Steele Minds: The Boy Who Composes

Steele Minds: The Boy Who Composes

Taylor Overby, Staff Writer

Our school is home to a diverse array of experiences and characteristics. In our new series, “Steele Minds,” we invite you to take a trip into the creative and innovative minds of some of our Steele students, and explore their unique hobbies and interests, from an orchestral composer to an indie guitarist to a robotics engineer. 

Today is the first installment of this weekly 6-part series, where we introduce you to one of our most musically gifted students, a senior with an affinity for the classical. 

Part I: The Boy Who Composes

Senior Kevin Leal Morales has always loved music.

 “I was very into bands,” he explained. “I grew up listening to rock bands, especially Pink Floyd because they’re very experimental, nuanced and original. So I was already playing guitar because I was so inspired.”

In fact, Kevin plays several instruments, from the guitar and piano to “some clarinet” and even the lyre. His favorite is the piano.

“All the notes are out there and I can visualize everything that I’m doing, plus it sounds good,” he said.

But the music that speaks to him the most is orchestral, a genre that captivated him on a trip to his hometown, Monterrey, Mexico. 

“My uncle had this CD that he always played of Hans Zimmer performing his orchestra, performing all his music from the movies he’s composed,” Kevin said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is so cool, I want to do that. I want to be able to do all those things’.”

Other inspirations include Maurice Ravel and Aaron Copland, 19th century composers who “mix elements of jazz and orchestra to make something very new that nobody had ever seen before.”

So what makes orchestral music so special?

“To me, it’s just the perfect mold of an instrument group that has been constantly evolving year after year,” Kevin explained. “I think it’s interesting that these different sounds and timbres just magically work well together, and it’s this formula that just really works well.”

So starting back in 2021, he began to compose. 

“Sometimes I’ll start with a melodic idea, just a theme,” Kevin described. “Maybe just two to three notes will suffice. Or sometimes I’ll just start with a harmonic progression, something that is building the structure for a melody. After I have a basic idea down, I’ll write it down on my empty sheet music, and I immediately just go into the brainstorming process of ‘Oh, this instrument can go through this part and this instrument can do this, and these instruments can harmonize this way and slowly build up to that,’ and it’s kind of like a puzzle piece in a way.”

So far he’s written 50 to 100 pieces.

“Sometimes I’ll compose for a whole week nonstop, piece after piece,” Kevin concluded. “Other times, when I finish something, a much larger piece or project, I’ll take a break for a week or two and then I’ll go back to it again.”

He plans to continue this hobby after high school.

“I plan to immediately apply for as many internships and jobs, like being a composer assistant and mostly in film scoring and writing music for film,” Kevin explained. “But I wouldn’t mind if I delved into video game music or commercial music.”

Already, he’s written music for the Steele Knightly News’ Halloween Special, and has his own YouTube channel, titled Kevin Leal. His most recent work, “Mountains”, is the piece he’s most proud of. 

“I really nailed the orchestration and I feel like orchestration is my biggest enemy but also my best friend because it’s such a big topic to delve into when making music,” he said. 

Listen to “Mountains” here.