FOR one of Britain's leading composers, music is a fundamental form of expression which should be nurtured in schools rather than glossed over in favour of more factual subjects.
And in tribute to Whitgift School, where he was a music scholar in the early 1990s, Tarik O'Regan has turned his acclaimed opera of Conrad's Heart Of Darkness into an orchestral piece to be performed by the school pupils and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
"The idea here was to turn the opera into a new piece that could be performed by my old school's orchestra," he said.
"In no way was it downgraded for the pupils – the suite is at a professional standard.
"Young musicians often want to get better but the harder material is just beyond their grasp. This piece will show them that, if you try hard enough, it is possible and they will really have achieved something. The aim of a composer is to give birth to a creation and watch it grow. They will be part of the creation."
The 35-year-old composer, who grew up in Selsdon while he attended Whitgift, has been nominated for two Grammys and received two British Composer Awards.
He first read Heart of Darkness when he was at school.
"I think there is a danger that music in schools is being given less importance," he said. "However, music is a part of our cultural expression, who we are, and it is also a form of innovation.
"Repressing innovation means it will have a negative impact on other types of innovation like engineering and technical advances which we do think of as important."
Phil Winter, the school's director of orchestral music, was a teacher when Tarik was a young pupil at Whitgift.
"I remember him very well. Even then he stood out. It's a huge compliment that he has written this for us. He's just the same – people really look up to him and want to work with him."
The orchestra's leader, sixth former Sean Dunn, said it was amazing to work with the composer and RPO professionals.
Whitgift will host the première of Fragments From A Heart Of Darkness on Tuesday at 7.30pm.