Who: The Northern Virginia Community College-Annandale Symphony Orchestra What: "Classic Gems and a World Premiere" When: 8 p.m. tomorrow Where: Ernst Community Cultural Center, Annandale
Thursday, April 17, 2008; Page VA26
Percussionist Philip Quy Mai, 18, composed "21" as a tribute to Sean Taylor, a Washington Redskins player who died in November. (By Jill Capistrant)
In addition to works by Beethoven, Schubert, Khachaturian, Sibelius and Bizet, tomorrow night's concert by the NVCC-Annandale Symphony Orchestra will feature the world premiere of a young Fairfax composer who presents an unusual intersection of orchestral music and professional sports fandom.
"21" is the work of composer Philip Quy Mai, 18, who created the piece to celebrate the life of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who died in November after he was shot in his Miami home during a botched robbery.
Mai, a student at the college, a percussionist with the orchestra, an employee at the Washington Redskins Official Store at Fair Oaks Mall and a self-described Washington sports fanatic, said that Taylor's death saddened him and that he was disturbed by insensitive public speculation about it in the days that followed.
In the fall, Mai was at the apex of his veneration for the Redskins, his work at the team's store fueling his enthusiasm for all things burgundy and gold. "I felt more attached to the Redskins than in past years," he said in a telephone interview. Mai said he was reading sports blogs every day and was enjoying working at FedEx Field selling team merchandise during Redskins' home games.
When news of Taylor's death came, he said, "I was really sad. I thought it was just a tragic event. I couldn't believe it could happen to someone like Sean Taylor and the negative things people were saying."
Mai, a graduate of Westfield High School, also studied at the Fairfax Academy for Communications and Arts under NVCC orchestra conductor Christopher Johnston. Mai began writing the music for what would be "21" -- Taylor's jersey number -- shortly after the football star died.
"Originally, I was just writing to write. It wasn't intentional that I would write it for him," Mai said. But as the music came together with Johnston's encouragement, Mai said his memories of Taylor seemed to influence his work. "There are parts of ["21"] that are really rhythmic," Mai said. To him, it evokes a team marching or running toward a goal.
Loud percussive accents in the piece "represent [Taylor's] signature hits on the field," Mai said. The five-minute composition concludes with what Mai described as "a heroic theme."
Mai said that he has not brought the music to the attention of anyone in the Redskins organization. "My hope is just to be able to share it with the fans," he said. "I hope that people will continue listening to it and that it will be refined."