The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Award-winning regents professor talks 2023 American Prize

Greg Yasinitsky recounts honorable mention and working with Idaho Musicfest
Greg Yasinitsky playing a saxophone.

Regents emeritus professor Greg Yasinitsky received a 2023 American Prize honorable mention for his orchestral composition titled “Celebration Overture.” Yasinitsky was commissioned to compose the piece in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the McCall, Idaho, Musicfest.

Yasinitsky is a previous winner of the American Prize, having won for the Orchestral Composition category for the 2017–2018 season with his composition titled “Jazz Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.”

Evaluations for the awards tend to take about a year, Yasinitsky said.

“There’s a whole list of people and you see you are one of the semifinalists. A couple of months later it’s the finalists and then after that they pick the winner,” Yasinitsky said.

Yasinitsky was among the few who received an honorable mention for the 2022–2023 season, when he worked on “Celebration Overture.”

“All these different organization’s musicians come to McCall for a week and it’s kind of intensive,” Yasinitsky said. “They rehearse a handful of times. It’s a week of orchestral rehearsals and performances.”

Musicfest is a week-long festival of classical and pop orchestra concerts, according to the McCall Music Society’s website. Professional musicians are selected from all over the country and get the opportunity to come together and work as an orchestra.

The week-long festival has been a McCall tradition since 2012, according to the McCall Music Society’s website.

“There are so many good musicians in the orchestra. That was kind of the challenge, how to sort of show off everybody,” Yasinitsky said. “[‘Celebration Overture’ is] a relatively short piece, what they call overture length which is about ten minutes and I wanted to make sure that I highlighted every section in the orchestra.”

As a composer, Yasinitsky strives to write music that is fun and challenging for musicians to play, often highlighting different sections of the ensemble where they have a moment to shine.

“I wanted a place where the strings could shine and another place where the woodwinds would be the focus. Then, another place that would feature the brass, the low brass and the horns. The percussion got their spot to shine as well, everyone’s got their own little place to shine,” Yasinitsky said.

Currently, Yasinitsky is working on writing several pieces, including a jazz piece for the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts.

“It’s one of the best art magnet jazz programs in the country,” Yasinitsky said. “It’ll be done in a week or so. I’m going through all the details and double-checking. I’ll have to make the parts and do some editing and stuff but that’s it.”

Thomas Wieland, senior music major and saxophone player, has had the opportunity to work with Yasinitsky in bands such as the WSU Jazz Big Band and Yasinitsky’s Yazz Band.

Wieland said Yasinitsky is known to be fully committed to his work and described him as one of the most prolific jazz arrangers of the late 20th and early 21st century.

“He’s constantly doing something. He’s a bulldozer. Everything he does, he goes 100% and it’s something that I’ve really learned from. Really being able to commit myself to a project,” Wieland said. “He’s also just been a terrific source for individual students and groups, always wanting to lend his time out to people who are interested.”

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