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The Boy Whose Head Is Jammed Full of Notes

November 17, 1994|LEONARD REED | Leonard Reed is a Times staff writer

THOUSAND OAKS — At the request of a visitor, Jeffrey Paul tries to describe how he writes music, and his sentences are about as vague and diffuse as his compositions are vivid and clear.

"It depends on where I am," he says. "It helps to be at the piano. But sometimes I just write down the notes I hear in my head."

Jeffrey is a senior at Thousand Oaks High School, and his head is jammed with notes.

"Like, this piece I just finished, I really didn't know it was going to be a fugue. I heard some themes, some motifs, and I wrote them down and then turned them upside down, ran them back in different keys, and it became a kind of contortion of ideas in which things were repeated but in different ways."

He pauses, recalls that he took the written music to his piano teacher. Together they scored the notation, played the music. Without particularly knowing it, Jeffrey Paul II, 16, had composed a fully realized fugue for four-part choir, neo-Gregorian and medieval in content and style.

This will come as no surprise to those who know Jeffrey. Or those, perhaps, who attended the first recital performed at the new Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks on Oct. 22 in which Jeffrey performed one of his compositions, "Sonata for Oboe/English Horn and Violin."

Jeffrey is simply one of music's enlightened children.

He's not particularly struck by this fact. Instead, he's cautiously aware that an insatiable musicality abides in him. As a result, he spends most of his conscious time breathing and eating and getting through school and maintaining a few friendships--and hearing and playing and writing music.


It started at 4, with piano. "I wanted to be like my dad," a physicist by training but jazz player at heart, Jeffrey notes. In the fourth grade, Jeffrey took up the difficult, double-reeded oboe "to get into band" at Acacia Elementary School.

While Jeffrey also would take up saxophone in the ninth grade "to get into the marching band" at Thousand Oaks High School, oboe would be his first instrument.

He studies under the formidable David Weiss, principal oboist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and on occasion performs in small chamber settings with Weiss. He is principal oboist with the Thousand Oaks High School Wind Ensemble and the Conejo Youth Symphony Orchestra and is guest soloist with the UC Santa Barbara Symphony and Goleta Valley Chamber Orchestra. Predictably, he was elected to the 1994 All-Southern California Honors Orchestra.

His membership in these bands virtually inhales his time, both for rehearsal and performances. Yet other scheduled performances on other instruments--such as a solo piano performance, with orchestra, next April at Pepperdine University, and his frequent lead alto sax performances with the Thousand Oaks High School Jazz Band--also require substantial preparation.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey's compositional work--perhaps the most defining mark in this embryonic artist--plunges ahead. He was honored this year by the Music Teachers Assn. for his symphonic composition "Fanfare and Overture," a piece performed by a 40-piece orchestra. (Jeffrey conducted.) He's not sure what will become of his neo-Gregorian fugue, but then neither is he clear on the fate of a fully scored aria he wrote last week as a birthday gift for a singer friend. All he knows is that he keeps on hearing notes, keeps on writing.


Jeffrey heads east this winter to audition for the conservatories to which he has applied. The Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., is among his top choices, but then Jeffrey Paul is the sort of guy who presumes nothing. He simply wants to follow his music and ultimately perform with a major orchestra and be able to write great music.

He's heard of rock 'n' roll. "It has a feeling too, and I like it if I want to party, but there's classical that's better party music," he says. He reveals himself most on the subject of Hungarian composer-pianist Franz Lizst, whose music, he says, "carries so much emotion, so much power" and whose "technical facility is topped by so much heart and soul."

It's clear that Jeffrey Paul has both, the facility and the heart.

Just ask him why he does it: why music at age 16 defines his existence.

Again, this otherwise eloquent young fellow is at a loss for words--and, perhaps, storage space for notes. The notes are his first language, after all, and it seems under their power that Jeffrey smiles and suddenly casts a true jewel of a sentence: "I'd have to pick up a horn to tell you."

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