Saturday, March 19, 2011

Trevor Bjorklund: developing one's own identity

Continuing our series of posts on recent and soon-to-be graduates of UB's composition program, here are some remarks by Trevor Bjorklund, who graduated in 2010 and is currently serving as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Composition at the University of Pittsburgh.

Trevor's musical background is eclectic, to say the least. From the ages of eight to ten, he sang in the San Francisco Boys' Choir and performed in several productions of the San Francisco Opera. In the years that followed, he began composing while playing guitar, trumpet, euphonium, and percussion. He attended San Francisco State University as a composition major, winning the Theodore Presser Fellowship, and studied trombone with with McDowell Kenley. He graduated summa cum laude from SFSU with a Bachelors of Music in Composition while taking part in an exchange program in Trossingen, Germany. He stayed in Germany to compose and perform as a trombonist and drummer for the next 3 years.

His music has been performed in the United States, Germany, Korea, The Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, France, and The Netherlands, and at major festivals including June in Buffalo and the Darmstadt Ferienkurse. It has been played by internationally renowned groups and artists including the Arditti Quartet and Valerio Fasoli, and has been conducted by James Avery, Manfred Schreier, Christian Hommel, and Christian Baldini.

In addition to his activities as a composer of contemporary music, he continues to perform traditional and modern repertoire as a trombonist, and plays drums for the international funk band, Blind-Ass Chicken, in which he is a founding member and songwriter. These diverse interests and influences are reflected in his dissertation work for UB, Deus Ex Machina, which is scored for "large chamber ensemble and heavy metal trio." You can hear it here.

Says Trevor, "I arrived in Buffalo after having spent several years in the new music scene in Germany and was more than a little unsure about my role as a composer in general. What I found at UB was an entirely open environment that had no preconceived notions about what "good" or "real" music is (or isn't), and I found a small community of musicians developing their own identities in a variety of ways.

Trevor Bjorklund
"My composition teachers there (Jeffrey Stadelman for my first year and then David Felder) whole-heartedly supported the exploration and development of my own unique artistic personality. They were also extremely patient with me as I went through the shock of re-entery into the States after having lived abroad. I was provided with opportunities to hear my own creations performed by some stunningly talented and dedicated musicians. In fact, without David's gentle but consistent encouragement, I could never have even begun composing some of my most successful pieces... not necessarily successful because they are masterworks of the 21st century, but because they form an honest reflection of my own particular musical perspective. For me, creating honest work is the single most important thing an artist can do.

"Although Buffalo is a small city, seemingly remote from the larger American new music community, it is a place of where astounding musical events transpire. In my humble opinion, June in Buffalo has become one of the best, if not THE best, festivals for new music in America and trumps some of the more well-known European festivals. During my tenure as a graduate student and since, David Felder continually ups the ante, bringing in some of the best performers in the world to perform contemporary masterworks, read and perform student pieces, and lecture about their work.

"Another important aspect of my UB education was an excellent platform for professional development. I had the opportunity to teach a variety of important courses that prepared me (and qualified me!) for the post-graduate school world of American Academia. The constant and continued support and advice I received from my teachers and especially my advisor, David Felder, have led me to opportunities for performances and employment that would never have happened had I chosen a different path.

"I recently visited Buffalo and the feeling of walking into Baird Hall was like coming home. There is a family there, my family, and UB and I will remain lifelong friends."

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