Woodstock High School graduate composes song to be performed by students Thursday

Alex Riak works as a professional composer in Los Angeles

Woodstock High School senior Aaron Lush talks with graduate Alex Riak on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, during a rehearsal for the school's “Across the Universe” concert. Riak, who graduated in 2014 and now works as a professional composer in Los Angeles, created a piece titled “Unknown” for the concert.

People who attend the Woodstock High School concert Thursday will hear a piece called “Unknown.”

Perhaps uniquely among the compositions, the writer is a Woodstock High School music graduate, Alex Riak.

Riak, who now works as a professional composer in Los Angeles, said the high school music staff reached out to him in February about writing a piece for the concert.

In his day-to-day work, he said, he’s working on music for animated TV series such as “Family Guy” and “American Dad,” among other projects.

“I’m very happy where I am,” Riak said.

The concert’s theme of “Across the Universe” inspired the composition, and Riak said the idea of humans still exploring stood out as “inspirational.”

Riak, who graduated from Woodstock High School in 2014, according to a District 200 news release, said he wrote the music and lyrics to the song simultaneously, which he said took him a while to come up with.

“I’m very bad at coming up with lyrics,” Riak said.

Riak said he wanted to give the students “something fun and challenging.”

He said he sent the piece to the high school in early November, and the music students have been practicing the piece since then.

He said he hasn’t been involved with the rehearsing or giving feedback, and is looking forward to hearing the performance. He is scheduled to attend the students’ rehearsal Thursday morning and the concert later that day.

“I’m sure they’ll be great,” Riak said.

Riak began composing in high school. He said he wrote two pieces, “Dream,” which went on to win an award at the Illinois Music Education Association state competition, and a second piece, “Whisper,” which he said was “in memoriam of school shootings.”

He said this is the first time the band, choir and orchestra will be performing his compositions together.

“I think it’s excellent,” Riak said. “It’s collaboration at the highest level.”

The concert takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday at the high school, 501 W. South St.