O Brother, Where Art Thou? At the piano

Most brothers argue over lots of things. But one unusual thing Porter and Elliot Matteson might argue over is the piano.

In the future they might argue over who is the better composer.

Porter, 21, has written a piano concerto that his brother, 19, played at a Bainbridge Island Youth Orchestra concert.

Porter has played piano for 15 years and trumpet for 14. Elliot, 19, started playing piano and double bass when he was 6.

Porter has played in youth and community orchestras, chamber groups, jazz bands and other groups for over 10 years. Elliot has played with the Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra and many other orchestras and small jazz and classical groups as well.

Porter and Elliot both started playing in the BIYO in 2019 after their family moved to BI. While he stopped playing in the orchestra after his senior year of high school, he has continued to compose for it. This piano concerto is the second large-scale piece he has composed for BIYO.

Porter started writing musical pieces when he was really young. “I started composing music almost as soon as I learned to read it,” he said. “I would write down pages and pages of music that was, arguably, not particularly listenable.”

What he likes most about composing is the creativity is endless. “What drew me then and will continue to draw me is the sheer infinitude of possibilities that you have when you sit down at a keyboard or in front of notation software. Today, and many teachers later, I have a much better grasp of the art of composition, though I still have a lot to learn,” he said.

Porter graduated from Central Washington University in Ellensburg this spring with a liberal arts degree. He hopes to make a career of music.

The piece he wrote for the concert is simply called, “Piano Concerto No. 1.” “I have done some work on the second and third movements, but this concert we will only be playing the first. I started writing it last fall as a leisure project and invited my brother to play it. He accepted with enthusiasm and here we are,” Porter said, adding the piece is “neo-romantic.”

He said he is inspired by late Romantic classical music like Sergei Rachmaninoff, musical theater like Stephen Sondheim and film music like Hans Zimmer. But he also tries to mix in popular music styles. “I’m also a pop music enthusiast and am always striving to find crowd-pleasing chords and melodies,” he said.

Porter said BIYO music director Nathan Rodahl was open to playing his composition. “BIYO has a history of open-mindedness and willingness to try out student projects. In terms of working with my brother, we’ve worked together a lot on the logistics. Elliot has practiced the piece assiduously for months.”

Elliot said working on his brother’s compositions is nothing new, but this one is special. “We have worked together on many musical projects. Working on this concerto has been a wonderful experience, and it’s a milestone for both of us,” he said.

Elliot said he enrolled in Running Start at Olympic College planning to pursue an engineering degree. But a year ago, “I abruptly made the decision that I would instead follow my roots in music and get a degree in piano performance.”

He also plans to write music, so undoubtedly the question will arise, Who is the better composer? ”I plan to continue music throughout my life, and I’m excited about opportunities both to perform and compose.”