CHADRON – For the first time in recent history, the music department presented an entire program of pieces composed by Chadron State College faculty and students. The concert, performed in April, featured three pieces written by Zach Banzhaf of Chadron, one by Curtis Stevens of St. Paul, Nebraska, and one by music faculty member Dr. Michael Stephens.
The performers included Forrest Holso, baritone saxophone, Zachary Henderson, vocalist, Aydin Mack, trumpet, Drew Kasch, tenor saxophone and Dr. Sandy Schaefer, marimba. Bobby Pace, pianist, accompanied four of the five numbers.
Stephens, who has two advanced degrees related to composing, initiated the elective private instruction course when he joined the faculty in 2007. The high tide of student composers came in the past few years as Zach Banzhaf and Stevens began composing works ready for performance, according to Stephens.
“I have enjoyed teaching both Zach and Curtis immensely. Both of them dedicated themselves to finding the time to compose which led to the creation of several pieces, only some of which were performed on this program,” Stephens said.
Banzhaf said although the concert didn’t include any premieres, he was pleased with the performances.
“These were some of the best (performances) I’ve heard,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoy having my classmates play my pieces. I knew they would work hard to accomplish something great. I know that they will always perform with quality,” Banzhaf said.
Kasch said Banzhaf’s composition provided an easy-to-follow roadmap.
“The composer dredges out the rough shape and mold for the sculpture. The musicians working with the composer give the sculpture detail,” Kasch said.
Banzhaf said although he enjoys collaboration, he believes performers will accurately interpret his work without intervention by him.
“If my music becomes more sought after in the future, I cannot be at every rehearsal. I just trust my performers. I have faith that they will be ready for their performance,” said Banzhaf, who plans topursue a master’s degree in music composition.
In addition to the dynamics between musicians and the composer, interactions among the performers can also add to the piece.
Kasch said he approached the performance of Banzhaf’s “Sleep Snippets,” with Pace as a duet instead of an accompanied solo.
“The synergy that exists between myself and Mr. Pace is one that has been built over a long period of time. Performing music literally is a language and it takes time to learn how the other performer speaks or articulates,” Kasch said.
Aydin Mack, a music performance major for trumpet, performed Stevens’ “Elements” with Pace and also commented on skills required in a duet.
“Mr. Pace is amazing at picking up subtle differences from the written work and what our interpretations are. A big part of the work between Mr. Pace and I is simply listening,” Mack said.
Stevens said the best part of hearing the performance of a piece he’s composed is that the music is finally brought to life.
“I use a music software program to compose so I can hear it played by a computer as I work on it. However, that never compares to a live performance. After all, music is meant to be performed and heard by people. Performers add so much depth to the music, and their own interpretation makes each performance unique,” Stevens said.
The only vocal number of the concert, “I Will Sing” by Banzhaf, was performed by Henderson and Pace. Pace acknowledged the additional complexity of writing for vocals, praising Banzhaf for trying new things and stretching his skills.
“Composing music with words brings a whole other dimension to the process. This is a difficult genre I see many composers shy away from because of discomfort or difficulty,” Pace said.
Henderson said he originally asked Banzhaf to compose “I Will Sing” for his senior recital last year.
“I think the story surrounding that song is pretty neat. His wife Nicky wrote the lyrics and Zach wrote the music. It was awesome to put their creative minds together and I was so honored to perform a piece that could demonstrate what an amazing, creative, power couple they are,” Henderson said.
In addition to showcasing student compositions, the concert provided the chance for Stephens, to perform, for thefirst time, a contemporary-classical original with a colleague.
“When I knew Sandy was retiring, I talked to him about performing a piece together. I decided to write ‘Echoes in Time’ for us to play on this concert. It was wonderful to have this opportunity to collaborate one more time before he left. A week later we recorded the piece,” Stephens said.
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