Award-winning teenage songwriter from the northeast reveals his inspiration


The Highlands, her parents and French composer Olivier Messiaen are just some of the things that inspires aspiring musician Jenna Stewart.

The 17-year-old from Westhill, Aberdeenshire, has lifted the veil on her musical ambitions after being named the 2021 BBC Young Composer of the Year.

Jenna knocked out the competition from hundreds of other entries to win the senior category of the competition.

She will now be working with a composer mentor on a project with the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Jenna admitted she was “stunned” to have won the prestigious musical honor just weeks after leaving St Margaret’s School for Girls.

Jenna Stewart, who won the BBC Young Composer of Year competition.

His winning song, Lost Times, addresses the theme of the changing landscape of the Highlands.

Jenna said the Cairngorms were “close to my heart” and it was “easy” to write about something that inspires her.

She said: “I compose on things that fascinate me. One thing I love is the Scottish Highlands. I was brought up to be adventurous and to explore.

“The Cairngorms were a place close to my heart and I wrote a piece of music because I find it inspiring.

“It’s an easy composition when you take inspiration from things.”

The support of the family helped the musician on the road to success

The Cairngorms inspired Jenna.

Jenna comes from a family of musicians and started playing guitar and violin at the age of seven and wrote her first piece of music with her father at the age of eight.

She said her father wrote songs as a hobby and that was the key to her pursuit of music in school.

Jenna said, “My mom and dad were musicians and they always encouraged me to learn an instrument, so I learned the violin and piano in school.

“My father wrote songs and that inspired me to start composing. St Margaret’s has been very encouraging in terms of using the skills that I have as well.

Teenager with eclectic musical tastes

Singer Jorja Smith is one of Jenna’s current favorites.

Influential singer-songwriter Carol King and Jorja Smith, who released her debut album in 2018, are some of the artists Jenna enjoys listening to.

She also loves the French composer Olivier Messiaen and, like him, sees colors when composing music.

Jenna said she admires Carol King’s music because it’s “authentic” as she hopes to take inspiration from the approach to songs by 24-year-old Jorja Smith.

She said, “I love her music because it’s so much her. There is something where she puts everything in her music.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a little too raw and it doesn’t matter how emotional it is. She is so authentic in her makeup.

“Also, more classically, I would say that Messiaen is a real inspiration for me because of his composition process.

“I can relate to it in the sense that I have synesthesia, so I use colors to compose. I am also inspired by a lot of things and I find something to bring out that creativity.

“My musical tastes change a lot, so right now I like Jorja Smith. She’s an R&B artist and I love the sound of her music.

“It’s interesting and real. It’s not hidden away by synthesizers, but it’s a mix of electronics and acoustics to aspire to.

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