Doctoral student honored with Carnegie Hall commission

Charles Peck, a doctoral student in music composition, was one of only four classical composers chosen to create a piece for the New York Youth Symphony in its First Music program.

Peck’s piano trio will be premiered by the symphony May 2, 2017, during a concert in Carnegie Hall. The First Music program, started 33 years ago, recognizes the work of young composers under 30.

“First Music has been an amazing support system for young composers for a long time,” said Peck, who is looking forward to working with the musicians in the youth symphony. “It’s difficult to get into this symphony, so the level of musicianship is quite impressive.”

Peck has written pieces for large ensembles, chamber ensembles, chorales, electronic instruments and various solo pieces, but he’s never written for a piano trio, which includes a piano, violin and cello. Although he already has some ideas for the piece, he plans to do the majority of the work this summer, when he’ll be a fellow in the composition program at the Aspen Music Festival.

While pop musicians can become viral sensations overnight, the road is quite a bit longer for contemporary composers, Peck said.

“You need to have at least a decade of working on cool projects and meeting important people before you develop a career that propels itself,” he said. “So this makes a lot of young composers very entrepreneurial. There are opportunities out there, but you just have to work hard to get them.”

Peck’s work has been called “daring” and been selected in Ensemble Mise-En’s Call for Scores and the Locrian Chamber Player’s Call for Scores. He was named the winner of Symphony in C’s Young Composers’ Competition, Castleton Festival’s Young Composer’s Forum, OFMC Collegiate Composition Competition and the University of Cincinnati’s Composition Competition. Peck has also been awarded grants from the McKnight Foundation, American Composers Forum and Cornell Council for the Arts. His music has been featured at festivals including the New Music Gathering, highSCORE Festival and Castleton Festival. At Cornell, he studies with Kevin Ernste, director of the Cornell Electroacoustic Music Center and associate professor of composition and also studied with the late Steven Stucky, composer and Given Foundation Professor of Music Emeritus, who passed away in February of this year.

To listen to or read more about Peck’s work, visit

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 Charles Peck