Nika Duncan is one of 91Classical’s inaugural Student Composer Fellows, studying vocal music. Get to know him with these six questions.
Instrumental music fellow Nika Duncan began her piano studies at Nashville’s School of Rock. In seventh grade, she joined her school orchestra on the violin and fell in love with classical music. The Centennial High School freshman has combined her experimentation with classical writing along with work in Garage Band software. She has her aim on a career in soundtracks.
What is your instrument and what made you choose it?
I currently play two instruments: the piano and the violin. I chose to play the piano because I grew frustrated with being unable to play it. I was always in places that had pianos or keyboards, and all I wanted to do was sit down and play an amazing piece of music. I also wanted to understand how the notes worked together so I could make my own songs and then one day sit down and play it, hopefully considering it an amazing piece of music as well. I chose to play the violin because I’ve always loved the elegance and class of the instrument. The sound of it has always been a favorite of mine and I wanted to be able to create it myself.
What do you listen to for fun?
I have two main playlists of songs that I listen to. One is an eclectic range of vocal music from the rock of the legendary band Queen, to recent pop music by bands such as AJR, to simple songs with pleasant melodies by artists hardly anyone has heard of before. In my opinion, all of these songs make the listener feel joyful, or if not joy, an important emotion of life. The second playlist is a compilation of all my favorite instrumental music. It has many works by Hans Zimmer, with a few odd ones out. It has a couple of purely classical pieces and a lot of soundtracks from movies and TV shows. I absolutely love this playlist because it is inspiring to me.
Who is a composer who has influenced your music?
John Powell has influenced my music with the triumph and victory he puts into his works. I try and create pieces that give the listener the sensation of pure happiness I feel when I listen to his music, a feeling that reminds me of flying. On the contrary, I feel that Hans Zimmer has influenced my music as well, but his music is generally more dark and brooding in order to match some of the movies he has composed for. His dynamic has always had a place in my music. I try and find the balance between these two genres in my music.
What are your other hobbies outside of music?
I absolutely love reading. Being swept away into a different world is always fun, and it’s especially amazing when it’s done only with words. In turn, I like watching movies and TV shows with really great story lines (usually with my mom and chocolate). I also love going for walks and finding random projects to do, like making friendship bracelets or clay modeling. I generally go through phases in my hobbies outside of music.
What do you think you want to do for a career?
My top goal in life is to become a movie score composer. I would love to spend my life creating the backing tracks to movies and making people have an emotional connection with a film, which music does incredibly well.
What is your #1 most favorite piece of classical music and why?
My favorite piece of instrumental music is Comptine d’un autre été: la démarche by Yann Tiersen in his soundtrack for Amelie. While this may be slightly different from what most people consider to be traditionally “classical,” it holds emotion and musical skill worthy of the greats. I love this piece because it is triumphant and beautiful, and fits the quirky and happy concept of the film perfectly. The music is both simple and complicated, yet captures the image of the main character in the film, which is both amazing and inspiring to me.