Student Spotlight: CJ Schrieber


Allie Wills

Junior CJ Schrieber plays the drum set for his jazz band, Cosmic Latte. Schrieber has played drum set in West High marching band shows since his freshman year. “I’m going to try to write more concert band things that are less percussion-oriented,” Schrieber said about his percussion-centered compositions.

After eight months of preparation, junior CJ Schreiber finished composing his second marching band show.

“The theme of the show is nightmares, and the things you may see or feel in a nightmare,” Schrieber said. “My inspiration was that I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t had a nightmare, so everybody really knows what it feels like. I got the idea after I found out that my cousin was accepted into a major drum corps, and they had a similar show.”

Schrieber’s show is approximately nine minutes long, a standard length for high-school marching band shows.

I started with stereotypical nine-year-old-with-a-guitar distorted music,”

— CJ Schrieber

“The show itself is just a balance between big musical ideas in the show and featuring the individual instruments,” Schrieber said. “My favorite part of the show is either the ballad, because it’s really soft and pretty, or the percussion feature, because I’m a percussionist.”

He has been writing the show since June 2014, and finished at the end of February 2015.

“I use a free music software called MuseScore, and it uses MIDI, which means you put in notes on a musical staff, and the software plays it like it’s on that instrument. It’s difficult to use at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can work quickly,” he said.

Eventually, Schrieber wants to sell his show, because West’s 2015 marching band show was selected before Nightmares was finished.

“I was hoping that the school would be able to use it, but I doubt that’s going to be a possibility, so now I’m trying to sell it to other schools that like it,” he said.

This show is a culmination of years of composition.

“I started composing when I was nine. I would write simple, four-chord songs and put lyrics to it. They were horrible,” Schrieber said. “I started with stereotypical nine-year-old-with-a-guitar distorted music, but as it progressed, I started to develop skills on guitar and the complicated music stood out because it was more fun for me to play. I would start fiddling around with five chords instead of four, just studying music theory and applying it to writing.”

Schrieber wrote and recorded a hard rock album called Reflections in 2013, and has written a marching band show before. In addition, he has smaller compositions for all sorts of instruments and groups.

“My favorite kind of things to write are small ensemble pieces, for four or five people, because those are easier to put together and you don’t have to worry about having a giant idea and spending an hour on two measures,” he said.

Schrieber plays guitar, drum set, bass, percussion, some piano and sings. He’s currently involved in several musical ensembles.

“I am involved in Cosmic Latte, which is West’s jazz band, marching band and playing at church, which mostly involves filling in for people on all sorts of instruments,” he said.

Looking ahead, Schrieber has a large compositional agenda.

“I’m taking Mr. Pyatt’s advice, and I’m going to start writing easier music for other schools, since we have a good music program here, and I’m writing complicated music. Easy shows sell better, so I’m going to write those,” Schrieber said. “I’m probably going to come out with another album, I’m going to write music for Cosmic Latte and I’m going to try to write more concert band things that are less percussion-oriented.”

As for the future, Schrieber is still debating having a career in music.

“I’m split between making music a hobby and a career, but I’m considering double majoring in education and business of some sort so that I can get myself started with business and maybe become a music teacher later, and write some pieces on the side to hopefully make more money,” Schrieber said. “There are too many holes in composing to make it a career.”