Composer Spotlight: Joshua Tso

By Cathy Wang | Opinions Editor

As the resident composer and guest conductor, senior Joshua Tso composes music for Irvington’s orchestra. He started playing piano at age five and violin at age 12, sticking mainly to classical pieces that ranged from the Baroque to Contemporary periods. He also completed AP Music Theory last year, which introduced him to harmony and progression arrangements.

The inspiration for his compositions come mainly from listening and observing the things around him.

“What I have observed through composing, rehearsing, and revising is that composing is a lot more about listening than writing.” Tso said. “Listening not only encompasses listening to your own piece and pieces by other composers, but also listening to your own imagination. Figments of melodies and sonorities will arise if you just listen. My inspiration generally comes events that occur in life; unknowingly, sometimes, stress serves as a source of inspiration.”

He recently finished “A Work for Fourth Period,” a piece that will not be performed but is meant to gauge the level of difficulty that the orchestra can work with. To date, Tso has composed three songs and is working on his fourth one. He helps conduct the orchestra during rehearsals and hopes to conduct this latest piece in the upcoming spring concert.

“The orchestra is very supportive. They are very encouraging and offer great advice. I am very privileged to have this opportunity to work with them on a daily basis.” Tso said. “Some elements of my piece may seem foreign to them because it contains some bitonal elements and some shifting meters, so playing it is still quite difficult, but they work hard and improve, and that’s all I’m asking for.”

Tso is considering double-majoring or minoring in music in college.

“But everyone knows that the music industry is very competitive and unpredictable, so regarding my future career, I’m not going to put all the eggs in one basket.” Tso said. “However, I will still compose as a hobby if music is not my career.”

Senior Joshua Tso listens to and analyzes his latest composition for orchestra (Photo: Cathy Wang).
Senior Joshua Tso listens to and analyzes his latest composition for orchestra (Photo: Cathy Wang).