When Olentangy students hear the word composer, they too often think of a long-dead European in a powdered wig.

When Olentangy students hear the word composer, they too often think of a long-dead European in a powdered wig.

That's the opinion of Aaron Given, a music instructor at Olentangy Hyatts and Liberty middle schools, who hopes a new project will change that.

Given has commissioned a piece for his bands from Scott McAllister, a composer and professor of composition at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. McAllister will answer questions and get ideas from the middle school students during the composition process through online video chats.

Given said he wanted to give his students an inside look at the creative process of a renowned professional.

"I've always been someone who wants to get kids interested not just in the music that they play, but in music (itself)," he said.

Given said he was at a workshop in Indiana last year at which McAllister presented. When McAllister revealed he always wanted to collaborate with middle school music students on a composition, Given jumped at the chance.

McAllister said he's thrilled to give a young group of students a glimpse into the world of a working composer.

"You always think of composers as being dead and gone," he said.

McAllister already has completed a rough draft of the composition, which he calls Images. He compared listening to the composition to the experience of looking at clouds with a friend and seeing very different things.

He said part of the fun of the composition was discussing what the students saw in their heads when they heard the piece.

"I was interested in seeing what kind of imagery they would come up with," he said.

The students will communicate with the composer through a Facebook page and YouTube videos, although McAllister already is wondering if that's too old-fashioned.

"That generation, they don't even look at Facebook," he said. "Facebook's for old people like me."

Given said he's thrilled to give his students a chance to interact with a well-known composer who creates playful and thoughtful pieces.

"(McAllister) writes music that's very energetic," he said. "He writes music that kind of has a wink (at pop culture) to it."

The most difficult part of the collaboration, McAllister said, is creating a piece that's simple enough for young students to perform, yet of high quality.

"It's a really big challenge to write a decent piece for a young group," he said.

The students will play the piece at a concert at Liberty High School in March. McAllister, who will teach a composition course for younger students at the schools in the spring, will be on hand to give notes to the young musicians during rehearsals.

The cost of the commission and McAllister's residency has been funded in large part through donations from the Liberty Music Boosters Association and the PTOs at both schools.

McAllister said he looks forward to the residency, noting he considered becoming a middle school or high school band director earlier in his career.

"This is kind of my way of diving into that world," he said.