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Missouri Maestro Mentors Young Musicians

Betsy Smith

Columbia’s classical music scene is growing and thriving, thanks to Missouri Symphony director Kirk Trevor. But Trevor’s work doesn’t stop with professional musicians.

On a Monday night at Broadway Christian Church in Columbia, Kirk Trevor conducts an orchestra of about 30 elementary and middle school students. He is joined by two symphony member coaches and a handful of parents, eager to listen to their children play. The students are practicing for their next performance in two weeks.

Trevor has conducted professional musicians all around the world—from London to the Czech Republic, from Vienna to Dallas—and he says he doesn’t change methods much when he’s working with young musicians.

“I try not to be very different,” Trevor said. “The only thing different is the way they play and my reaction. So obviously if I'm conducting the Slovak national symphony where I record a great deal, they get it first or second time. With kids, it's not going to go perfectly the first or second time or even the 20th or 21st time.”

Trevor says he doesn’t want to be seen as another schoolteacher for kids. They spend enough time in a classroom setting and need a different approach to appreciate music.

“I find that humor and self-effacing and bringing out the vibrancy and fun in music is what keeps kids wanting to come back,” he said. “If it's a drudgery for them to have to get this right or else, then they’re going to see a certain pressure.”

Trevor works with students through the Missouri Symphony Conservatory program. He says he started the Missouri Symphony Conservatory in 2007 with a goal to broaden young musicians’ exposure to all of the facets of being a musician.

Briana Frieda has worked closely with Trevor for four years as the assistant director of the Missouri Symphony Conservatory. She says Trevor challenges the students.

“Kirk is quirky,” Frieda said. “I don't think anyone can disagree with that. He's very funny but also very intense, and I think sometimes his sense of humor and the intensity are kind of scary for kids. But then they see how much knowledge he has and they're like ‘Oh my gosh, wow. I'm having fun and I'm learning’.”

Trevor weaves humor into his criticism, and the loud laughter from his students after his jokes show his humor resonates.

Trevor has been the Music Director for the Missouri Symphony Orchestra for 18 years, and he brings an undeniable energy to orchestra performances. His mission is for mid-Missourians to love all kinds of music.

“I want to preserve a heritage of western music, and that doesn't mean just Bach and Beethoven and classical music,” Trevor said. “Being a well-rounded musician today means you have to understand that we're not going to survive as musicians unless we embrace all kinds of music.”

Trevor is starting with the next generation and letting his students play their favorite songs like “Croc Rock,” a rock tune the students rehearsed many times during their Monday night practice.

“If the kids want to play it, it's good. It's done its educational function because they enjoy playing it,” he said. “They ask me ‘Can we play Croc Rock?’ They don't say can we play Beethoven's 9th Symphony or Tchaikovsky, so, it doesn't really matter whether I try to expose them to the great classical music, but as long as music is good then we're doing our job.”

Trevor’s oldest daughter, Chloe Trevor, is a classical violinist who performs all over the world. And on this Monday in between practices, Trevor runs to check on his son Danny, a fifth grader who plays cello in the junior symphonia.

The maestro has incited a passion for music in his own children, and he is determined to do the same for mid-Missourians of all ages.