Budding Beethoven

Like most 14-year-olds, Andrew Linford likes music. But instead of Usher and Jay-Z, his musical heroes have names like Sibelius and Mozart.

Linford is a composer, with more than 20 completed solo keyboard, orchestral and small chamber pieces in his growing catalogue. Several have been performed in concert settings already, and a couple more will receive their world premieres this month.

As if that weren’t enough, the San Francisco teen also has moderate to severe hearing loss, and wears hearing aids in both ears.

But that’s where the Beethoven comparisons end. Unlike the classical titan, there is no angst about Linford, no shaking of the fist towards the heavens. He shrugs off his hearing loss, and when not composing or attending Lowell High School, he’s hanging out with friends or playing with his Game Cube.

Or, on Friday nights, celebrating Shabbat with his family. Linford’s mother, Ilana Bar-David, is Jewish, as is his stepfather, Tsvi Bar-David, who is currently studying to become a rabbi through the Aleph Jewish Renewal distance learning program.

Considering his mother is a professional harpsichordist and music professor at Stanford, it’s no surprise Linford would have taken to music, too. Though perhaps not instantaneously.

“I hated going to my mother’s concerts,” Linford says of his preteen years. “By then, I’d heard the music 20 times.”

But the exposure paid off. Linford studied piano and, later, cello, which he still plays. An interest in composing emerged suddenly last summer after returning from Cazadero Music Camp in Sonoma County. He has since written numerous short pieces for various combinations of instruments.

His orchestral work “Hunter” will be performed later this month at Presidio Middle School, while a piece for violin, cello and piano, written as part of the American Composer’s Forum composition seminar, will be performed Sunday, May 30, at Noe Valley Ministry.

Linford currently attends the San Francisco Conservatory of Music college preparatory program, studying cello, composition and musicianship.

As for his place in the Jewish world, he keeps kosher with his family and appreciates being part of the Jewish community (he visited Israel four years ago). But the still-young Linford isn’t too keen on the religious life right now. “I find it sort of dumb,” he remarks.

Like many artists, Linford is somewhat reluctant to describe his own work. “My pieces are not that melodic,” he offers. “I concentrate on the background.”

His proud mother, who sometimes can’t help serving as press agent and critic, elaborates: “His earlier compositions, with their motivic, rhythmic and contrapuntal elements, are imbued with a baroque spirit. His newer pieces — with hints of Copland and Sibelius — evidence an expansion of musical styles.”

Asked if he thinks he has a style, Linford says with a mischievous grin, “Not yet.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.