The journey that is high school is unique and very personal for every student. Most don’t express that full experience in a public forum; offering up something tangible that reflects what it’s like to be a teenager navigating their way into post-secondary life… unless you’re Puroshini Pather.
The Grade 12 student shared her intimate journey with her classmates and an audience last week. It wasn’t expressed in the form of a poem or a speech – Puroshini translated her SMUS experience into “Quicksilver”, a piece of music she composed for SMUS’s 60-person string orchestra.
“Being my last year at SMUS, I wanted ‘Quicksilver’ to represent what it’s like to be a high school student here, with the ups and downs of getting good grades, and the bitter-sweetness as one leaves for university and has to leave their parents. And it’s being a little bit uncertain about what the future holds, but also looking forward and being hopeful for a bright future, while remembering the vibrancy of the past,” she says. “I wanted to show what an honour it was to be at SMUS and portray that through my music.” She called the piece “Quicksilver” because, like the element mercury – commonly called quicksilver – high school can be “quick-changing and turbulent.”
Puroshini is no stranger to music composition. For SMUS’s Remembrance Day ceremony in 2013, she debuted her orchestral piece “Hour Glass”. Composing, though, began at a much earlier age.
“When I started playing piano at 6 or 7, that’s when I began writing music. So I started with writing music for the piano, and then from there on it advanced as I advanced. I started playing the violin, I listened to what a beautiful sound a symphony was, and I started writing music for violin and piano. And from then I learned how to mix the flute into that, and it just grew bigger and bigger and bigger, until I realized just how much more I could do with all these instruments if I just overlapped them and created such a full sound,” she says. “The orchestra just lets me do that; it gives me an outlet to move on to bigger and better things.”
She describes her writing process as being more organic, rather than inspired.
“I don’t watch a sad movie or experience something and then write a piece – it doesn’t work like that for me. It’s more… I have a little box in my head and sometimes it lets out good music, and sometimes it lets out Justin Bieber in a really high voice. So I have to know when the music that’s coming out is worth something that could be performed,” she says.
Over the course of a few weeks leading up to the onstage debut of “Quicksilver” at last Friday’s Concerto Concert, Puroshini practiced conducting her classmates performing her piece.
“This school has such a nurturing environment that it really raised my spirits and I just went with it. It’s nice to have [the debut of “Quicksilver”] in a school where your classmates are working toward the goal with you; that made it really nice and comforting to know they were supportive of me,” she says. “I was surprised at how easy it was to just flick my wrist and have them respond; it was such a beautiful feeling for me once I actually made it on stage. When I finally got up there it was like a zen moment; just complete calm and stillness, and everyone was so attentive. It was probably the most beautiful moment in my life so far… but I’m only 17.”
As “Quicksilver” grew in front of her eyes, with the help of her talented classmates, the box in her head opened up again, inspiring her to continue writing.
“Coming back from ‘Quicksilver’, I realized what it truly means to stand in front of an orchestra, and it was actually quite a visual effect. As I was moving my arms, the rest of the orchestra is playing and it was a rippling effect,” Puroshini says, “so I wanted to name this next piece ‘Ripple’ and have it represent each musician’s talents as being part of a sea of music.”
While the Grade 12 student is off to Scotland in the fall to study medicine at the University of St. Andrews, she says music will never not be in her life.
“Music is on par with my passion for science, but science has a slight edge over it because I just think I can do so much more in helping the community. But inspiring people in music is something I will always do,” she says.
“I loved having this experience at SMUS with people who I love and people that loved me. It’s such a wonderful experience to have a family of people who I could communicate with and express the same love of music. They all showed the same amount of passion towards my music as I did, and I was so glad that when I moved my arms I was able to draw that out of them in such a beautiful way.”