Drew University Music Professor Trevor Weston Uses Classwork to Inform Compositions

Weston incorporated class discussions into his work

September 2022 – Trevor Weston, professor and chair of music at Drew University, will have two of his compositions premier this month.

Both of the pieces have direct connections to his classes, specifically Music and Meaning, a first-year seminar course (DSEM) Weston has taught for several years.

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Weston in the Drew University Concert Hall

Weston explained that most composers create their pieces based on some sort of intellectual investigation and research. For him, the influences for his newest two compositions included class material, readings, concepts, and discussion which “translated into sounds and colors.”

“Teaching Music and Meaning, which highlights my interests in discussing music, became the research for my libretto, ‘A New Song,'” said Weston. The piece will premiere with the Washington Bach Consort.

“Most of my thoughts and ideas came from topics in my DSEM course which explores the questions, What is music? What is good music? and Why do we like music?

The subject of the piece, a lesser-known myth about King Midas, is one Weston discusses with his DSEM class every year and, along with an animated version of the story, sparks discussion about good and bad music. The piece focuses on the idea of evaluating music.

“The work organizing the DSEM and our class discussions gave me years of thoughts about music to address a response to the myth,” he said.

Weston’s second premier, a four-movement work titled “Push,” will be performed by the San Francisco Symphony and has ties to his 2021 Music and Meaning DSEM class.

On the first day of class, Weston asked his students what they were listening to while walking to class. He didn’t know many of the titles. After a semester of the class listening to his music choices, Weston had the students create an annotated playlist of their own favorite songs to play in class.

“I routinely wanted to move on to the next song after about one minute,” Weston said. “Students stopped me and said, ‘Wait for the beat drop.’ I knew what a beat drop was, but I did not know it was so popular that most of my students listened to music with this organizational device—intro, dramatic change signaled by the addition of percussion and a baseline.”

Weston went to work composing a piece organized with such a structure. The movement, the fourth and final of “Push,” is, naturally, titled “Beat Drop.”

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