At the age of 14, John Neumann is already an accomplished musician who plays four different instruments. The Skyridge Middle School eighth-grader has also begun composing music for different occasions.
Recently, one of his pieces, “Semper Tubas,” was played at a Metropolitan Youth Symphony winter concert at Tigard High School in Oregon.
Neumann, tall and soft-spoken, has no fear of playing his tuba in front of large crowds, or acting as conductor for his compositions. When he is standing in front of the concert band, directing, he appears well beyond his years.
“I rarely get nervous,” he said. “I love all the instruments equally and just enjoy making music with them.”
“Semper Tubas,” an upbeat march, was inspired by John Philip Sousa, an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known primarily for military and patriotic marches.
“I figured we were going to play a march for our concert, and no concert is complete without that, so I wrote one and we played it.”
Neumann’s description sounds simple, but the process was anything but. He spent nearly three weeks writing the piece, which has 20 different parts.
His parents, Kristin and Ed, said their son became interested in classical music at a very young age.
“When he was little, we had a book of all the famous composers and John memorized them,” Kristin said. “He has always loved classical music, too. We call him an ‘old soul.’”
By the time Neumann was in third-grade, he wanted to be like Louis Armstrong, so his parents signed him up for private lessons.
But after a few years, he began looking for a new challenge.
“Playing the trumpet in the school band was kind of boring,” he said.
So, after learning to play the tuba, trombone and euphonium, he decided to try out for the Metropolitan Youth Symphony in Portland.
Neumann has been with the group for four years. He rehearses every Saturday, performs in concerts, and practices on his own for five to seven hours a week.
While at home, he enjoys composing music, either freehand or on his computer. His cat, Kanga, is a constant companion, and sits on his desk while he works.
“I get goose bumps when there is a certain harmony,” Neumann said. “I definitely get into the music.”
Future career aspirations include being a band director or professional tuba player.
This would be no surprise to either of his parents: They both play the piano, along with their 12-year-old daughter, Ella, who also writes her own music. Another family member is a trumpet designer for prominent musicians.
“We’ve been told John has perfect pitch,” Kristin said. “He hears something, and he knows what note it is, and can just write it down. I’m normally not the bragging kind of mom, but what he can do is pretty incredible, and he’s really modest about it.”