Charles Zoll
Beatriz Verdugo

It's a music student's dream: winning a national competition, then being commissioned to produce an original piece that is then performed by some of the nation's ensembles and symphony orchestras. 

UA senior Charles Zoll made that happen.

Zoll won the Rapido! 14-Day Composition Contest, a national competition that requires that composers create a piece for the oboe, violin, cello and piano within a two-week period.

"This is a super unique competition. There is nothing out there like it," said Zoll, a UA Honors College student pursuing a music degree in composition.

Nearly 400 composers – including other students, faculty members and professional composers – were vying for a place in the competition,

Eventually, Zoll was named a semi-finalist and his piece was performed by the Voices of Change Ensemble in Dallas in October 2012. Having been named among the five national finalists, the Atlanta Chamber Players performed his work in Atlanta in January 2013.

There, composers Jennifer Higdon and Michael Gandolfi along with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conductor Robert Spano selected Zoll as the national winner for his piece "Bailes encima del escritorio de nuestra juventud," which translates to English from Spanish as "Dances atop the School Desk of Our Youth."

With the national recognition comes a $7,500 commission prize and a two-week residency at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts in Georgia.

Also, Zoll has been invited to expand his piece from six minutes to 15 minutes. He also has been commissioned to produce a new piece, working closely with Spano. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will perform the new work during a concert slated for May 2014 – and Zoll's piece will be sharing a space on stage with Richard Wagner’s "Parsifal" and the Brahms Violin Concerto played by Joshua Bell, the acclaimed violinist.

Additionally, ensembles across the U.S. will perform Zoll's expanded piece during the fall of 2013.

"It's pretty high profile," said Zoll, who draws musical inspiration from his late grandparents, who were both organists and composers.

Zoll, a Tucson native, said he wanted to study "at the state university," and was especially interested in working with UA faculty members Daniel Asia and Craig Walsh. Today, his work also is strongly influenced by jazz and impressionist works, and he only began competing just last year, during his junior year at the UA.

Winning Rapido! should yield some important tangible academic and professional benefits for Zoll, who is now pursing admission into graduate school. 

"It's every composer's dream, and then some," Zoll said. "Being young, I'm not quite aware yet of how difficult it is to get performances by very talented players. This is one of those times. I was just stunned, as was everyone else, in the competition."

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