That’s how the 30-year-old composer, who attended the Mamaroneck Public Schools and studied at Hoff-Barthelson Music School in Scarsdale, describes the sounds that have won him international acclaim. He was most recently awarded a 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Music Composition.
“I think of my music as a river – everything that I have written or been inspired by makes the river broader and broadens my expressivity,’’ Nathan wrote in an email from Italy, where he is a Rome Prize Fellow in Musical Composition at the American Academy in Rome. “I may choose to sail down only one part of the river, or branch out in a new stream, but I hope to be continually changing and evolving as an artist, sharing and expressing my experiences of ‘now’ as best I can.”
Nathan’s “river” has taken him on an incredible musical journey. His compositions have been performed at the Aldeburgh Music Festival in England, at Tanglewood, at the Aspen Music Festival and by the Berlin Philharmonic’s Scharoun Ensemble, among others. This summer, Nathan’s music will be featured at the New York Philharmonic Biennial, Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music and by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra and JACK quartet.
Nathan studied music as a trumpeter and pianist in his formative years at Hoff-Barthelson. He joined the music school’s summer programs, jazz and wind ensembles and Festival orchestras.
“My first experiences performing jazz and my earliest orchestral experiences were at Hoff-Barthelson and these have been so important in forming how I think as a performer and a composer,’’ he said.
He attended Wynston Marsalis’ Jazz for Young People concerts at the Lincoln Center, and as a high school freshman participated in the Boston University Tanglewood Institute as a trumpeter. Both experiences helped launch his career path.
“The (Tanglewood) experience was the most intense I had experienced up to that point as we were expected to be rehearsing or practicing for almost the full day,’’ Nathan said. “But after completing that course I emerged loving music even more, and I then knew that music is what I wanted to devote my life to pursuing.”
His composition roots also began when he was young after his parents bought him a piano when was 8-years-old. He eventually studied composition at Juilliard Pre-College. “In my senior year in high school I had the pleasure of hearing the Juilliard Pre-College Symphony premiere my first orchestral work, and the experience of hearing it performed live was one of the most exhilarating experiences – hearing something I created come to life on such a large scale,’’ Nathan said. “After experiencing that concert I knew I wanted to be a composer.”
Nathan feels his life has been enriched by all of his musical teachers and experiences. He also feels blessed to have worked with teachers who have challenged and nurtured his musical interests and for performers who bring his music to new audiences. He is grateful that he was fortunate enough to find his career calling as a young man.
“Music has always been something central to my life – I was always thinking about music and wanting to play music, and imagining pieces that didn’t yet exist, and wishing that they would so that I could listen to them,’’ Nathan said. “In music we have the chance to express ourselves and share something deeply personal with an audience – this act of communication, of sharing emotions, thoughts and ideas that transcend language is something that is very important to me, and it is a dialogue and tradition that is a privilege to be part of. While a career in music can be difficult, I find it incredibly rewarding.”