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Student Composer Showcase - Live from Opus 38

Students and educators gather to listen to the rehearsal process as the ensemble TURNmusic prepares to perform new works by students composer across Vermont as part of Music-COMP's Opus 38 concert.
Stefanie Weigand
Students and educators gather to listen to the rehearsal process as the ensemble TURNmusic prepares to perform new works by students composer across Vermont as part of Music-COMP's Opus 38 concert.

For this month's Student Composer Showcase, we hear voices and highlights from students, educators and musicians that participated in Music-COMP's Opus 38 concert on April 30, 2024 at the Elley Long Music Center in Colchester, Vermont.

Stefanie Weigand: We are able to give students the opportunity to put the creativity that's swirling around in their brain out into the world.

James Stewart: That's the voice of Stefanie Weigand, the executive director of Music-COMP, Vermont’s music composition mentoring program. Stefanie spoke with me in the middle of Music-COMP’s Opus 38 concert that took place April 30th of this year at the Elley Long Music Center. Opus concerts are the culmination of months of work between student composers and professional mentors. This is Stefanie’s first year as executive director, but she’s been involved with Music-COMP for years. I asked her why encouraging student composers is so important to her.

Stefanie: I just have this vivid memory of a student of mine sitting with a string quartet that was about to play his piece. His score was in his lap and he was just kind of casually looking through it. And then the moment the quartet started to play his piece, his eyes shot up and he looked around at everyone, and he looked at me, and he had tears in his eyes. And I, that was it for me. I thought I will always do this.

James: This year’s Opus concert featured the works of 25 student composers from across the state, but many more students came to experience the rehearsal process, participate in workshops and enjoy the performance. I got a chance to chat with quite a few of them.

Student 1: I enjoy coming here to listen to what other people made.

Student 2: You learn a lot about music.

Student 3: I really liked listening to people, like rehearsing…

Student 4: I learned stuff about, like composing different types of music…

Student 5: I wanna compose for choirs because that sounds like a lot of fun.

Student 6: I learned really how to make my piece better.

Student 7: …collaborate with other people.

Student 8: It's really fun, like talking with a lot of people who are, like musical people.

Student 9: And I just want to see what it's like to compose your piece because I'm hoping to do it next year.

Student 10: But it sounds good, when you do a lot of effort.

James: Students aren’t the only ones putting in effort. Educators from across Vermont work tirelessly to encourage their students to create new music and participate in the program.

Lindsay Rusnock: I’m Lindsay Rusnock. I teach at Mount Mansfield Union High School. I think it's so cool that students of all ages get the opportunity to compose something, get feedback on it and then get to hear it in a real-live setting rather than just from a midi instrument online, which is always a little bit hard to hear. So it's really cool to watch them see their pieces come to life and then they get to provide feedback on it and they get to tweak things.

James: Students have the vision, mentors and educators help them to get their ideas on paper and then it comes down to the professional musicians to breathe life into the music. This year’s Opus concert featured members of the ensemble TURNmusic.

Rachel Elliot: Hi, I'm Rachel Elliot and I play bassoon.

Katie Oprea: And I'm Katie Oprea and I play oboe.

Rachel: I've been doing it since it was the Vermont Midi project. So going way back to with Steve, both of us actually with Steve Klimowski and the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble. Whenever they ask us, it's always such an amazing experience to work with these young people. I do lots of new music so I enjoy new music and I enjoy chamber music. I enjoy our musical colleagues, but it's especially exciting to get to play these new pieces by kids across Vermont and just the energy and the creativity that they bring.

Katie: I think it's like my favorite day of the year. I really love doing this because it's that spirit of live music and of collaborating with the composers, collaborating with the coaches, even involving the audience because the students are actually out in the audience watching as well. So overall, it's just such a wonderful way to experience new music for me.

James: Opus concerts are a celebration of the creativity of this state’s young composers.

Student 11: My piece is called, “Winter Memories.”

Student 12: “Troubled Lullaby.”

Student 13: My piece is about my dog, “Murphy's Law.”

Student 14: "Two Green Mountains.”

Student 11: It's for two violins, one cello, a piano and a bass.

Student 12: First, it seems kind of sweet, but then it gets a little intense.

Student 14: ..and I had like this beat in my head since I was little and I played it on the African drums.

Eleanor Freeburn: “Peace at Sarah's house.” Sarah is my aunt. It's written for string quartet, flute, clarinet, and bassoon.

James: That last voice belongs to Eleanor Freeburn, a Junior at Mount Mansfield Union High School. This was Eleanor’s first year participating in the Opus concert and I asked them what they thought of the experience so far.

Eleanor Freeburn, a junior at Mount Mansfield Union High School, introduces their piece at Music-COMP's Opus 38 concert at the Elley Long Music Center in Colchester, Vermont on April 30, 2024.
Stefanie Weigand
Eleanor Freeburn, a junior at Mount Mansfield Union High School, introduces their piece at Music-COMP's Opus 38 concert at the Elley Long Music Center in Colchester, Vermont on April 30, 2024.

Eleanor: Oh, it's amazing. It's really good. I can hear a lot more of the melodic expression that I want to and obviously the performers are amazing. So, yeah, I've known about the program for a couple of years, but this is my first year actually doing it. I want to do this more. I love interacting with the performers and I like looking at it from a directing sense. I want to get better at it. Obviously, I have a lot to learn.

Callum Robechek: There's kind of a cool aspect of, when you do it for a long time. It's like a progress tracker. Like, you can kinda go back and see.

James: That’s the voice of Callum Robechek, a senior at Montpelier High School. Callum’s been featured on our Student Composer Showcase in the past. This year was his sixth Opus concert.

Callum: It's really interesting to be, like a junior-to-senior level human and to already have, you know, years of composition experience, because it's really empowering to be a young person and to be an experienced musician in such a unique way.

James: If you, or a student in your life is interested in learning more about Music-COMP, Vermont’s music composition mentoring program, check out their website at

The Student Composer Showcase is produced in collaboration with Music-COMP, the music composition mentoring program and Lake Champlain Access Television. The Music Composition Mentoring Program (Music-COMP) is a Vermont non-profit started in 1995 that teaches students in grades 3-12 how to compose original music. Students are paired with professional composers as mentors, and over 50 works are premiered each year with professional musicians.

Production support for the Student Composer Showcase is provided by Lake Champlain Access Television, a community media center serving eight towns in Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle Counties, providing a free forum for expression, and a link to local government and training. More at

James Stewart is Vermont Public Classical's afternoon host. As a composer, he is interested in many different genres of music; writing for rock bands, symphony orchestras and everything in between.