Inside the Composer's Studio: Zachary Wadsworth




A native of Richmond, Virginia, Zachary Wadsworth first appeared at Staunton Music Festival as an "Emerging Composer" in 2011.  Since then he has written over a dozen commissioned works for the festival and has appeared as pianist and tenor each season.  Wadsworth brings originality and true poetry to all that he creates--even when it's a devilishly-sardonic song set titled "The Bad Child's Book of Beasts" for contralto and piano.  In this Perspective Zach focuses on the musical ideas developed in the "Bad Child" songs, written in 2014 for contralto Sara Couden.






Zachary Wadsworth is a composer of “fresh, deeply felt and strikingly original” music (Washington Post), with regular performances and premieres around the world. Previously he has held a residency at the Metropolitan Opera, and his music has been performed at Westminster Abbey in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II. Other honors include awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, ASCAP, and the American Composers Forum. Wadsworth’s music is published by Novello and Schirmer, and his work has been heard on NPR and the BBC. Wadsworth earned degrees from Eastman, Yale, and Cornell, and he is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at Williams College in Massachusetts.





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VIDEO PERFORMANCE: Wadsworth's The Bad Child's Book of Beasts (premiere)

Written for and dedicated to contralto Sara Couden, these four quixotic songs were premiered in 2014 by Couden and Wadsworth. The texts by Hilaire Belloc become a springboard for Wadsworth's delightful musical whimsy.




POSTCARD: Zachary Wadsworth at Home in New York

While teaching at Williams College in western Massachusetts, Zachary Wadsworth sends a short postcard from his home in Troy, NY. A familiar face at SMF concerts since his debut in 2011, Zach talks about his rewarding experiences teaching and living near Williams College.




VIDEO PERFORMANCE: Wadsworth's Four Laws for Two Percussionists (premiere)

“What are the laws that govern music?” With this question, composer-in-residence Zachary Wadsworth began the process that led to Four Laws for Two Percussionists, given its world premiere performance in this 2015 video.  Performed by I-Jen Fang and Brian Smith.  




VIDEO PERFORMANCE: Wadsworth's The Doctor (premiere)

Inspired by the theatrical setting of Blackfriars Playhouse, Wadsworth composed The Doctor for two principal voices and instrumental trio. A modern-day medical farce, The Doctor was an audience favorite at its premiere captured in this video.




VIDEO PERFORMANCE: Wadsworth's arrangement of "If I Only Had a Brain" by Harold Arlen

One of the most successful aspects of Zach's style is his ability to refresh well-known material for new audiences, a feature that comes to the fore in his many song arrangements. For a Hollywood-themed program in 2017 he created a lovely version of Arlen's classic from The Wizard of Oz. 



VIDEO PERFORMANCE: Wadsworth's Letters Home for oboe and electronics (premiere)

Wadsworth has also explored composition involving electronics, as in this new work for solo oboe and tape. The texts draw upon letters written by American poet Alan Seeger during The First World War, and the solo oboe is performed by Roger Roe.