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But, much to his surprise, his three and a-half minute piece, Midnight in the Woods, has been selected to be performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and recorded for Radio New Zealand later this year.
''I wanted to try out [on a larger piece], some techniques that we'd been taught last year ...
''It touches on avant-garde so it's not everybody's cup of tea.
''I didn't expect it to be picked up by the NZSO. It's very exciting.''
The 20-year-old University of Otago composition student and former Bayfield High School pupil is one of nine young composers from around the country who have been selected as finalists for the Todd Corporation Young Composers Award.
They will gather in Wellington on December 2, to be mentored by, and work with, esteemed New Zealand composer Victoria Kelly.
Each participant will also have their composition workshopped, rehearsed, and performed by New Zealand's full-size, professional orchestra, and recorded by Radio New Zealand Concert.
At the conclusion, one of the composers will be awarded a cash prize of $750 and named the Todd Corporation Young Composer of the Year.
The award will be judged by a panel of established New Zealand musicians, including former Dunedin conductor Tecwyn Evans.
Mr van Betew said winning the award would be a bonus because the real reward was having his work performed by the NZSO.
''Any composer is very lucky to have their work performed by the NZSO. It's one of the best orchestras in the world.''