Modern Day Mozart - And He's Just a Teen
By Janine R. Love / November, December 2012
Paul Mortilla, 16, of Coral Springs, just may be the next Amadeus Mozart. This young achiever, who plays and writes his own music, recently placed third in the Pikes Peak Young Composers' Competition in Colorado, where competitors come from all over the world.
This inspired musician plays violin, cello, viola and piano. What he loves most is the violin, which he learned to play at age seven. Now, he practices the instrument three to four hours each day. He also spends the same amount of time daily writing music. "I found my passion," says Mortilla. "When I write, it just flows...if it doesn't sound right, I just delete it and start over."
Mortilla attends Westminster Academy and will enter eleventh grade this fall. His teacher, David Schwartz, has observed Mortilla in the school orchestra, since he was in fifth grade. He began writing music in the sixth grade. Schwartz says, "Paul is one of the most all-around, naturally gifted musicians I have ever taught."
It was Schwartz who introduced Mortilla to Dr. Thorn Sleeper, the orchestra director at the University of Miami (UM), who would consult with the young man on his progress.
Dr. Sleeper then forwarded a sample of Mortilla's work to theory professor Dr. Scott Stinson, also of UM. He consults with Mortilla twice a month and reviews his work.
Dr. Stinson says of Mortilla, "When Paul, at age 14, first came to study composition with me, he was very much a child prodigy in the truest sense of the word. He would compose full string quartets in his head and bring me the four parts written out, without having needed to copy out the full score first...Only someone hearing music and working at a Mozartean level could manage this...It has been both a great joy and a challenge to teach Paul ever since. (It's) a challenge because I have yet to see his limits, but still I am cautious to avoid having him work too strictly in one particular style."
Mortilla also plays the violin in the Florida Youth Orchestra as one of the first section performers. Myra Weaver, president of FYO, proudly says, "Paul is an extraordinary talent...he's performing professional music, far beyond what would be considered student repertoire. He has a wonderful, generous nature, and is always willing to serve the community through our many outreach programs. Paul is, in every way, a really, really great kid."
His father, Paul Mortilla Senior, is a retired firefighter with his own background in music. He played several instruments while growing up. "I tried to expose Paul to many different styles of music and instruments at a very young age...but he was never pushed to play at all," says the proud father.
Along with his musical achievements, Mortilla is an outstanding student. He is in the National Honors Society. He serves on the student council at school and sings in the honors choir. In his spare time, he is learning Russian. Already looking ahead, he is thinking about where to further his education. Princeton and the University of Indiana are possibilities, with music definitely his major.
Asked what gives him the drive to stay so focused on his studies and musical devotion, Mortilla said, "I often ask myself that question, especially when things can be slow or challenging, and each time I come to that place, I reach the same conclusion -- nothing can compare to the motivation that is inspired by my faith."
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