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Child prodigy plays alongside Performance Santa Fe Orchestra

Pianist and composer 13-year-old Emily Bear will appear with the Performance Santa Fe Orchestra on Christmas Eve.

Pianist and composer 13-year-old Emily Bear will appear with the Performance Santa Fe Orchestra on Christmas Eve.

SANTA FE, N.M. — At first blush, Emily Bear may seem like an ordinary home-schooled 13-year-old.

But a second look will tell you that Emily is an extraordinary and gifted girl. That’s because she squeezes more than eighth-grade textbooks in her studies at her family’s home in Rockford, Ill.

Emily makes time to practice piano, to write and arrange compositions, and to compose film scores.

And she gets out of the house … to perform at far-flung concerts. She will lead her trio – yes, her trio – at The Iridium jazz club in New York City next month.

“The chemistry is really great,” Emily said in a phone interview. “When we all play together it sounds like one person.”

But before that gig, Emily will be the guest pianist with the Performance Santa Fe Orchestra at a Christmas Eve concert at Santa Fe’s Lensic Performing Arts Center.

“I love traveling and playing concerts. It’s really fun to do,” Emily said.

She and the orchestra will perform George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Her mother, Andrea Bear, said Emily thinks of it as “her dream piece” because it combines jazz and classical music.

For the same concert, Emily has composed a new piece, “Les Voyages,” and has written an orchestration and expansion of her work “Northern Lights.”

The original piano version of “Northern Lights,” which is on her “Diversity” CD, won an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Competition Award when she was 6 years old.

Andrea Bear said one of the highlights of her daughter’s musical life was playing with the orchestra in Santa Fe two years ago. That concert saw the premiere of Emily’s piece “Santa Fe.”

“It takes a lot of courage and faith in the conductor and for Emily to work together to bring new works to life,” she said. “Joe Illick and his orchestra are phenomenal.”

Andrea Bear has said that when Emily was a baby she would sing back lullabies in perfect pitch; at 18 months she experimented at the piano; at age 3 she composed substantial pieces; and as a 4-year-old Hal Leonard, a major music publishing company, began publishing her compositions.

Quincy Jones, one of the nation’s preeminent record producers, is Emily’s mentor and the producer of the “Diversity” album. Jones was quoted as saying that he is “at once astounded and inspired by the enormous talent Emily embodies… She plays like she’s 40 years old. She is the complete 360-degree package, and there are no limits to the musical heights she can reach.”

At the same Christmas Eve concert, Emily and the orchestra will play two jazz standards and her arrangement of a Christmas medley. In addition, the orchestra will perform Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.