Student Composer Showcase: Rachel Schwartz

Jun 7, 2017

Each month, VPR Classical highlights the work of talented young composers for the Student Composer Showcase. We first spoke with Rachel Schwartz when she was a junior at Harwood Union High School. We'll catch up with Schwartz as she prepares to head to the Crane School of Music in the fall.

Schwartz says that after her last time on VPR, her Hollywood producer uncle called her up with an assignment for a Christmas movie he was working on. "He gave me all of these guidelines. It was cool because, like, it's a Christmas movie, but it was really, really hard. It took a lot for me to get started."

The movie never ended up getting off the ground, but Schwartz says, "It was a really fun project."

In another recent work that was premiered, Schwartz says that during the process of working out the melody she realized that it was a little too familiar.

"I recognized it and I couldn't figure out what it was, I just knew I'd heard it suddenly clicked in my head and I pulled out the Pirates [of the Carribbean] soundtrack...and just did a facepalm."

Where does a composer go once they've determined that the music is too close for comfort to another piece? Schwartz says, "It's honestly just a couple of notes you have to change and then it's an entirely different thing." She stayed with the pirate theme however, letting the listener conjure up the image of a pirate of their choice.

The resulting piece is Wanted Man’s Jig. Premiered at the Opus 32 concert on May 15 of this year, performers were Letitia Quante and Jane Kittredge, violins; Elizabeth Reid, viola; and Michael Close, cello.

The Student Composer Showcase is produced in collaboration with Music-COMP, find out more about their composition mentoring process at