Composer writes song for Kahla choir, visits before performance

December 14, 2018

New York City-based composer Michael Trotta (left) listens to the Kahla Middle School varsity choir during a rehearsal Dec. 13. The ensemble won a contest to have a song written by Trotta for it, and he stopped by the school to work with the group leading up to its winter concert on Dec. 18.
New York City-based composer Michael Trotta (left) listens to the Kahla Middle School varsity choir during a rehearsal Dec. 13. The ensemble won a contest to have a song written by Trotta for it, and he stopped by the school to work with the group leading up to its winter concert on Dec. 18.

Dec. 14, 2018—The only regret Michael Trotta has is not being able to stick around and hear the Kahla Middle School varsity choir at its concert.

The New York City-based composer and Kahla ensemble composed of seventh- and eighth-grade students will have to settle for the hour they spent together Dec. 13, as they worked together on “The Fronted Pane,” a song Trotta wrote just for them. It was months in the making but an experience both sides said they cherished and appreciated.

New York City-based composer Michael Trotta speaks to the Kahla Middle School varsity choir during a rehearsal Dec. 13. Trotta wrote the song, “The Frosted Pane,” specifically for the choir, which consists of seventh- and eighth-grade students. He told the students that he wanted to challenge them as they continue their training toward competition in the spring.
New York City-based composer Michael Trotta speaks to the Kahla Middle School varsity choir during a rehearsal Dec. 13. Trotta wrote the song, “The Frosted Pane,” specifically for the choir, which consists of seventh- and eighth-grade students. He told the students that he wanted to challenge them as they continue their training toward competition in the spring.

“This was so cool,” seventh-grade student Kayleigh Bocanegra said afterward. “I mean, it’s just really cool knowing somebody made a song just for you. That’s not something you get to be a part of everyday.”

Bradley Acree, Kahla’s first-year choir director, won Trotta’s “Win a Free Commision” initiative, as the composer selects one ensemble every year to be the recipient of a new song written by him specifically for the group. Trotta visited with CFISD directors during a summer in-service session. He let them know about the contest, which is not only philanthropic work but also allows Trotta to hear feedback and open a dialogue from the ensembles and choirs he eventually works with.

Acree, who had only experienced having one commissioned piece in his seven years as a director, threw he and his students’ names in the ring. And the Knights won, being selected out of 157 contest participants and becoming the first middle school chosen (most winners have been university and church ensembles).

“The Frosted Pane” was a song written specifically for the Kahla Middle School varsity choir after the ensemble won a contest put on by New York City-based composer Michael Trotta. He visited with the ensemble and its first-year director Bradley Acree for a rehearsal Dec. 13.
“The Frosted Pane” was a song written specifically for the Kahla Middle School varsity choir after the ensemble won a contest put on by New York City-based composer Michael Trotta. He visited with the ensemble and its first-year director Bradley Acree for a rehearsal Dec. 13.

“I get to work with thousands of singers and sometimes they have budgets that allow for a yearly commission,” said Trotta, who taught for 10 years before studying and eventually becoming a full-time composer in 2015. “But for some people, I think there’s the idea that they would like to have that collaboration but they don’t necessarily have the means, the resources or know how. So once a year, as my gift back to the community, I like to make that an opportunity for people who are interested and excited.”

Acree shared the news with his students, but the excitement outside of winning a contest didn’t come right away. He said many didn’t understand the writing process or that many decorated composers are still living.

Trotta was scheduled to be in Texas working with other schools the week before the choir’s winter concert on Dec. 18, so he and Acree found time for Trotta to visit, hear and work with the varsity choir. That helped build the excitement, as well as the students learning more about Trotta and listening to his work.

“They didn’t really know how special this was and what was so different about this piece from any other piece,” Acree said. “They were excited – don’t get me wrong – but they didn’t really know. But now they do.”

Trotta met the group after school Dec. 13. After hearing the group sing, he stepped in and offered his thoughts and heard opinions from students on what they liked and disliked of the piece.

New York City-based composer Michael Trotta (left) and Bradley Acree, Kahla Middle School’s first-year choir director, go over notes for “The Frosted Pane.” The varsity choir won a contest to have a song written by Trotta, who visited the ensemble Dec. 13 to work on the piece.
New York City-based composer Michael Trotta (left) and Bradley Acree, Kahla Middle School’s first-year choir director, go over notes for “The Frosted Pane.” The varsity choir won a contest to have a song written by Trotta, who visited the ensemble Dec. 13 to work on the piece.

As Trotta describes it, “The Frosted Pane” is a winter song more than a holiday piece. He wanted to challenge the ensemble and give them something to continue their training toward competition in the spring.

“I wanted something that was going to make someone say, ‘Wow, what high school was that?’ And I think you’re doing a great job with that,” Trotta told the ensemble after the rehearsal. “I think this is a very sophisticated piece and if anyone else does this song in the future, I think it will be high schools.”

Students were appreciative not only for the song but also for the time they spent with Trotta.

“It was pretty cool,” eighth-grade student Bianca Gamboa said. “I think we got a lot better from whenever we first started.”

Added fellow eighth-grade student Katelyn Ripple: “I’ve never experienced anything like that before. I’ve been here for three years and this is probably the best year that I’ve had.”

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