The University Record, March 4, 2002

Ten year old musician’s CD marked by individuality

By Emily Hebert
Record Intern

The ‘Song of Hope’ CD cover with Moss and the U.S. flag
At an age when most kids only have a library card, 10-year-old Ansted Moss has an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers card to add to his wallet. Ansted also has recorded, produced and distributed his own CD. Titled “Song of Hope,” the CD single was released in response to Sept. 11. “I didn’t want to say what everyone else was saying—I didn’t want to just ask ‘why,’ ” Ansted says. “I wanted to take action.” “Song of Hope” generated $1,000, every cent of which Ansted has donated to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Nicola Rooney, owner of Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, provided the outlet that Ansted needed to sell “Song of Hope.” Calling Ansted’s situation a “special case,” Rooney did not take any profit from sales of Ansted’s CD. Rooney says she was so impressed by his initiative, she felt that the least she could do was help. “Ansted is a very mature young man and very friendly,” Rooney recalls. “He was not pushy in any way, but was quietly self-assured when he asked me if I would sell ‘Song of Hope.’ ”

Ansted wants his message of hope to extend beyond Nicola’s Books. According to his mother, Thylias Moss, award-winning poet and professor of English, Ansted would like to travel to New York City and Washington, D.C., this summer. “He intends to distribute his CD to children there who need hope,” Thylias says. “That is what he’d like—to give away as many as he can, free.”

Although Thylias supports her son’s musical endeavors, she is careful not to take credit for his efforts. “I like him to speak for himself and represent himself,” she says. In fact, while Ansted composed and recorded “Song of Hope” at Break In Studios in Ypsilanti, Thylias insists that she was a silent observer and did not interfere with the creative process. “Ansted has expressed concern about being original,” she says. “He doesn’t like taking advice or else there’s a question of who created it.”

Donn Bialik, a former student of Thylias’ and co-owner of Break In Studios, worked closely with Ansted on “Song of Hope” and observed Ansted’s individuality first-hand. “His natural inclination was to ignore suggestions that I made to him,” Bialik recollects. “This was probably because Thylias has taught him to go with his gut, to do what he wants to do with his music.”

Bialik suggested that the drum beat for “Song of Hope” be more regular, but Ansted had other ideas in mind. “I didn’t want the rhythm to be a steady march, because hope is imperfect,” explains Ansted. “When people are marching they might stumble but they’re trying, so there’s hope.”

Ansted also wrote “Poem of Hope,” which he recites on a bonus track of the CD. He’s been writing ever since he was two years old, when he scribbled on pieces of notebook paper and then “read” aloud to his mother. Since his first piece, “Ideas of an Airplane” (1993), Ansted has written a variety of short stories and poems, one of which he read at the Library of Congress last year, alongside the poetry readings of his mother.

Reciting his poem “Katydids Cross the Sky” at the Library of Congress was not Ansted’s first public performance. A student at Emerson School in Ann Arbor, Ansted also is a member of a jazz group at the Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts. Often playing solos on the keyboard, Ansted has performed with his jazz group at the Bird of Paradise Club and Firefly Club.

As far as future professions are concerned, Ansted is keeping his options open. He already has a head start on an architecture career, having attended a three-week architecture camp last summer at Northwestern University. In addition to his Sony Playstation, Ansted plays with an architectural computer software program that designs buildings.

A degree in mechanical engineering is another possibility. A regular attendee of the Detroit Auto Show, Ansted calls himself a “European person” and launches into a mock sales pitch for Porsche. “If you’re looking for a car in the $30,000 range—$50,000 to $43,000 with options—I recommend the Porsche Boxter for two,” he advises. “But it has the Porsche styling with the speed of a Buick.” Instead, Ansted recommends the Porsche 911 Turbo, a car in the $110,000 price range.

Despite his multiple interests and talents, Ansted says he doesn’t think of himself as gifted. “I just try to compose music and have fun,” he says.

“The word gifted is used all the time,” Thylias Moss says. “But there is no such thing as greatness.” Instead, Moss believes that a person can perform his or her best, given the limit of his or her abilities. “Your abilities change and your limits change, but there’s always that limit.”

As for Ansted, he continues to test and exceed his own limits. Besides the piano and keyboard, he also plays the vibraphone and percussion. “I also used to play the violin,” he says. “But I decided it was too limited because it only had five strings.”

Poem of Hope

By Ansted Moss

People running everywhere
as the gargantuan cloud of smoke
filled the streets;
marine life and oceans awaited
the sixth grade students in one of the planes,
instead, a fiery closing–
but hope is still there
as firefighters and police officers stay
and try to continue even in the night
because hope is still there,
stars are still there

and flowers and trees stand in the day
making the flag in nature.
The smoke rises like bread in Manhattan ovens
and above the Pentagon
then spreads
looking like overlapping doves,
looking like overlapping memories
and expanding hope.