Archive for Thursday, June 4, 1998


June 4, 1998


Central Junior High School student Tristan Moody lives out his ``Kansas Splendor.''

She thought the heat had gone to his head.

Last summer when Central Junior High School band director Johanna Cox ran into student Tristan Moody at the pool she asked him what he had been doing with his free time.

``He said, `Oh, Mrs. Cox, I'm writing a piece for the band,''' Cox said. ``I thought, `Oh, yeah.' I thought it would be a variation on `Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.'''

It turned out to be ``Kansas Splendor,'' an original piece that 13-year-old Tristan composed on his home computer.

``He asked me for the practical playing range of the instruments,'' Cox said. ``And that was all the help I gave him. He did it all on his own.''

A month into the 1997-'98 school year, Tristan presented the composition to a surprised Cox.

``He had parts for every instrument and it was very detailed,'' she said. ``It's professional quality.''

Cox, in turn, presented it to the 66 members of the band, and they began rehearsing it.

``I'm just so proud of him, and the band's response,'' Cox said. ``It was a little weird at first.''

After perfecting the music, the band included the piece in their spring concert, to thunderous ovations and several curtain calls.

For Tristan, it was the culmination of months of hard work. From start to finish the score took four months to complete. Then, there was the research to find out about copyright laws and sending the music to Washington, D.C., to be copyrighted.

``The composing part was fun, but separating the parts from the score -- that was something else,'' he said.

Tristan may have a fellow percussionist, Veronica Gao, to thank for his efforts. The two are band friends and often try to outdo each other with playing and getting the coveted first-chair position.

``We have a fierce competition, and we're always challenging each other,'' Tristan said.

Healthy competition is one thing, but creating an entire score of music is pretty involved, even for someone as dedicated as Tristan.

``My friends said, `What were you thinking?''' he said. ``I just wrote it in accordance with what I knew.''

Tristan wrote parts for specific people in the band, based on their level of ability and what instruments they play.

``I knew the talents of the people in the band and wanted to exploit them, so to speak,'' he said.

While he was working on the piece, he had to be creative when it came to the section where he has the most knowledge.

``The computer only plays without percussion,'' Tristan said. ``I had to imagine that happening.''

He added four percussion parts when he had finished the rest of the piece.

One of those parts was for Veronica.

Now, after watching Tristan's piece unfold, she may try to tackle one of her own.

``I might do something for one (composition),'' she said. ``I might get a (computer) program like he has, but I don't think I'll be a band director.''

Veronica said playing percussion with Tristan is a challenge, but has its rewards.

``You can learn stuff off of him,'' she said.

Next year will be different. Tristan, now 14, is headed to Free State High School, while Veronica will go to Lawrence High School.

Their rivalry will end, but both will most likely find new band mates who want to battle it out for first-chair honors.

Tristan, who named his composition after the mystique unique to Kansas, will most likely not spend this summer composing musical notes. He's looking forward to a trip to Germany, building World War II model airplanes and entering exhibits at the county fair.

Come next fall, however, the picture could change.

``I'll probably do more (composing),'' he said. ``But right now, the only other thing I've done is so hard only the computer can play it.''

-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is

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