Willamette Magazine features four alumni musicians

by Erin Dahl ,

They didn't choose music; music chose them. Now, these four Willamette music graduates seek to share their talents with the world.

In the spring issue of Willamette Magazine, we celebrate the musical prowess of four alumni.

Brent Hengeveld ’11

After Willamette, Hengeveld earned a graduate certificate in Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television from the USC Thornton School of Music. He now works as a multimedia composer in Los Angeles. “It’s freelancing, in all its glory and horror,” he says.

Music called to Hengeveld for as long as he can remember, so turning his passion into a job was an easy decision — and a difficult one. “This career is not easy when you start, and especially when it’s your first career,” he says.

In addition to writing music for video games, Hengeveld is scoring his first film — an independent holiday picture set for release later this year. Explaining the appeal of his craft, he says, “In a world that I still struggle to make sense of, music has always called to me. The beauty is that different people will find different meanings in music, none of them invalid.”

Chloe Prendergast ’14

At Willamette, Prendergast was one of a select few students allowed to play the famed Waller violin. Likely crafted in the 1600s, the Italian instrument was discovered hidden beneath floorboards during a renovation of Waller Hall in 1988.

Although the Baroque period spanned from 1600 to 1750, Prendergast says its music is timeless. “The musicians were portraying the same emotions we experience today,” she says. “It’s relevant. It brings history into the present.”

Prendergast is a graduate student in Baroque violin performance at the University of Washington. After she graduates, she aspires to travel and perform with other Baroque musicians. “Music doesn’t make any sense without someone there to listen to it,” she says. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Phil Taylor ’11 Personal Website

Taylor has won not one, but two Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) Student Composer Awards — the first in 2009 and the second in 2014 for his orchestral work “Chiaroscuro.”

What Taylor enjoys most is collaborating with stellar artists to make his compositions come alive. “Nothing compares to the way I feel when I’ve worked closely with someone to make music that fits them like a glove,” he says. “It’s an amazing journey often capped with an unforgettable performance. ”

A PhD candidate at the University of Chicago, Taylor is writing his dissertation work — a concerto for harp and ensemble. “Composing is a very intimate task,” he says. “It’s also a complex, outgoing social dialogue, involving both the musicians who play my work (and often inspire it, too) and their interaction with the audience.”

Matt Sazima ’14

For the last two years, DownBeat magazine — a publication that honors student talent around the globe — has recognized the caliber of Sazima’s arrangements through group awards and the Best Jazz Arrangement award in 2014.

Strongly influenced by his Willamette music professors — Wallace Long, Mike Nord and James Miley — Sazima hopes to one day inspire young musicians in a similar way. He says, “They set an example through their amazing work ethic and their commitment to provide opportunity and support for their students.”

Sazima is completing his master’s program at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, writing for ensembles and practicing piano, vibes and voice. His long-term goal is to record his music and work as a tenured professor.