Jenna Kavouras: A Composer’s Journey from Gustavus to the World Stage Posted on May 13th, 2024 by

Jenna Kavouras ‘22 was a Music major and Management minor during her time at Gustavus. She was originally a Music Education major and then switched over to just a Music major. Through the Music major, her experiences playing saxophone and bass clarinet, her involvement in the Wind Orchestra, the Gustavus Jazz Ensemble and the Symphony Orchestra, and making music with her peers both domestically and internationally, Kavouras found her love for composing and her current profession as a composer for large orchestras and chamber ensembles.

What was your favorite part of the music program at Gustavus?

Jenna: I love that you don’t have to be a music major to participate in the top ensembles. I’ve seen every single major across every ensemble and they are some of the best players I know. A horn player that was a Communication Studies major, a saxophonist that was a physics major, my sister, a trumpet and bassoon player, a classics major. The list goes on. So many people with a bunch of different interests coming together to make music. It created such a welcoming learning environment.

What’s your most favorite memory from your time at Gustavus?
I’d say that the best time I ever had at Gustavus was during my senior year when the Gustavus Jazz Ensemble took a tour around Minnesota. There were about 20 of us so it was very tight knit. It was short, but so many memories were made. Lots of jokes and memes were generated on that tour!

What do you miss the most about Gustavus?
Being in and playing in the music programs. I can take out my saxophone here andvplay by myself, but it will never be the same. Once you’re in an ensemble like that with all of those people and all your friends, there’s nothing that it can compare to.

What does your life look like now after Gustavus as a composer?
Right now I’m in the beginning stages of getting ready to take contracts. I’ve taken a class to learn how to use Cubase, a Digital Audio Workspace (or DAW) to mix my music, master it and use outside instrument players and sounds to make what I write sound as real as possible. I have a few libraries that I have just started experimenting with that contain pre-recorded samples of an actual orchestra. I have also invested in some professional equipment and try to take time everyday to continue to work with it and hone my composition skills so that I can start writing music for others, and get paid for it!

Did you have someone to guide you through composing or did you mostly figure it out on your own?

Jenna: I have always considered myself to have a really great ear, and I’ve always been very analytical about the music I listen to. I credit a lot of what I consider to be my best music to this. I didn’t take any formal composition classes outside of theory and orchestration with Dr. Bryant, who helped me further hone my ear and critically analyze scores. My advisor, Dr. James Patrick Miller, is passionate about video game and film music just like me, so we connected on that. The two of us did an independent study on these topics, which was immensely helpful practice in spotting a scene and writing music for it. Most of my growth at the time happened there.

The Gustavus Wind Orchestra played one of your songs on their January tour to Las Vegas. Can you tell me more about that?
Dr. Miller had asked me last summer if I would be interested in writing a 3-4 minute piece to go along with the theme of the tour, “The River of Time,” and I jumped on the opportunity. “Continuum” is the second piece I’ve written for a wind ensemble setting, and by far one of my biggest personal challenges. In the broadest sense, this piece mulls on the idea of time. I really enjoyed working with the group during rehearsals, and I was able to experience a performance both in Las Vegas and on campus. Being in the audience and hearing something you’ve written be performed is a terrifyingly wonderful experience. Many of my peers seemed to enjoy playing it as well, which was and still is very encouraging for me.

How do you think Gustavus prepared you to go out into the real world for a career?
I had a very different path than many music majors at Gustavus. Composing is a very independent, winding road that doesn’t exactly turn up many results in the Career Center! That being said, what Gustavus did give me was time and space to explore. I was never told I couldn’t do it, or it was too out of reach. I was encouraged and supported by my professors through my highs and lows, and given opportunities to connect with actual professionals in the composing industry, such as Bruce Broughton and Karim Elmahmoudi.

 

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