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Kris Bowers's First Concerto, FOR A YOUNGER SELF, Featured on New Album by American Youth Symphony

Academy Award-Winning Bridgerton Composer Writes New Piece for Violinist Charles Yang

By: Jun. 28, 2024
Kris Bowers's First Concerto, FOR A YOUNGER SELF, Featured on New Album by American Youth Symphony  Image
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On Friday, July 26, 2024, Academy Award-winning composer Kris Bowers and GRAMMY Award-winning violinist Charles Yang are spotlighted on a heartfelt new album, For A Younger Self, featuring the talented musicians of the American Youth Symphony (AYS) conducted by Carlos Izcaray.

Bowers uses Yang's violin as the protagonist to explore themes of hope and belonging, rewriting narratives and inspiring young composers to embrace their own unique voices in the world of music. The first single - the third movement of Bowers's title work, For a Younger Self - is available for pre-order.

Kris Bowers, known for his genre-defying compositions, most recently contributing to the hit Netflix show Bridgerton, reflects on his musical roots in Los Angeles and the journey that led him from studying piano at school to performing in prestigious venues around the world. Facing challenges of cultural identity and a sense of not belonging in classical music spaces, Bowers found solace in writing film scores, expanding his musical palette and inspiring his artistic evolution. In Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers's Oscar-nominated op-doc, "A Concerto Is a Conversation," Bowers traces the process of breaking into new spaces through generations of sacrifice that came before him, focusing on the story of his grandfather Horace Bowers.

Founded in 1964, American Youth Symphony's mission has been to inspire and nurture upcoming generations of classical musicians through tuition-free fellowships for young artists. Musicians who earned a position in the orchestra have gone on to earn principal positions in major symphony orchestras such as Los Angeles, New York, Cleveland, San Francisco, Detroit and many others.

The genesis of For a Younger Self (2019) came about when AYS patrons Sarah and Peter Mandell made a landmark pledge that included the funding of the Korngold Project, a series of compositions named in honor of Austrian-American composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957). Korngold is best known for numerous film and concert works including a popular Violin Concerto (1945), which has become part of the classical canon. In 2019, AYS commissioned Kris Bowers to compose a violin concerto as part of the Korngold Project, and AYS premiered the piece at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles with the dynamic violinist Charles Yang as soloist in February 2020.

In March 2024, following extended effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and severe reductions from past baseline funding sources, AYS ceased operation as a result of financial challenges and the inability to sustain operations. This album is AYS's closing legacy.

Kris Bowers grew up in Los Angeles, and Walt Disney Concert Hall served as an integral part of his young life. He started piano and theory lessons at The Colburn School across the street the day it opened in 1998 and performed there with his high school jazz band, but never imagined he would be commissioned to write a piece to be premiered there.

He says, "On some level, I felt like I didn't belong, and although I studied classical piano alongside jazz until graduating high school, it seemed like classical music just wasn't 'for me.' As a young black boy, I didn't see myself in the audience members, the classical composers that were presented, or even in the other students I was in school with. Not seeing myself in these spaces helped me create an internal narrative that I didn't belong."

Once Bowers discovered his love of film scoring through the music of composers like John Williams, Danny Elfman, Quincy Jones, John Powell, Howard Shore, and Jerry Goldsmith, he began to appreciate orchestral music much more, and learned to understand how the music of Ravel, Prokofiev, Beethoven, Brahms, Steve Reich and others combined the composers' personal musical styles with their "classical training" to tell meaningful narratives.

Both Kris Bowers and violinist Charles Yang moved to New York City as teenagers to attend The Juilliard School and bonded over their mutual feelings toward adjusting to a new and overwhelming environment as young people, overcoming fear, stress, self-doubt, and more.

Bowers shares, "This being my first concert work for orchestra, the shape and sound of the piece began to unravel throughout the composition process. Having learned so much about storytelling as a film composer, I wanted to see if I could convey a narrative through the shape and pacing of this piece... Throughout my collaboration with Charles Yang, conversations led us to reminisce on our fledgling years at Juilliard and in NYC, and so, For a Younger Self is an effort to encapsulate the essence of a young hero's journey - one where the protagonist, embodied by Charles and his violin, embarks upon the adventure of self-discovery amidst the challenges of young life in an unfamiliar space. Our aim is for listeners to be taken on an emotional journey, guided by Carlos Izcaray, the American Youth Symphony, and the deft hands of our hero.

"When we meet our hero at the beginning of the piece, he is somewhat melancholic and timid, and pretty soon we feel he is almost being pushed around by the orchestra. The orchestra represents life in this way and can be both the bully and the mentor. So we go back and forth between these moments of chaos and anxiety, to these gentler sections that represent the pining for tranquility, nostalgia, love, etc.

"The second movement is a moment for our protagonist to finally have that moment of peace and reflection. It's in this movement that we hit our "midpoint," and our hero finally takes control of the narrative. He is now driving the orchestra, flowing through with much more ease and acting from a place of love rather than fear.

"Lastly, we reach the climactic final movement in which the hero and what he's learned are put to the test, and the ease in which he exhibits his self-confidence and assuredness amidst the chaos is on full display.

"On some level, writing this piece became a way to send a message to the younger version of myself, in terms of finding a way to maintain balance and inner peace in this chaotic and troubling world, and also as a way to encourage and celebrate my curiosity and love for so many types of music. I am so thankful to the American Youth Symphony for this opportunity, which has helped me rewrite my own narrative that someone like me doesn't belong in this space; performances like this can continue inspiring other young composers who have ever felt like they don't belong."

Schoenberg's groundbreaking Chamber Symphony No.1 is a condensed reaction to the late-20th Century's expansive symphonic works composed by Bruckner, Mahler, and Tchaikovsky. The single-movement work is performed with 15 instruments in a brief 22 minutes. Rearranged in 1935, the work's full orchestral version was premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Schoenberg in a program of his own music on December 27, 1935 in Bovard Auditorium at USC where he was teaching; Verklärte Nacht was also part of the program.

In the Chamber Symphony, this single movement is subdivided into five very distinct parts, though they are played without a break. The grammar of Schoenberg's lines was fresh and boundary pushing, but the spirited rhetorical gestures emerge from the sound world of Mahler and Richard Strauss, as does the emotional sincerity, which the relative concision only intensifies.

The First Chamber Symphony was completed in the summer of 1906, when Schoenberg was 32 years old. He was married, about to become a father for the second time and newly returned to Vienna after a few years' work in Berlin. His finances were ropey; his teaching work didn't cover the bills, and he was composing as much as he could without any expectation of making money from it: So far, so directly comparable with life for young artists in the 2020s.

For a Younger Self Track List

Kris Bowers (b.1989) - For a Younger Self (2019)
1. I. Moderato Ma Non Troppo [11:12]
2. II. Larghetto (Gently) [11:05]
3. III. Presto (with ease and confidence) [4:08]
Charles Yang, violin

4. Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) - Chamber Symphony No.1, arr. for full orchestra (1935) [22:01]

Total Time: 48:26

American Youth Symphony
Carlos Izcaray, conductor
Charles Yang, violin
Kevin Dretzka, Executive Producer

About Carlos Izcaray

Carlos Izcaray is an internationally renowned conductor of symphonic and opera music, as well as an accomplished composer and cellist. Izcaray has served as Music Director of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra since 2015 and was Music Director of the American Youth Symphony from 2016-2024.

A strong believer of supporting the younger generations, Izcaray has worked extensively with the world's top talents and leading music institutions, including his country's own El Sistema. He served as Principal Cello and Artistic President of the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra prior to dedicating his career primarily to the podium.
Increasingly active and highly regarded as a composer, Izcaray's orchestral work has been premiered by the Orquesta Sinfónica Municipal de Caracas, American Youth Symphony, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, and clarinetist Anthony McGill.

Izcaray was born into a family of several artistic generations in Caracas. He is an alumnus of the Interlochen Arts Academy, New World School of the Arts, and Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, winning top prizes at the 2007 Aspen Music Festival and later at the 2008 Toscanini International Conducting Competition. He is a dual citizen of Spain and Venezuela, and divides his time between Birmingham, AL, and Los Angeles.
Learn more at

About Kris Bowers

Kris Bowers is an Academy Award winning filmmaker, Emmy and GRAMMY nominated composer and pianist. He won his first Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film for his most recent film, The Last Repair Shop, which spotlights some of the individuals working at a repair shop in Los Angeles, the last American city to provide freely repaired instruments to its public school students. Upcoming, he is scoring the DreamWorks animated film, The Wild Robot, which stars Lupita Nyong'o, Pedro Pascal, Bill Nighy and Catherine O'Hara and premieres in fall 2024.

In addition to being an accomplished filmmaker, Bowers is known for his thought-provoking playing style, creating genre-defying film compositions that pay homage to his classical and jazz roots. He has composed music for film, television, documentaries and video games. His work can be heard in recent films like the box office hit Paramount biopic, Bob Marley: One Love, Duvernay's Origin, Warner Bros.' The Color Purple and acclaimed television series such as Bridgerton, Secret Invasion, Mrs. America and When They See Us. He also won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction and Composition for his work in The Snowy Day.

He has also created original music for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater (alongside choreographer Kyle Abraham), was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to create a new horn concerto (2021) and he has collaborated with brands like Bang & Olufsen, Chevy, and Krug Champagne.

Bowers has multiple projects in development through Et Al Studios Productions, a production company he founded with his wife, Briana Henry. Learn more at

About Charles Yang

GRAMMY Award-winning artist and recipient of the 2018 Leonard Bernstein Award, Charles Yang has been described by The Boston Globe as one who "plays classical violin with the charisma of a rock star." A Juilliard graduate, he began his violin studies with his mother, Sha Zhu, in Austin, Texas, and later studied with renowned pedagogues including Kurt Sassmanshaus, Paul Kantor, Brian Lewis, and Glenn Dicterow. Yang has performed as a soloist with orchestras globally, including in the United States, Europe, Brazil, Russia, China, and Taiwan. On June 9, 2005, the Mayor of Austin honored him with "Charles Yang Day." In 2016, he joined the multi-genre string band Time for Three as violinist and lead singer.

Yang's improvisational crossover abilities as a violinist and vocalist have led to performances at prestigious festivals such as the Aspen Music Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Ravinia Festival, Caramoor, and Interlochen. He has played at renowned venues like Carnegie Hall, Musikverein, Lincoln Center, Konzerthaus Berlin, Rudolfinum, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Royal Danish Theatre and the Forbidden City in Beijing among many others. He has collaborated with multiple artists like Peter Dugan, Joshua Bell, Jake Shimabukuro, Ray Benson, Savion Glover, Twyla Tharp, Misty Copeland, and Jon Batiste to name a few.

An adventurous composer and collaborator, Yang co-wrote the original score for Robin Wright's film Land (2021). His career has been highlighted by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Strad, and he is featured in Nick Romeo's book Driven and the Discovery Channel's Curiosity. Charles Yang performs on the 1854 "ex-Soil" J.B. Vuillaume and a 2017 Jeff Phillips.