Skye Neal

Composer, Pianist, Singer, Violinist

Skye Neal is a 14 year old composer and musician from Portland, Oregon. One of her biggest sources for musical inspiration is the gorgeous wildlife of the Pacific Northwest. These sights, sounds, and feelings have worked their way into her compositions, creating rich sound worlds of melodious birdsong, rushing rivers, and towering forests. 

Skye has studied composition with Dr. Mátti Kovler since 2017. Her pieces have won recognition by Music Teachers National Association, Oregon Music Education Association, National Federation of Music Clubs, Tribeca New Music, and Young Women's Composition Competition. She is in her sixth year participating in Fear No Music’s Young Composers Project. 

Some recent performances (video recordings available below):

When Skye isn’t composing or making music, you might find her rowing on the Willamette River or bird watching in a local park.

Reviews

all the wit and clarity and humor that we might expect from a composition from Haydnmusical language is charming, and especially the way that you play with meter and phrasing is very effectiveyou also write well for the orchestra... Overall, this piece shows a strong sense of craft and an emerging individual compositional voice.   Dr. Alex Burtzos, National Young Composers Challenge, Jan 2024

very playable and enjoyable workmelodic writing is delightfulYour score is clean and very inviting. Your obvious work to develop this quiet "art" is something that will always set your music apart from others. Well done.   Timothy Brown, MTNA Composition Competition, December 2023

“Impressive, engaging writing! … Well-executed voice leading … excellent grasp of sophisticated harmonic concepts... I never felt my attention wane… Wonderful writing!”   Kevin Olson, MTNA Composition Competition, October 2023

…playful and effective… Lovely use of a variety of articulation to express the moods in the piece…clear vision for your ideas… lovely, contrasting textures … enjoyable to listen to!   —Lisa Neher, NFMC Composition Competition, February 2023

"...gorgeously lyrical duet...wonderful melodic instincts...exploring them in ways that keep the ideas fresh yet familiar...exciting virtuosic flourishes that will be so fun for performers to play and for listeners to hear...Beautiful piece!"   —Lisa Neher, NFMC Composition Competition, March 2022

"Quite an enjoyable and catchy melody...Nice contrapuntal writing...solid foundation in the compositional practice of the Classical Era. Nice work!"   —Diane Davies, MTNA Composition Competition, October 2022

In the News

ICAN Become    May 1, 2024
Skye interviews Deanna Tham, Associate Conductor with the Oregon Symphony for the International Children's Arts Network Radio.


Press release: "Young Composers Project wins Oregon Symphony's 2024 Schnitzer Wonder Award and $10,000 prize"

OSYM_Wonder_Award_v3.mp4

Oregon Symphony announcement video featuring interview with Skye Neal,  April 2024


Lake Oswego Review interview, December 2022


"I feel like with music you can really express yourself even just with small differences of notes."



All Classical Radio interview, September 2020

Ten year old Skye Neal was the youngest composer to be featured on the All Classical Radio program, On Deck With Young Musicians. This interview with Christa Wessel features her pieces Secret Place Suite and Following the Stream.


Composition Contest Awards 

National award winner, National Federation of Music Clubs in 2023

Emerging Composer distinction in Tribeca New Music's Young Composer Competition in 2023

National finalist and winner for Western region, National Federation of Music Clubs in 2022, 2023

Honorable mention for Northwest Division, Music Teachers National Association in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2023

Winner for Young Women's Composition Competition in 2023

Winner for Oregon state, National Federation of Music Clubs in 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

Winner for Oregon state, Music Teachers National Association in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2023

Winner for Oregon Music Education Association in 2021, 2022

Honorable mention for Oregon state, Music Teachers National Association in 2022


Select Performances & Program Notes

Adagio For Strings- LOHS May 2024.mp4

Adagio For Strings, 2024

Instrumentation: string orchestra (violin I, violin II, viola, cello, contrabass)

I drew inspiration for Adagio for Strings from Samuel Barber's piece of the same name, as well as from the second movement of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. Its mood is deep and pensive, reminiscent of moving through dense, enveloping fog. As the piece develops, it is momentarily lifted from its dark and somber tone before quickly moving back to the minor key. Later, a triplet theme emerges, intertwined with strained harmonies that build compelling tension and a feeling of anticipation. The piece ends with a sustained chord that slowly fades into nothingness.

Performed by Lake Oswego High School's Symphony Orchestra in May 2024.

Trio Sonata No. 1 in C Major.mp4

Trio Sonata, 2024

Instrumentation: flute, viola, cello

Trio Sonata No. 1 in C Major begins by jumping directly into the exposition, with a very jubilant main theme. Afterwards it transitions to a softer, more peaceful second subject. The melody trades between the flute and the violin before diving into a quick development section. Following a long crescendo passage, the main theme returns to round out the piece.  I love writing sonatas because of how the constrained structure unlocks a whole world of creative freedom. 

Performed by Fear No Music's Young Composers Project in April 2024.

The Birds premier.mov

The Birds, 2024

Instrumentation: string orchestra (violin I, violin II, viola, cello, contrabass)

As an enthusiastic birdwatcher, I was inspired to write this piece to highlight birdsong and bird behavior. The opening movement revolves around my favorite shorebirds, specifically soras, killdeer, and sandpipers. The hurried flutter of the notes in the main theme captures their song and their hurried steps as they scatter away from the waves. In the second movement, I paint an aural picture of raptors gracefully soaring higher and higher, until they seem to be nothing but a speck of dust in the sky. In the third movement, we hear a melody that imitates the gorgeous spiraling song of the swainson’s thrush, and the cheery calls of the robins. At the end of the piece we return to the sea to listen to the shorebirds once more.

Commissioned by the Metropolitan Youth Symphony's Camerata ensemble, and performed in February 2024.

Romance in G Major- prof audio, trimmed.mov

Romance in G Major, 2023

Instrumentation: viola, piano

Romance in G Major is a two-part romance for viola and piano. A romance is a short, light, very lyrical piece often for voice or a solo instrument. The first movement, graceful and smooth, is written in ABA form, the middle section a sharp contrast to the flowing arpeggios of the beginning, with spiccato passages in the viola and the piano taking over the melody. The second movement follows a traditional sonata-allegro form, immediately jumping into a light, bouncing melody that grows and develops as the piece goes on. Later, we hear a second contrasting theme, with more chromatic patterns in the piano, and double stops in the viola creating tension. This tension eventually fades back into the original theme, which leads to a grand finale.

Performed by Fear No Music's Monica Ohuchi and  Kenji Bunch in January 2024.

Discoveries .mp4

Discoveries, 2023

Instrumentation: string orchestra (violin I, violin II, viola, cello, contrabass)

I was inspired to write Discoveries during a road trip my family took last summer across central and southeastern Oregon. The first movement, written in a traditional sonata allegro form, is about the city of Bend. The quick tempo and fast runs in the first violins convey liveliness, while the sharp changes in dynamics represent a sense of adventure. After a short coda, the second movement describes our arrival at Malheur lake, an oasis in the middle of endless fields of sagebrush. It begins with a pulsing ostinato in the cellos and basses and harmonics in the first violins representing the steady drone of the mosquitoes. The violas join in with a lyrical melody which the violins then build upon. These melodies, representing the pristine waters and serene environment, gradually build to a climactic ending. As the third movement begins, birds start to sing all around, including the sage thrasher - an unassuming small brown bird known for singing very long, complex songs. The music in the third movement mirrors the beauty of the sage thrasher's song, with the main melody in the first violins and complex arpeggiated harmonies in the second violins. 

Dawn Chorus with lyrics.mp4

Dawn Chorus, 2023

Instrumentation: SA choir, piano

This piece is inspired by the dawn chorus that happens every morning when birds begin to sing their beautiful songs. It's a truly magical feeling to get to experience, which I tried to capture in this composition. Similarly to how the birdsong will gradually grow in intensity, my piece grows in dynamic as the piece progresses towards the climax. The lyrics describe how as soon as the sun rises “all voices [are] hushed, [but] then one lone melody drifts by,” and as the morning goes on, “more have gathered now […] just to share their songs.” Meanwhile, fluttering motifs and ornaments in the piano represent the birds flying around in the trees all around you. I hope you can see the birds happily flying around as you listen.

Commissioned and performed by the Pacific Youth Choir's middle school Girlchoir in May 2023

MYS Minuet 2022.mp4

Minuet, 2022

Instrumentation: symphony orchestra (2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 Bb clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 French horns, 2 Bb trumpets, timpani, percussion, violins I and II, viola, cello, contrabass)

A minuet is a slow and graceful dance in 3/4 time that is typical of the Baroque and Classical eras. I took some inspiration for this piece from a few of my favorite minuets by Haydn. I especially enjoy how his music can be both elegant and cheerful at the same time. In Minuet, I tried to combine a classical style with my own sense of liveliness to make a light, skipping dance. I hope this piece brings a smile to your face.

Commissioned and performed by the Portland Metropolitan Youth Symphony's advanced orchestra in November 2022

Tualatin High Chamber Orchestra Epiphany.mov

Epiphany, 2022

Instrumentation: string orchestra (violin I, violin II, viola, cello, contrabass)

Epiphany started as a tune that popped into my head one day and started growing in complexity and intensity until I finally had to sit down and write it. The main theme is meant to sound like the powerful whirlwind of ideas that were rushing through my head. The melody is split up between the first and second violins, with contrasting sections placed in-between the different variations. At the end, a new melody takes over while the other instruments provide an interweaving counterpoint.

Performed by the Tualatin High School Orchestra June 2022.

Skye Neal_Waltz in Bb.mov

Waltz in B♭ Major, 2021

Instrumentation: violin, piano

I wrote Waltz in Bb Major to combine my love of waltzes with my interest in

exploring new patterns and progressions. In the past, I had included the

waltz form as movements of other works and found them to be highly

engaging, so I was inspired to compose a full waltz for chamber ensemble.

This piece begins with a light, bouncing accompaniment in the piano before

the violin begins to sing with a gorgeous melody, interplaying with some

flourishes in the piano. This theme develops in a conversational style, an

answer to every question, before it jumps to a new, brighter section in the

high register of the piano. However, it's not long before we return to the

original theme and finish with a grand ending. I'm hoping the listener will

imagine a festive ballroom scene with couples dancing and enjoying

themselves in a light and welcoming atmosphere, moving in steps that are

simple and sweet, gradually becoming more intricate as the piece

progresses.

Performed by Inés Voglar Belgique and Judith Gordon at Chatter Sunday concert in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  December 2021

Following the Stream PYP.mov

Following the Stream, 2021

Instrumentation: string orchestra (violin I, violin II, viola, cello, contrabass)

In Following the Stream I like to imagine the sounds I might hear while walking alongside a stream running through varying terrains. First, there is the delicate tinkling of water flowing over pebbles and rocks. As night begins to fall, we enter a woodland forest to find a group of fairies performing their midnight dance. After this, we trek further into the woods and experience the exciting energy of the wilderness and creatures within. In the coda, we emerge from the woods to celebrate the adventures we have had.


Commissioned and performed by the Portland Youth Philharmonic Young String Ensemble in May 2021.

Contact me

email: compose@skyeneal.com