USF Magazine Fall 2013

Volume 55 | Number 3


High Note

| USF News

Paul Gavin
Photo courtesy of the Kennedy Center

Paul Gavin doesn’t usually take calls during keyboard class. But when the senior music major recognized the Washington, D.C., area code, he decided to step outside.

On the phone, Gavin learned he’d just been named one of four winners nationwide in the annual VSA International Young Soloists Competition. The competition supports outstanding young musicians with disabilities in pursuit of a musical career.

Winners receive $2,500, professional development opportunities and the chance to perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

“A national award such as the VSA Young Soloist and a performance at a major performing arts venue such as the Kennedy Center provides a richly rewarding educational experience,” says Professor of Music Robert McCormick, who has taught Gavin since his freshman year at USF. “We are especially proud of Paul Gavin for his dedication, commitment and the recognition that he brings to USF and the School of Music.”

On June 16, with his parents and sister in the audience, Gavin walked onto the center’s Millennium Stage for the performance of a lifetime.

“When I first stepped into the Kennedy Center and saw where I was performing, I went crazy; I got really excited,” says Gavin. “I’ve had some exciting music experiences, but this was really cool.”

Despite the enormity of the event, Gavin stayed calm throughout his 14-minute performance. “I was in ‘playing the drums mode’ and stayed really relaxed,” he recounts, adding that the best part was having his family in the audience who hadn’t seen him perform since high school.

Paul Gavin performing on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage.

Paul Gavin, a senior music major, played a drum solo at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in June.
Photo courtesy of the Kennedy Center

“It was awesome to hug my parents after the performance and hear them tell me it was great.”

Gavin, a Jazz Studies major in the USF College of The Arts, plays regularly with the Southwest Florida Symphony and musical theater companies in Naples. He teaches drum line at Sickles High School in Tampa, performs at Bay area venues, teaches music privately, writes regularly for schools in Tampa, Ft. Myers and Atlanta, and has a dedicated Facebook page: Paul Gavin Music. He recently launched “Drum’n’Brass,” a local brass band he hopes to bring to area middle schools to encourage and inspire young musicians.

“I like to take initiative,” he says.

Gavin’s most recent award wasn’t the only highlight of his summer. Less than two weeks after his Kennedy Center performance, the 21-year-old was heading overseas with the USF Jazztet, performing at the invitation of some of the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals, including Italy’s Umbria Jazz Festival and Jazz à Vienne in France.

“It was absolutely exhausting and awesome,” he says, adding that the group played every day under the direction of Professor and Director of Jazz Studies Jack Wilkins.

Gavin isn’t looking to slow down. He’s set his sights on graduate school, “somewhere where there’s music,” perhaps the University of Maryland.

“Thanks for reminding me,” he says. “I really have to start looking into that.”