Now Hear This: an Interview with Trio Kavanah

Kavanah (pronounced kah-vah-NAH) is an ancient Hebrew word that specifies the intention and sincerity of heart needed for effective and honest prayer.  As Trio Kavanah, violinist Grace Kang Wollett, pianist Trevor Hale, and clarinetist Daniel (Danny) Goldman strive to express that same sincerity in the music they create and share before audiences. Among other musical endeavors, Ms. Wollett plays for The Dallas Opera Orchestra as does Mr. Goldman, and Dr. Hale keeps a full calendar as a Dallas-based pianist.

Trevor Hale, Grace Kang Wollett, and Daniel Goldman

How did the three of you come together to form Trio Kavanah?

GRACE: It started from a casual chamber reading.

TREVOR: Danny and I met with a desire for collaboration, and we decided to form a trio. Danny introduced Grace into the mix, because they knew each other from the Dallas Opera. We have been playing together ever since.

DANNY: I was dying to play chamber music. Orchestra auditions and performance had consumed my life, and I wanted to collaborate with a pianist. Trevor came highly recommended so we met and jammed. Then I decided to randomly invite Grace because we were at Juilliard together and both in the Dallas Opera Orchestra. The energy and vibe was so positive and fun during the first reading that we kept meeting, and then decided to make it into something legit.


How old were you when you started learning your instrument? Why did you chose your instrument? Do you play other instruments?

GRACE: I was 7 when I started on violin, and I was drawn to it just because I really liked it. I moved around a lot, so my parents preferred a small instrument. I can also play piano, guitar, ukulele, records, and some viola.

TREVOR: I started when I was 8, and loved the unique variations of sound on the piano. In addition to piano, I occasionally play harpsichord.

DANNY: I picked up the clarinet at age 11 when the band director presented instruments to students, and I liked the clarinet because it was black and had shiny keys. Plus, my dad used to play clarinet in high school, so it struck a chord. I started on piano, dabbled in accordion (yes, I took private lessons on accordion, don’t judge me). Since clarinets come in various shapes and sizes, professionally I have to play E-flat clarinet (the baby one), bass clarinet, and basset horn from time to time.


What type of music did you listen to as a kid, and what do you listen to now? 

GRACE: As a child, I listened to classical music and Broadway musicals. I’ve stuck with listening to classical as an adult, and also listen to Christian contemporary and indie tunes.

TREVOR: I grew up listening to classical, jazz, and classic rock. My favorite non-classical musician was rock guitarist Eric Johnson (Cliffs of Dover still one of my all-time favorites). Now I enjoy some pop, hip-hop, and R&B, and obviously I love classical as well!

DANNY: I think a lot of ’80s/90s music like also Annie Lennox, Gloria Estefan, Santana, and Pink Floyd. Now, I go for hip-hop, classical, chill-hop, jazz, some forms of EDM [electronic dance music] but not too intense. Really, I like all sorts of stuff: one moment it could be Coldplay, then the next moment Mozart C Minor Mass (omg so good).


Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play?

GRACE: My favorite for listening is Elgar, and playing is Mozart.

TREVOR: This is tough to choose only one! To listen I would have to go with Beethoven. I love performing Rachmaninoff with Chopin tied for first!

DANNY: To listen, Ravel. To play, big orchestra Mahler. But, I go through phases! Mozart is another favorite to play.


What advice would you give to your 14-year-old self? 

GRACE: It’s okay to feel awkward about everything! Keep finding your voice.

TREVOR: In the real world you have less time to practice, so create effective practice methods early on.

DANNY: Being unsure, low in confidence, shy, confused, even lost, is actually essential at times. Don’t fight it by faking it. Keep finding what you want to do and how you want to do it. Don’t feel pressured to be so assured of your craft, especially at a younger age. Things start to line up and then true confidence kicks in. Then you’ll have the essential ability to be sensitive and emotionally open while being thick-skinned and impervious to the haters and rejection. It’s a weird combo.


What advice would you give a high schooler who wants to pursue music in college? 

GRACE: If you can’t imagine doing anything else – if through thick and thin you think you’ll feel the same – go for it with everything you’ve got!

TREVOR: Musical progress is like the stock market. Sometimes you only see the rewards over the long term. Other times you see drastic ups and downs with profits and losses. Music is no different: ride the wave out. Music in college is where you invest in the long term, while soaking up as much knowledge during the short term.

DANNY: Understand that even if you have a successful career in music, you might struggle with money for a period. Be absolutely sure that you are OK with that. And make sure you can handle 50% rejection. Yes, that’s right – about 50% rejection! The good news is that if you follow through with it, your future workdays won’t be work at all: they’ll just be your dream and you’re doing what you love 24/7. It’s pretty sweet.


What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical), and your least favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? 

GRACE: My favorite sound is my 2-year-old son’s laughter. My non-favorite is the engine sound of crazy speeders who cut me off on the highway!

TREVOR: I love the sustained sound of the cello. It is magical. My least favorite would have to be the tuba (sorry tubists!).

DANNY: My dog Oliver’s grunts and snorts when he greets me after a long day at work are my favorite sounds. Non-favorite, if I had to choose one, maybe Dubstep.


When you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert do you hope to hear?

GRACE: The voices of angels and everyone there singing and praising God.

TREVOR: An entire concert performed by Mozart on violin or fortepiano.

DANNY: I have to go with Trevor on this one: watching and hearing Mozart perform with other expert instrumentalists of his time, and getting to talk to him after.

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