16-year old composer
Winston F. Schneider
"There’s nothing like being engrossed in a new composition and depicting the array of sounds I hear in my head on paper.
"My passions inform my music. I love to catch, study, and release insects, arachnids, and other arthropods in the summer. To me, they're like little aliens, and are fascinating to observe. Throughout my lifetime, I've caught, studied, and released over 100 species. The second piece I wrote when I was little was 'Cicada named Fada,' so I guess I’ve been writing about insects since the beginning.
"My musical journey is a constant quest towards growth, in both the delivery of emotional impact and the development of technical skill. I believe music can exist purely as an art form, as well as depict things programmatically, and that musical ideas – like insects – can be found anywhere." ~Winston
“The counterpoint is handled with professional ease, and the array of orchestral gestures is, frankly, stunning... impressive and masterfully done.”
~Albert Mendoza, Alfred Music
“An ambitious and satisfying creation! I feel like I just enjoyed a delicious feast. So much imagination!"
~Wynn-Anne Rossi, composer, with over 100 publications
"...extremely adept at moving through harmonic landscapes.”
~Deanna Walker, composer, MTNA adjudicator
Winston F. Schneider began piano lessons at a young age, or as he says, "twenty-nine days after my fifth birthday." Early on, he was able to play pieces in any key, in different styles, sometimes simultaneously playing each hand in a different key with his eyes closed.
Schneider soon began writing down musical ideas on paper as they would "pop in his head," making the leap from his first piano lesson to creating music of his own seemingly overnight. A rare ability of Absolute Pitch was discovered. The language of music came as naturally to him as colors and shapes. Schneider began composing at age five. He began music theory and counterpoint at the university level at age eight.
“It’s like being a muse. You give him possibilities and he does his magic, which is amazing for a kid his age,” says Dr. Kenneth Meints in the Omaha World Herald (October, 2016).
Fast forward a few years, and Schneider's received considerable acclaim for his musical works, and is the recipient of over thirty-five composition awards, including national and international awards. He's written over 90 pieces.
“Congratulations on your bold ideas and I hope you keep them coming,” announced Shawn Jaeger, composer, as he introduced the premiere of Schneider's first large scale orchestra work, “Insect Suite,” at the MATA Jr. Festival in New York in November, 2018. At age 10, Schneider was one of six pre-college composers selected internationally to compose a new piece for MATA Jr. Festival in New York, which the New Yorker calls “the most exciting showcase for outstanding young composers from around the world.” Face the Music, the esteemed New York teen music ensemble, performed this 11-minute work. A few months later, he received his first request from a professional orchestra, the Grammy-nominated Omaha Symphony, to perform this work.
The same year, Schneider was also NAfME's Composition Competition national first place winner, and string quartet “Scherzo of the Feather Stars” was premiered in Dallas, Texas.
At age 11, he was featured on PBS’s News Hour’s "Arts Canvas," in a story, "Bugs and books become inspiration for this 11-year-old composer." He was featured in two TV stories produced by Nebraska Public Media (Nebraska's NPR and PBS stations), "What If..." a series about innovators and creativity, and "Winston, Kid Composer," which won a "Heartland Emmy."
At age 12, the world shut down for Covid. During this time, he spent most of his time composing, and wrote three symphonies and several chamber pieces. Also at 12, he was the youngest student ever to be accepted in the Curtis Institute of Music’s esteemed Summerfest composition program. The same year, Schneider was one of a few non-New York residents selected to be a part of the New York Youth Symphony Composing Program and Conducting Program during their virtual year. The New York Youth Symphony premiered and recorded Schneider’s “Battle of Five Armies,” for wind ensemble, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” He was also selected for “ComposerLab Flute: Young American Composers” for Dolce Suono Ensemble for composers under 30, and “Trying to Catch a Cloudless Sulphur” was premiered by virtuosic flutist Mimi Stillman. Additionally, a commissioned chamber piece, “The Summer of COVID-19 (from the Perspective of a 17-year-old Girl)” was premiered and recorded by the Omaha Symphony.
At age 14, Schneider won the national MTNA Junior Composition Competition. His work, “Salt Creek Tiger Beetle,” a string quintet, is inspired by the endangered insect which is one of the rarest insects in the world, and only found in Nebraska. Additionally, Schneider won the Young Composers Contest for NFMC, with his piece “Symphony in B-flat Minor, ‘Revelation.’” He was invited to be on NPR’s From the Top.
Also at 14, in September of 2022, he had his Masterworks debut with the Omaha Symphony with a world premiere orchestra work, "Anniversary Overture," receiving a standing ovations both nights. This work was a commission from the classical music station KVNO, celebrating their 50 year anniversary.
Another work, "Harmonious Projection was premiered in October of 2022 at the Holland Center, performed by Omaha Symphony musicians. This work was a commission celebrating Project Harmony's 25th anniversary of its mission to end child abuse. It also received a standing ovation.
Perhaps most notably, Schneider received a prestigious American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Morton Gould Young Composer Award, a competition for composers up to 30 years of age, with over 500 applicants each year. “Expiculating Quintet” is the work that received this honor.
Schneider has written works that have been performed across the country, including by the Grammy-nominated Omaha Symphony, the Grammy-Award winning New York Youth Symphony, Steamboat Symphony Orchestra, Face the Music (NYC’s premiere youth ensemble), Ars Futura (Cleveland based contemporary music ensemble), Orchestra Omaha, SoundWaves String Orchestra, Omaha Area Youth Orchestra, Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory ensemble, numerous string quartets and ensembles, as well as solo performances on a variety of different instruments, including by Mimi Stillman, virtuosic flutist.
His orchestra works have been conducted by Maestros Ernest Richardson, Ankush Kumar Bahl, Na'Zir McFadden, David Bloom, and Aviva Segall. He made his Masterworks debut with the Omaha Symphony in 2022.
Schneider's received commissions from notable organizations, including the Omaha Symphony, the Omaha Conservatory of Music, the Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory, KVNO classical music station and Project Harmony.
Schneider studies composition with Dr. Ken Meints and piano with Anne Madison at the Omaha Conservatory of Music. He studies cello with Micah Fusselman. He's a three-time MTNA State Piano Performance winner. He's currently a pianist with the Omaha Area Youth Orchestra's Youth Symphony. He also plays piano and cello with three friends in an ensemble, Four Teen Guys. He's a member of Teens Sharing Music, a group of three teens who present interactive music education curriculum in the schools, and he's a co-creator of the curriculum.
With a firm belief that all kids should have access to music education, Schneider co-founded Music Marathon for Music Education with his sister Giselle, a fund-raising event that raises money for programs that provide music education to kids at little to no cost to families. Schneider won the Lowell Mason House national competition for Music Education Advocacy, with a video submission about the importance of a musical education. Schneider continues to perform and speak as an advocate for music education access for all kids.
In January of 2024, Schneider was named the 2023 "Outstanding Performer of the Year" for his piano performance of Prokofiev's Suggestion Diabolique by Global Musical Arts. This coming year will include performances of "Salt Creek Tiger Beetle Quintet" (in Missouri by Chamber Project Saint Louis and in Massachusetts by the Sempre Musick Orchestra). He'll travel to Atlanta in March for the MTNA National Conference to receive his award for "Shortchanged Scherzo: A Fleeced Fandango," which won the Senior division. He'll be a From the Top Fellow in Spring, 2024, and will be a guest on national radio program.