is incredibly supportive of everything he does.”

Luhmann will attend Indiana University’s Jacob School of Music on scholarship. He will major in music composition with an oboe concentration.

“I’ve been here 22 years, and Grant is our first real composer,” said Centennial High Band Director Becky Weiland. “It’s not at all like something you would see from a high school student or even a college student. To do the high level of composition Grant is doing at age 18 is remarkable. It’s more than 1-4-5 chord progressions. Grant is not writing songs; he is writing major compositions.”

Luhmann wrote “Firecracker” for the Centennial Wind Ensemble, a score that includes 15 woodwind, 12 brass and seven percussion parts. The ensemble premiered it in February at the Minneapolis Convention Center for a Minnesota Music Educators Association convention.

“It was fun and playful,” Weiland said. “It was really advanced writing.”

Origins of his interest

How did Luhmann develop a passion for musical composition?

His family isn’t particularly musical. His mother is a high school media specialist who played piano and sang choir in school. His father works for the federal government.

As a little boy, he wasn’t immediately drawn to music, said his mother.

“He didn’t like the radio on,” remembers Jackie Luhmann. “I liked to sing and he told me to be quiet.”

Luhmann took up the cello in fourth grade. He didn’t like to practice. In sixth grade, he switched to the oboe.

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