2021 Brevard Music Center Competition Winner, Trevor Zavac

Trevor Zavac’s new work premiered by conductor Keith Lockhart and the Brevard Music Center Orchestra

The Brevard Music Center Summer Institute and Festival offers programs for instrumentalists, composers and singers aged 14-29. Under the artistic direction of Keith Lockhart – Conductor of the Boston Pops and former Principal Conductor of the BBC London Concert Orchestra – Brevard Music Center welcomes more than 500 students each summer to study with a distinguished faculty of over 80 artists. Applications for 2023 are now open!

Each year the institute and festival host a Composition Competition in which the winner will receive a full scholarship to attend Brevard the following summer. Their piece will then be premiered with the Brevard Music Center Orchestra in the Soloists of Tomorrow concert.

The winner of the 2021 composition competition was a composer and French horn player, Trevor Zavac. Below, conductor Keith Lockhart leads the Brevard Music Center Orchestra in a premiere performance by Trevor Zavac convulsions:

A graduate of Noblesville High School in Noblesville, IN, Zavac has since studied horn with Dr. Gail Lewis, Richard Seraphinoff, and Thomas Jöstlein; and composition with Dr. Michael Schelle, Dr. PQ Phan, and Dr. David Dzubay. He currently attends Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where he is pursuing both a Bachelor of Music in Horn Performance and a Bachelor of Music in Composition.

Zavac’s music has been performed by numerous chamber groups and large ensembles at Brevard Music Center, Butler University, and Indiana University; including the Butler University New Music Ensemble, the Brevard Music Center New Music Ensemble, and the Brevard Music Center Orchestra, among others.

Violin Channel had the chance to speak with Trevor Zavac about his work and time in Brevard…

What was your inspiration behind the piece?

Well, that’s actually kind of silly. The track is titled “Convulsions” only because I decided on a more serious, compelling title – it’s actually inspired by the hiccups. I had them one day and thought how the act of hiccups really isn’t that bad; the thing that makes hiccups so awful is that you have no idea when the next one is going to happen. I immediately thought of the Harbingers of Spring from The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. I know this piece so well, but I almost always put at least one of the accents in the wrong place when I sing along. Then I thought it would be fun to write a piece that relies on comprehensible rhythmic and melodic motifs that constantly defy expectations.

What do you hope listeners take away with them after hearing it?

A smile. If the listeners leave smiling and maybe humming one of the motifs to themselves, then I’ve succeeded. The track is a fast, hard and sharp ride with tons of unexpected twists and turns. It’s true that the surface of the piece is very serious and urgent, especially the title, but that just makes it all the more fun, at least for me. After all, this is an orchestral concert piece inspired by Hiccup – it would be worrying for a listener to leave in tears.

What was your compositional process like while working on this project?

Staying in line with the programmatic element of the piece (convulsions/hiccups), I knew I wanted to create a piece that explored quick, unexpected juxtapositions between different rhythmic channels and melodic ideas. The first notes I wrote were the first notes you hear. In a short score (piano only) I developed this idea of ​​five notes mostly by transposing and repeating several notes at once, then layered it on different channels while orchestrating in a full score. For the middle section I created a polyrhythmic texture that could be felt in parts of 2, 3 or 4. In 6/8 meter we hear groups of 2 (the bass voices), 3 (the clarinet solo) and 4 (doubles in violas, cellos and dulcimer). After setting up this groove, I intuitively selected a few bars to insert a break or replace it with alternate grooves in the percussion or woodwinds.

How did it feel to hear the piece performed in Brevard last summer?

It was amazing! Firstly, I’m very honored when someone asks to play my music, the fact that an ensemble of this size and virtuosity wants it is very humbling indeed. Second, music is one of the few art forms that is created twice: The composer must first invent the music, then pass it on to the performer, who interprets it and passes it on to the audience. So much changes from the moment the idea is in the composer’s head to the moment it finally reaches the audience—it’s truly magical to sit back and hear it performed. It was such a privilege to see Maestro Lockhart and the orchestra take my ideas and make them their own, imbuing the piece with life and energy that turned this little tune that only existed in my head (and some bad MIDI implementations) into a real one. live piece of music.

The winner of the 2022 Brevard Composition Competition is Jaylin Vinsonwhose work Scissor-Tailed will premiere at the Brevard Music Center on July 30, 2023.

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