Interview with Zach Sheets
Where are you located now?
I am currently in my junior year at Harvard University, studying music and French
literature. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,
and 423 Pforzheimer House Mail Center, Cambridge, MA 02138.
How old are you?
I am currently 20 years old.
Hometown: Norwich, VT
Have you been involved in music in any way since high school?
Music has become the major passion in my life. I am studying composition with Chaya Czernowin, on the faculty at Harvard, and flute and piccolo with Cynthia Meyers of the Boston Symphony. I'm also studying music history and theory heavily as part of my degree, and planning to write an opera based on a French text as a senior thesis, to unite both halves of my study here at school. I have been lucky enough to have my music performed in a half dozen countries around the world, at, among others, the SoundSCAPE New Music Festival, the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, and the Cluster New Music + Integrated Arts Festival. I've had my work performed by such ensembles as the Brattle Street Chamber Players, the Arcadian Wind Quintet, the Bach Society Chamber Orchestra, the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, and the Vermont Youth Orchestra. Upcoming projects include a premiere by the internationally acclaimed Talea Ensemble from New York. I have also been recognized as the 1st prize winner in the Grafimuse Competition, a finalist in the 2011 Morton Gould Young Composer Award, and a recipient of Harvard's John Green Fellowship for excellence in musical composition.
As a flutist, I have performed with professional orchestras around Boston (as a freelancer/substitute list musician), including the Portland Symphony Orchestra and the Thayer Symphony. I also currently serve as the principal flutist in the Dunster House Opera Orchestra and a co-principal flutist in the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra. I have done summer study at the Domaine Forget International Music and Dance Academy, and the Aria International Music Festival. I have also been able to perform for and study with flutists from the Berlin Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the London Symphony.
How did you get involved with the Vermont MIDI Project?
I started with the Vermont MIDI Project as a 5th grader at the Marion Cross School in Norwich. Once I left for middle school across the river in NH (we attend public school in Hanover since we don't have middle or high school), I changed to being an independent study student.
In what ways has the Vermont MIDI Project been important to you?
There wasn't a composition teacher that lived in the area, so the Vermont MIDI Project was the avenue I had for continuing my composition study. It also was the only avenue I had to get my works performed. How many fifth graders outside of an environment like a conservatory pre-college program could say that they've had their works performed? I worked with a teacher in Italy this summer who told me that from every piece, I should see what I will want to do better in the next one - some grain or seed or starting point for how to better chase after my ideas - and I think working with real musicians spurred on that thought process from an early age. It continued to be my primary source of study all the way up until college. I had some lessons and workshops here are there, once I got more advanced (including with my primary mentor from the VMP, Erik Nielsen), but it wasn't until I got to college that I started with a regular teacher. It worked well, though; as a composer I was admitted to conservatory programs at schools like Eastman, McGill, and Northwestern, competing against kids who had had weekly lessons and studio classes from an early age. Basically, I would not be writing music without the program, so I owe it everything. Bringing in professional musicians to play student works and enabling composition learning from anywhere with internet give the VMP tremendous versatility and impact on students, making it one of the most exciting and wonderful music education programs I know. They have already brought the gift of creating music to thousands of students, and I am delighted to be one of them.