Young composer wins NJ grand prize

PHS junior wins grand prize in NJ young composers contest
Posted on 02/27/2023
This is the image for the news article titled PHS junior wins grand prize in NJ young composers contestPiscataway High School junior Arya Jeraled won the grand prize in the New Jersey Young Composers Competition, designating him as the top student composer in the state for 2023.

This is the second year in a row that Jeraled was chosen among the five finalist in the competition, sponsored by the New Jersey Music Educators Association. He won the grand prize at the NJMEA conference in Atlantic City on Saturday, Feb. 25.

“It’s very emotional,” Jeraled said after learning that he was a finalist. “To be able to do it at the state level is very meaningful. It’s not overwhelming, but do I deserve this recognition? It’s the entire state. The scope of it is larger than I ever expected.”

He won the grand prize for “Letting Go,” a classical composition inspired by the works of Gustav Holst.


“It’s a big symphony orchestra, but it’s kind of a ballad,” Jeraled said. “It’s meant to be more emotional than fast-paced. I wanted to do something about letting go of the shackles of expectations. It went through a lot of different trials, but I just kept that idea flowing and it sounded promising to me.”

PHS student composer

Jeraled uses a computer program called Sibelius to compose music. It allows him choose the notes, chords, rhythms, and instruments and hear the music played back, allowing for adjustments.

Dr. Christopher Sumner, director of instrumental music at Piscataway High School, said that Jeraled’s great musical vision shows in his writing.

“When it comes to musical composition, anybody that has a basic understanding of music theory can compose a piece of music,” he said. “What sets Arya apart is twofold: first he has a much more advanced understanding of music theory, and second, Arya has an innate ability and musical sense that allows him to create well-formulated and structured musical compositions.”

Jeraled started trying to compose music in seventh grade and credits his teachers – Sumner and Kenneth Zampella at PHS as well as Connor Egan at Schor Middle School – with supporting him as he learned and grew.

“Over the past few years, I’ve had the support of a lot of different people,” he said. “I’m just taking everything I’ve learned so far from these people who have supported me throughout the past five years. I’ve learned a lot from them.”

PHS student composer

He has also learned that he wants to pursue music beyond high school.

“I don’t know what facet I want to go toward,” he said. “Is it teaching, is it composition, is it conducting? That’s something I always wanted to do. It’s definitely not performing. I can play the instrument but that’s not something I’m super interested in.

“Writing music is something I find very interesting. So if that’s something I could do more with, that would be really amazing. Like if I could do film scores or stuff for video games.”

Sumner said Jeraled’s grand prize is a win for the entire music program.

“This award not only acknowledges Arya's talent,” he said, “but also recognizes our Music Department as one that continues to foster the highest possible musical excellence in its students.”