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COMPOSER A BORN LEADER LENNON LEPPERT, 17, DEBUTS WITH ORCHESTRA.

Byline: Eric Leach Staff Writer

THOUSAND OAKS - It may have been his first time conducting, but when Lennon Leppert finished the first movement of his seven-movement suite - a piece inspired by Ventura County's rolling hills - the audience at the Civic Arts Center rose to its feet.

Although the 17-year-old has already written music for television and had his work performed elsewhere in the Los Angeles area, his performance last week was his first time leading the Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra.

``The audience responded wonderfully. They truly appreciated it,'' said Bill Benson, director of the Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra, which includes nearly 300 students from throughout Ventura County.

Leppert, named after his parents' musical hero John Lennon, started playing the piano when he was 3 years old and was home-schooled.

``I've given him only 10 lessons in conducting,'' said Benson. ``He's a rare talent with an exceptional sophistication and ability in both composing and orchestrating at such a young age.

``When I first heard his piece, in my mind I thought of the rural landscapes of Ventura County, and when I asked, he said he came up with the music driving around through the Tierra Rejada and Simi valleys. He's really been able to put a musical idea on paper and convey it.''

Leppert calls the music he wrote and conducted ``Die Himmel im Tag,'' the first movement from his composition ``Die Himmel Zimmerflucht.''

The full suite represents the passage of a 24-hour day, ``Die Himmel im Tag'' represents dawn to early afternoon.

The 17-year-old Thousand Oaks resident said he wants to follow in the footsteps of John Williams and become a film composer as well as doing independent composing.

``John Williams is my idol. The first movie that made me want to become a film composer was 'The Mighty Ducks.' There was this part in the score that was so perfect, I just fell in love with the Hollywood sound.

``Most of my stuff has that kind of style. John Williams basically took over. I saw 'Star Wars' and 'ET' and '`Raiders of the Lost Ark.'

He said although he likes writing for film, he prefers composing his own music.

``When I'm writing for film I have to look at it through the director's eyes. When I am composing my own works, I can go anywhere I want. It's more of a personal goal.''

He said home schooling has given him the opportunity to work on music.

``I'm not sure where I got my orchestrational sense. I taught myself orchestration, without even knowing it,'' he said.

At about three years old, Leppert taught himself to play songs on the piano by ear, said his mother, Mary.

Noticing his talent, she enrolled him in violin classes, then in choir.

He began studying drums at 10, and trumpet at 14, and learned to play the cello about three years ago.

Two of Leppert's previous compositions - ``Concertino #1 for Chamber Orchestra'' and ``The Gifts of the Maji'' - have been performed in concert by the Pepperdine University Summer Strings Orchestra and the Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra with the Los Robles Children's Choir.

His mother and father, Michael, home-schooled Leppert and together the family publishes The Link, a national home school newspaper.

His father, who plays the guitar and composes, comes from a musical family.

``Long before Lennon was ever born, my husband was playing him songs, putting his guitar at my stomach,'' Mary Leppert said.

``We took Lennon in the studio with us making sound demos from the time he was very little. We sat around all the time doing demos and my husband playing songs.

``One day when he was three he walked over to a keyboard and played Bonnie Raitt's '(Let's Give Them) Something to Talk About.'

``His whole life is music, it's all he cares about,'' his mother said. ``If we weren't home-schoolers, he wouldn't have hours and hours and hours composing music.''

Michael Leppert said he started playing guitar when he was 9, his father was a piano player, his uncle a drummer for the Mills Brothers and his grandfather a band leader, so he wasn't surprised when Lennon showed an early interest in music.

``I totally expected it. If there is anything such as a genetic disposition to music, I expected Lennon to be a musical person. He demonstrated his ability to compose when he was around 7 or 8.

``As soon as he saw 'Star Wars' and heard the music he was completely blown away, and really wanted to be a film composer.

``He watched it over and over, the first time to see the movie, and after that because of the music.

``He learned orchestration listening to sound tracks. None of us realized he was learning orchestration, but that is what he was doing. I'm really surprised at his knowledge of how to blend instruments.''

Donna Young, a piano and voice teacher who is director of the Los Robles Children's Choir, has given Lennon training in piano, music theory and singing since he was eight.

``I thought his concert was wonderful,'' she said of his conducting debut. ``Lennon has a gift for melody, and a love especially for percussion. I thought the piece was more mature sounding than anyone would expect for someone so young.''

The 17-year-old wants to bypass college and go straight into the music industry. He has already worked in the television industry editing music and writing music cues for shows including ``A Personal Story'' and ``Iceman,'' and the CD-ROM ``Antietam Expedition Guide'' from the History Channel.

Eric Leach, (805) 583-7602

eric.leach(at)dailynews.com

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Lennon Leppert, 17, of Thousand Oaks started playing the piano when he was three years old. He wants to compose film scores and individual compositions.

Jeffrey Paul Oakar/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 6, 2005
Words:969
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