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Student Composers Shine at Upcoming Jazz Concert

December 14, 2020

University of Minnesota student composers Ella Grace and Matt Healy will be featured in December 16’s Jazz Ensembles program among compositions from popular contemporary jazz artists like Tadd Dameron and Alan Ferber. We caught up with the student composers to hear what they think about their works earning a unique opportunity to be in the spotlight. The two student compositions will be performed by Jazz Combo I. 

Grace’s Daydreams was written during the summer for an album that she worked on with her friends. She notes that inspiration for the piece came “when I was sick of quarantine and really ‘daydreaming’ of things getting back to normal again.” Jazz Combos Director Phil Hey assisted in solidifying the form and style of Daydreams, and the piece came together. The piece is one of Grace’s first compositions, and she is excited to continue studying jazz composition. 

Currently, Grace is a Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) student. She finished her high school requirements early, and decided to use the extra time to prep for college courses. When asked what the PSEO means to her, Grace responded “In addition to the financial benefits and college preparation, I have really enjoyed getting to take classes in areas of study that I am actually interested in and passionate about.” Now Grace has a head start on college and is able to take her skills into her college. 

Healy is studying tuba performance, but plays trombone in jazz ensembles. His composition, Pensado, was written from the tunes he grew up with from the Real Book, which makes the core of most contemporary jazz music. Phil Hey was also a great help in the development of this piece, instructing Healy on the conventions of Cuban music. Healy says that “Hey was always willing to stay hands off, but we could also come to him with any ideas that we had.”

Recently, Matt Healy was honored with the Chester E. and Marion D. Groth Band Scholarship, which is awarded by the Director of Bands. Healy says that “being a Groth scholar constantly pushes me to try and succeed here at the U. To be funded in anything means that you have people rooting for you as well as people expecting great things from you. Having a bit of that external motivation really helps when I hit a wall or start to burn out a little bit. I could not be more grateful for the opportunities that being a Groth scholar has provided me.” 

When asked about the highlights of the process, Grace mentioned “This was a really fun experience for me. It is very rewarding to create something like this and watch it come together. I have really enjoyed getting to play with other talented musicians, especially after not being able to do so for so long!” 

Healy thought “with any composition that I’ve done the real highlight is, without a doubt, the first time that you hear your piece being played by other people. You spend so much time having the idea exist in your brain and suddenly it’s just right there happening in front of you. That first rehearsal is always far more important to me than the performance.”

Grace and Healy’s new works will be featured in the upcoming Jazz Ensembles concert on Wednesday, December 16 at 7:30 pm, which will be live streamed on our Facebook and YouTube pages. To sign up for updates about the concert, please visit the Eventbrite page.