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Ashton Olsen Becomes Overnight Composer and Musician

Ashton+shows+off+his+ability+to+compose+music+on+the+spot+at+his+concert+at+the+Kaysville+Library
Ashton shows off his ability to compose music on the spot at his concert at the Kaysville Library

Ashton shows off his ability to compose music on the spot at his concert at the Kaysville Library

Kenner B.

Kenner B.

Ashton shows off his ability to compose music on the spot at his concert at the Kaysville Library

Kenner B., Reporter

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You’ve probably seen him around the school; he’s the one kid that wears a tuxedo to your creative writing class, the guy who pounds it out on the piano before school in the seminary building. His name: Ashton Olsen, self-proclaimed piano aficionado and composer. While many students can boast extensive piano skills, very few can say they’ve learned as much as Ashton has over such a short amount of time. Over the past two years, Ashton has progressed from playing Fur Elise using a light up beginner’s piano to composing beautiful, original concertos using complex chords, trills and melodies.

What is even more amazing in my opinion is the fact that before he started playing, he had never even given the piano a second thought. “I had no interest at all in classical music,” confessed Olsen when talking about his life before he learned to play. All of that began to change when he went to a concert at Abravanel Hall where Beethoven’s 9th symphony was played. When Olsen heard the fourth movement, something in him changed.

“I wanted to be a part of it, and I figured the easiest way was to play the piano,” Olsen recalled. So, he did what any reasonable 9th grader would do and asked his mom for a keyboard for Christmas. Along with that keyboard he got a CD full of classical songs. The next day, Olsen was pecking out the music he had heard on the piano. His mom walked in and asked, “Is that really you?” when he assured his mother that it was him and not a recording she said, “That’s not normal.”

Ashton’s mom was right: playing by ear with little musical experience is indeed “not normal.” Albert Frantz, an author for key-notes.com, wrote, “The truth is that the vast majority of pianists cannot play by ear, no matter how long they have been playing. The primary reason is that piano lessons today almost categorically ignore ear training and instead focus exclusively on training the eye.” Olsen’s ability to play by ear suggests a natural ability to pick out notes in a melody and replicate them- something many professionals still cannot seem to grasp.

Ever since then, Olsen has been fueling his passion for music. Spending around three to four hours a day at the piano, he pours over complicated sheet music like that of Rachmaninoff’s concertos. When he is not memorizing concertos, Olsen composes his own original compositions that rival the classics for their unique combination of chords as well as the emotion packed into every note. Ashton has been able to share his talent through performances at Abravanel Hall, libraries, school assemblies, and even performances with the Layton City Philharmonic Orchestra.

Olsen takes both AP Music Theory from Mr. Follet here at Layton High as well as private composition lessons with renowned teacher Jerald Simon. Simon is the president and founder of Music Motivation®, an organization dedicated to motivate students to study and enjoy music. Having only recently started taking lessons from Simon some months ago, Olsen appreciates how Simon tailors the lesson each week specifically to what he is composing at the time. Making suggestions and teaching new composition concepts, Olsen feels Simon really teaches what he wants to learn. Olsen describes both lessons by saying, “… [I am] finally making connections between what I was doing mentally and the theory behind it.”  While both classes have improved his sight reading ability, Olsen still plays mostly by ear.

After hearing about all the time and dedication he has put into playing the piano, I asked Olsen why he likes playing the piano so much. He responded, “With the piano… I can tell everyone exactly how I feel without saying a word…” I realized how important this form of expression was to Olsen when he later told me how he uses the piano as a way to cope during moments of deep sadness. “Without the piano,” he explained, “I don’t know if I would have been able to make it out of these moments.”

While many people know of Olsen’s ability to play to the piano, very few know the full story of how his ability came to be. While it may appear as if it was given to him on a silver platter, Olsen has worked hard to cultivate the talent he has been given. Dedicating hours upon hours practicing and playing, Olsen has earned his talent. Planning on pursuing a future as a police officer, Olsen explains that he is going to be, “…a police officer who happens to play the piano very well.” As I look forward to seeing Olsen’s future unfold, I am confident when I say that music will always play some part in his life. Ashton Olsen is a truly inspiring example of someone who was able to find something he really enjoys and who will take it with him for the rest of his life.

 

 

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Ashton Olsen Becomes Overnight Composer and Musician