13, has been a composer since the age of 9.
Representing the third generation of a musician
family from Austria, Kevin came to the U.S. with his
parents when he was 6. He currently studies violin
with Michael McLean and piano with Ory Shihor at the
Colburn School of Performing Arts. He is also one of
the youngest members of the Jr. Philharmonic
Orchestra of California that will celebrate its 70th
Anniversary concert at Walt Disney Hall in Los
While attending Paul
Revere Middle School in Brentwood, California, Kevin
had heard about the Reflections Program, which is an
arts contest organized every year, since 1969, by
the PTA around the country. This years theme was “I
wonder why?”. Inspired by the challenge, Kevin
composed a piece for string ensemble entitled “Why
Not Peace” and submitted it. After winning at the
district and state levels, Kevin was invited to
receive the state award at a ceremony at the Anaheim
Convention Center. The big surprise came during that
ceremony, after all awards had been presented and
the speaker announced: “Before we leave I have an
announcement to make. We just received the results
of the national level from national PTA. Here they
are. And the “Award of Excellence” for music
composition at the national level goes to Kevin
Schwarzwald.“ Kevin is the first student in Paul
Revere history to bring home this award for the
The first U.S.
performance of Kevin’s piece was staged during Paul
Revere’s end of the school year concert and
performed by the schools Chamber Orchestra. The
first European performance was July 21, 2006 in Austria, by the Chamber
Orchestra of the Austrian Master Classes, a music
academy that Kevin is attending this summer, along
with other young artists from 14 different nations.
He comments on his experience at the AMC. “First we
meet through music and we discover that despite
speaking different languages, coming from different
countries, even cultural backgrounds – we have so
many things in common and can also appreciate the
differences. I made a lot of new friends here.”
When asked who his
favorite composers are, Kevin answers without
hesitation: “Mozart, John Williams, and Gordon
Goodwin,” thus bridging the gap between two
continents and 250 years of music history.
Thanks to his
recent achievement a wish came true for the young
composer. As a special surprise, Kevin was invited
to go to Capitol Recording Studios in Hollywood and
watch Grammy-winning composer Gordon Goodwin (Gordon
won a Grammy this year in "The Best Instrumental
Arrangement" category” for his big band arrangements
for the film soundtrack of "The Incredibles")
conduct the original score for
the animated Warner Brothers movie “Bah Humduck”,
which will come out as a DVD for Christmas release.
“What greater present
could you get,” said Kevin, “than watching a master
of music closely at work?” Now freshly motivated,
Kevin has started to work on his next orchestra
Kevin is a true
cosmopolitan with a European Heart. As an Austrian,
born in Paris and living in Los Angeles, he speaks
three languages and loves to cook Austrian and
What does he like most
about the United States?: ”Baseball, Hot Dogs, and
Roller Coasters.” What does he like most about
Austria?: “Skiing, Schnitzel and Kaiserschmarren” (a
traditional Austrian dessert which was the favorite
of Emperor Franz Joseph I.)
The following interview
was conducted over the phone:
Kevin, first of all I
want to congratulate you on your “Award of
Excellence” for music composition at the National
Reflections Contest. It says that the award came as
a big surprise to you. What went through your mind
when they called your name?
thought they made a mistake because I did not expect
Your composition, a
piece for string ensemble, is entitled “Why not
peace?” Sadly, it has again become a very pressing
question with regard to the recent development in
the Mid-East. Does your composition refer to a
particular historic event or what made you write
It refers to just
general. Why could we not have peace in the world
because it would be so much better.
“Why not Peace” was performed in the US and
just recently in Austria. How is the Austrian
audience different from the one in America?
There is a difference because in the US it was
pretty much in front of my school. These were all
people that knew me. So most of the people gave me
feedback on the piece.
Austria, though, a lot of people walked up to me and
said, “Great piece!” and like that.
How did it come about?
sent the director of the institution there [Austrian
Master Classes, a music academy] a copy of my piece
because he wanted to hear it. They listened to it
and decided to play it. However, I had to modify it
a little bit because it was a little hard for
anything apart from the philharmonic. I didn’t
realize it because it was written on the computer
but when I had to play it, wow, it was way too hard.
[Actually it was played at the final concert of the
Austrian Master Classes this week,]
Did they record there?
Yes, every year they make a CD of the final concert
and my piece is going to be on there.
Kevin, you are a
13-year-old teenager. Being the child prodigy and
the increasingly famous musician that you are, can
you still do the things regular teenagers do?
course. There is not a big difference. I mean I
practice the piano two hours a day and the rest is
pretty much whatever I want. I play computer games,
go outside and play with my friends.
I’ve read that your
favorite composers are Mozart, Williams and Goodwin.
You actually had the opportunity to meet Goodwin and
watch him work. What did you take home with you
after this encounter?
took home like meeting a great composer, and I
learned a lot of some scoring from what he did for
whether other great violinists such as German-born
Anne-Sophie Mutter or Romanian-born Lenuta Ciulei
inspire you. Who are your greatest influences in
I really like to
listen to and try to copy for example Isaac Stern*
and a Hungarian violinist by the name of Lakatos**.
What music do
you like to listen to?
I like to listen to Jazz and Rock like the Beatles
and Beach boys.
currently attending a music academy in Austria. What
is going to happen after returning to the US?
In Austria I’m just
staying for the summer. When I come back, I will
start school again. I will resume my lessons with
the teachers at the Colburn School in Los Angeles.
And I will start my second season with the Junior
Philharmonic Orchestra of Southern California.
What do you
miss most about the US when staying in Austria and
When I’m in the US I
miss kind of everything about Austria. And here I
miss my friends and sometimes even school.
Kevin, it says
that you like cooking. Tell me what is your favorite
dish in the US?
I don’t know a lot
about American dishes. But we cook pasta there,
spaghetti with tomato sauce.
What is your
favorite Austrian dish?
It’s a desert called
you very much for the interview.
2001) is widely considered one of the
virtuosi of the
twentieth century. Born in
Ukraine, his family moved to
San Francisco when he was ten months old.
born 1965, the “devil’s fiddler”, is a gypsy
violinist from Hungary. He is renowned for his mix
of classical music with Hungarian-gypsy music and
Interview was conducted by Martina Law
Designed to enhance rather
than replace a quality arts education, the
Reflections Program provides opportunities
for students to express themselves and to
receive positive recognition for their
"I wonder why..."
National PTA believes all
children deserve a quality arts education
and encourages students to pursue artistic
expression through participation in its
annual Reflections Program.
Each year, the Reflections
Program challenges students to create art
that supports a specific theme.
In its more than
30-year history, the program has encouraged
millions of students across the nation and
in American schools overseas to explore
their artistic talents. The Reflections
Program was started in 1969 by then Colorado
PTA President Mary Lou Anderson.
Program is to recognize students at the
local, council, district, state, and
national levels. Entries are first judged at
the local level, where selected works are
chosen to represent the PTA at each
subsequent level—council, district, or
state. Once entries reach the state level,
the state PTA may select entries to submit
to National PTA.
National recognition and
Professionals working in literature, musical
composition, photography, and visual arts
fields volunteer to judge student entries at
the national level.
Alone in California, over 62,000 students participated in this
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