Piano man

Student, time traveler, composer

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Piano man

Senior Trevor Zavac at a music department concert.

Senior Trevor Zavac at a music department concert.

Photo by Emily Whitcomb

Senior Trevor Zavac at a music department concert.

Photo by Emily Whitcomb

Photo by Emily Whitcomb

Senior Trevor Zavac at a music department concert.

Emily Whitcomb and Tate Bailey

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“I’m just Trevor Zavac, but I live in 1836.” In reality, Trevor Zavac lives, just as everyone else does, in 2019. But he’s in a unique position. Between the months of April and November, he works as a character at Conner Prairie, where he’s given a new name and a new backstory and told to live as that person.

This is not the only unique position Zavac has the opportunity of being in. In addition to getting to live part-time in the 1800’s, Zavac voices the band’s Frosty Freeze (shaved ice) commercial, weaves on a loom, and at the age of 18, composes his own music.

Zavac has been in NHS music programs for four years.

“At NHS I’ve been involved [in band programs] all four years, starting with marching band the summer before our freshmen year,” Zavac said.

For every semester throughout his high school career, Zavac has been in concert band as well as jazz band. Outside of class, Zavac is in pep band, marching band, and performs with the school orchestra, playing bass trombone, piano, and french horn .

Bethany Robinson, jazz teacher and assistant band director, has taught Zavac in jazz band since his freshman year, and she’s gotten to know him very well over the course of four years.

“Our jazz band has taken several trips to Chicago, and those have been a lot of fun,” Robinson said. “He basically speaks loudly like an old time radio host for hours at a time, which is almost entirely entertaining.”

Alongside his radio host voice, Zavac’s ability to play multiple instruments has served him well.

“Everywhere we’ve performed this year, I’ve received an email or text or comments about how powerful and great Trevor is on [bass trombone].”

Eric Thornbury, the concert band director, has been able to see Zavac’s musical improvement from his freshman year to now.

“Trevor brings a maturity beyond his years to the band.  He is musically very strong and his musicianship has a positive effect on all of the ensembles he participates in.”

But Zavac doesn’t just read music, he writes it himself.

“I’m a composer,” Zavac said. “I started writing music when I was in the seventh grade, then as time went on I started experimenting more with it. I started taking composition lessons with a faculty member at Butler just last year, my junior year.”

According to Zavac, he came into composition on his own.

“It’s not like playing french horn where you’re like ‘I wanna play french horn’ and someone teaches you how to do it. Composition is more like ‘I wanna compose’ and you start composing, and then you show it to someone,” Zavac said. “If you’re no good, then they tell you you’re no good. If you’re some good, they’ll tell you that. But if you’re really good, someone will say ‘well why don’t you come study with me, I’d be happy to help connect you into the composition world.’”

Robinson has seen Trevor in action and has been able to see what makes him a successful musician.

“Trevor is very passionate about music, but he also works very hard. The combination is what makes great music happen.”

Thornbury has been able to not only hear Zavac’s music, but to conduct it.

“[His compositions] are very good, especially for someone as young as he is,” Thornbury said. “This is exactly what we want for all of our students: for school to be a catalyst for self-learning and exploration. I am very proud of what Trevor is doing.”

For students who know Zavac personally, or follow him on Twitter, they know about “Composer of the Month”, a monthly Twitter post Zavac makes to give recognition to (primarily film score) composers, and others who inspire him.

“Anybody who’s watched a movie could identify John Williams, even if they don’t know who he is, if they hear his music they’ll be like ‘Oh! I know that.’ Like Star Wars, E.T., Indiana Jones, and all that jazz. Well, it’s not jazz…it’s classical.”

But there are many more film score composers than John Williams, and Trevor wants to give all his favorites a shout-out.

“One of the most underappreciated things in every movie is its music,” Zavac said. “So I’m just trying to give recognition to film score composers, because what they do is really interesting.”

Zavac plans to continue his education at Butler in the fall, majoring composition.

“I’m looking forward to collaborating with high class musicians, and being in an environment where music is not just ‘something I do for fun,’” Zavac said. “I’m excited to be with people whose music is their life, people who dedicate their life to performing music.”

Through all that Zavac has done – being the voice of Frosty Freeze, working at Conner Prairie, learning how to work a loom – music is still one of the defining factors of his life.

“Music is cool because of its name. When you say ‘I’m a musician,’ that’s different than saying ‘I’m a secretary’ or different than saying ‘I’m a phlebotomist.’ All the other words like, ‘I’m a doctor,’ that describes your trade, that describes what you do for a living,” Zavac said. “But that doesn’t describe anything about you. When you say you’re a musician, that describes your love, that describes your passion, that describes everything about you. When I say ‘I’m a musician,’ people not only know what I do, they know what I love.”


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