Gene Angelo Nucal is a recipient of the 2020 NextNotes High School Music Creator Award

When Gene Angelo Nucal was less than 5 years old, he stumbled upon the instruments that were readily available in his house; piano and strings, primarily. He felt immediately drawn to them and began to experiment. His parents, seeing this, decided they should get him lessons so he would know what he was doing. 

Gene’s experiments with music continued throughout grade school but when he reached middle school, he found himself longing to dig a little deeper into music.

“I would hear a pop song and decide that I wanted to play it, I would sit down and transcribe it for me and my friends to play. I was very interested in weaving multiple genres together.”

Those early experiments lead to an exploration of chamber music and had a huge impact on the signature style that he has today. 

Although Gene’s knowledge of music has grown a lot over the years, his approach to composition or experimenting with sound hasn’t changed much since those very early preschool days.

“I would say my “style” is just playing the instrument in front of me and messing around until I get to a place that I like with a theme. I just keep working with those themes until the piece comes together. My goal as a composer is that I really want to engage the players with my music.” 

Gene doesn’t usually have a title when he begins a piece. So when he was writing Calle De Los Trinos for Piano Quartet, he just had on his mind writing a piece that was very engaging to the musicians. He got support from one of his instructors with the title which translates as Street of Trills.  In this piece, there are multiple areas with trills which is the thematic element that engages his players. Gene had submitted this piece for consideration in another composition but was rejected. In this disappointment, Gene showed his maturity.

“I decided that I would listen to the pieces that won the competition. And I realized that it just wasn’t the right piece for this composition. Most of the submitted pieces were  atonal or polyrhythmic. I have more of a lyrical style in my music.”

His friends had his back all of the way, and encouraged him to keep going with this piece.

Eventually, He submitted the same exact recording to Calle De Los Trinos to Next Notes and one.

“It was hard keeping it from my friends who had been very supportive for a long time. But when they found out they were very proud of me and their contributions to the piece.” 

Gene is very active in the music community at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, He is already performing in a number of ensembles, including his own quartet Four for Strings. His ambition does not end there. Washington has a mariachi band that Gene has set his sights on. 

“I asked them what instrument they needed and they said harp. So, I decided that I would play that in this ensemble and take lessons next.”

One can only wonder how the young sound chemist might transform the long cultural tradition of mariachi and put an entirely new and contemporary twist on it. Gene sees himself continuing his musical education in composition perhaps in a city like Chicago or New York. 

Join us on Saturday, June 27, 2020 at 7:30pm CDT as, for the first time, NextNotes will culminate in a live-streamed awards ceremony emceed by public radio and podcast creator of Trilloquy, Garrett McQueen. The ceremony will celebrate Charlotte and the other five talented creators who were selected from over 140 across the US and represent the skill and range of music being created today. Learn about their experience as part of this year’s cohort and hear samples from the award winning creations. Livestream the ceremony here.

The NextNotes High School Music Creator Awards are generously supported by The Augustine Foundation, the Rosemary and David Good Family Foundation, The Thelma Hunter Fund, the Dr. Fred Noah Gordon Charitable Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation, and other generous individuals.