Music News & Reviews

Nipomo 20-year-old teams with former Yes singer to compose orchestra score

Andrew Rubin of Nipomo will perform a classical composition that he wrote with former Yes frontman Jon Anderson at the San Luis Chamber Orchestra’s fall concert on Sunday.
Andrew Rubin of Nipomo will perform a classical composition that he wrote with former Yes frontman Jon Anderson at the San Luis Chamber Orchestra’s fall concert on Sunday. Courtesy photo

Andrew Rubin is exceedingly ambitious, and what’s more, he has the follow-through to match — compose a full orchestra score at the age of 20, anyone?

Rubin joined mentor Jon Anderson, former frontman for progressive rock band Yes, to compose “Guitar Concerto,” an eight-minute piece that will be performed at the San Luis Chamber Orchestra’s fall concert Sunday.

Anderson took Rubin, son of local “Rubes” cartoonist Leigh Rubin, under his wing after the two were introduced by a mutual friend at a Nipomo High School show seven years ago when Rubin was 13. “You look like a musician,” Anderson told Rubin, and offered to look over songs he was working on.

They kept in contact over the years and often worked together as Anderson encouraged Rubin to experiment with different styles and genres of music.

Rubin, who initially focused on rock music, sent Anderson a video of himself playing “Classical Gas,” by Mason Williams when he was around 16. Anderson suggested they collaborate to write a classical piece and the two met regularly to sketch out the composition on two guitars. Rubin said he often wrote sections independently and sent them to Anderson for feedback.

Rubin cited Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” Jean Sibelius and Frank Zappa as influences while composing the piece.

Rubin said he began to imagine an orchestra playing behind the guitar piece, and he gradually began adding parts as he wrote accompanying pieces for the string section on his keyboard with composition software.

He and Anderson submitted the piece to an orchestra. When nothing came of it they left the composition on the shelf and turned to other musical pursuits.

For Rubin, that meant spending time with his rock band, The Spaces Between. After the band’s split in March 2015, Rubin said he was unsure of what to do next. Searching for his musical identity when he revisited old takes, he found the classical composition that he and Anderson wrote.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool, whatever happened to this?’” Rubin recalled. He spent several weeks reworking the composition to score it for a full orchestra.

“I locked myself in my garage,” he said. “I just didn’t want to leave, and I got so absorbed in what I was doing, and I got so excited about it. I was spending eight hours a day on the score because it was so fun.”

By chance, Rubin ran into Bob Liepman, president of the San Luis Chamber Orchestra, and proposed the idea of performing the composition with the orchestra.

Rubin will be joining the chamber orchestra performance Sunday and, while Anderson is unable to attend because he’s on tour with his group, The Anderson Ponty Band, he’ll be there in spirit. Rubin will be playing a Brazilian rosewood nylon string classical guitar that Anderson loaned him for the occasion.

Shadowlands also will make an appearance at the concert; the local “ethereal folk-pop” band will perform “Ordinary Magic” and “Restless Mind” with the orchestra.

Mark Davis, Karoline Hausted, Bob and Wendy Liepman — also known as the SLO folk duo Bob & Wendy — created Shadowlands two and a half years ago.

Bob Liepman said he hopes Rubin will help draw more young people to the concert.

“We want to introduce new audiences to the chamber orchestra,” he said. “If you always do (the same thing), you’ll get the same crowd.”

The San Luis Chamber Orchestra will also be performing “Outdoor Overture” by Aaron Copland and “Symphony No. 1” by Robert Schumann.

San Luis Chamber Orchestra

3 p.m. Sunday

Trinity United Methodist Church, 490 Los Osos Valley Road, Los Osos

A $10 donation is requested.

People are encouraged to show up at least an hour early as the event is expected to fill up quickly.