From Student to Opera Composer: The Journey of Vance Maverick

Vance Maverick

Vance Maverick, a composition student at CMC, is ready to debut his first opera this June at the CMC Concert Hall in the Mission. His path to this achievement has been marked by dedication, collaboration, and support from the community.

Maverick’s passion for musical composition began at 13 when he discovered the Bach Brandenburg Concerti. Although he pursued other interests, including a career in computer science, his love for composition persisted. In 2017, he decided to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a composer and turned to us for guidance.

Under the mentorship of Jono Kornfeld, a composition professor at CMC, Maverick found the support and feedback he needed. “I didn’t primarily need theory instruction — rather, I needed someone to look at what I was writing, and respond critically. Jono did that and more. He gave me basic guidance on how to organize my work, listened closely, and held me to a high standard, not afraid to point out where I could do better. After writing a few pieces with him, I decided to revisit an old project,” Maverick comments.

One of Maverick’s ambitious projects was to adapt W.B. Yeats’ “The Hawk’s Well” into an opera, a concept he had cherished since 2002. Inspired by Irish and Japanese folklore, the opera portrays two men seeking immortality at a mystical well guarded by a hawk-like spirit. With Kornfeld’s guidance and the encouragement of other CMC faculty members, Maverick completed his project. “Working with Jono, I wrote three sections of the opera: a prologue, in which the “Greek chorus” sets up the story; an epilogue, in which the chorus sums up; and a dance interlude without singers. Along the way, several other CMC faculty members generously encouraged me. Betty Wong taught the chamber music class, and later welcomed my music in her recitals. Rachel Condry invited me to write for the string quartet she was coaching. Annelise Zamula played flute with me in the dance interlude, and gave guidance on writing for the saxophone. Zahra Rothschild recorded one of my songs. And being in Martha Rodríguez-Salazar’s choir has been an education.” comments Maverick. 

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Performing an excerpt from “At the Hawk’s Well” in 2023. L-R: Robin Lacey, Megan Cullen, Phoebe Chee. Credit: Phoebe Chee

However, Maverick faced challenges along the way: the opera was rejected by various opera competitions and workshops. Despite the obstacles, he persisted, collaborating with other professors and musicians to refine his opera. Maverick’s perseverance finally paid off when his friend Megan Cullen, director of the Bay Area Arts Alliance, offered to co-produce his opera. With Cullen’s support and the backing of the nonprofit organization, Maverick’s dream of presenting his opera became a reality.


We invite you to enjoy Maverick’s opera on June 15th and 16th in the CMC Concert Hall—a captivating blend of myth, music, and theater.