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Music Student Places First in Arranging and Composing Competition

Zach Rich performing with the trombone

November 5, 2020

Zach Rich, a Jazz Studies doctoral student at the University of Northern Colorado, won first place in the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers’ (ASMAC) Bill Conti Big Band Arranging and Composing Competition for his composition of “We Love You Madly” (dedicated to Duke Ellington).

The piece that Rich composed was performed by the UNC Jazz Lab Band 1 at the 2020 Inaugural Jack Rudin Jazz Championship in January. UNC was one of 10 universities from across the country invited to attend and perform at the event that took place at the Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York City.


(Video: UNC Jazz Lab Band 1’s performance at the championship)

According to the ASMAC’s news release, “The Bill Conti Competition is open to ASMAC Student or Associate Members age 35 or under. The prize is given for an outstanding original composition or an arrangement of a pre-existing piece that has never been published nor publicly performed.”

Rich was awarded $1,000, which he’s using to fund his second jazz album, planned for release in late 2021. His first album, “Boundless,” was released this past June with nine jazz-inspired pieces.

“I feel very fortunate and honored to be considered and given the opportunity to have some additional resources to keep furthering my work,” Rich said, whose primary instrument is the trombone.

Additional recognition Rich has received include a $3,700 grant earlier this year from Pathways To Jazz, an organization located in Boulder that provides “opportunities for jazz musicians of all ages to succeed in their artistic and educational development,” and the ISJAC/USF Owen Prize for Jazz Composition for his piece, “Story of the Mad Hatter” in January 2019.

He started playing the trombone in middle school and dived into the world of jazz when he was an undergraduate at Friends University in his hometown, Wichita, Kansas. He received his master’s in 2018 from UNC and plans to complete his doctorate in fall of 2021.

“My experience at UNC has been great thus far with faculty from the School of Music being great advocates for their students and they offer many opportunities to give students a chance to shine,” he said. “For anyone who is thinking of attending UNC, the sky is the limit where faculty will support you, as long as you have the drive to make things happen and take advantage of such opportunities.”

After graduating next year, Rich hopes to teach jazz studies at the university-level at “one of the big music hubs” in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.

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—Written by Katie Corder