Scholar composes their own musical arrangement for high school orchestra

Vienna Adler directs the orchestra.

Vienna Adler recently made their directorial debut at the Young People’s Concert where they directed “I See the Light” by Allen Mencken, arranged by Vienna Adler themself. It was a moment that only came to fruition because of months and years of hard work mixed with their natural talent.

After rewatching the movie Tangled last year, Vienna was reminded of how much they love the music in the movie. They began searching for an arrangement to play on the piano.

“I couldn’t find an arrangement at my level of playing and I kind of always wanted to make an arrangement, so I thought—why not try it now,” they said.

Alison Swiggum, Hopkins High School orchestra director, supported Vienna’s desire to create their own arrangement. Swiggum said that a very high level of music understanding is needed to write music and the department values individual interests and musical expression.

“Vienna wanted to write an arrangement of a favorite Disney piece, and I liked that it benefited both Vienna and the whole orchestra class, since the orchestra learned the music that Vienna wrote,” Swiggum said.

Vienna has always had an ear for music. They began playing the piano when they were in fourth grade in order to prepare for playing the violin the following year. There was something about the cello that caught their attention during those early years so when they had a chance to play it in the ninth grade—they did. Learning to play the viola followed in tenth grade and now Vienna gets to decide which instrument they want to play each time a new song is introduced in orchestra class.

Vienna’s knowledge of each instrument allowed them to arrange the music for each section of the orchestra. The work became a passion project supported by teachers, staff, and family members.

“I had the time and the space to do it. It took a lot of energy. Very rarely do I find a project that I can stick with,” they said. “I am very grateful for all the help and time I had.”

After composing the piece, Vienna tested it out with the Hopkins orchestra, made adjustments and then began rehearsing the piece as the director.

“It was one of the most nerve-racking things I have ever done second to hearing the philharmonics play my music for the first time,” Vienna said.

Swiggum would step in as needed, but it was at the Young People’s Concert in September 2022 where Vienna made their directorial debut. The experience has left Vienna with an appreciation for teachers and a better idea of how to navigate challenges in the pursuit of a goal. Vienna hopes to continue to use her musical talents as a high school music director.