It’s all about the music

Reprinted with permission of the News-Register. Find more News-Register stories about Linfield College here.


Zach Gulaboff Davis, photo by Marcus Larson

Marcus Larson/News-Register
When not performing at the ivory keys, Zachary Davis is writing music, or training dogs.


Oct. 15, 2013

Even with only average-length fingers, his hands skillfully dance across the baby grand piano. Chopin’s Scherzo spills forth to fill the halls of the Vivian Bull Music Center, his home away from home on Linfield College’s McMinnville campus.

Salem’s Zachary Gulaboff Davis, a senior piano performance major, is already being considered a next-generation composer. And he has amassed an eight-page musical resume to prove it.

Over the summer, he added more musical accolades. He participated in the highly selective California Summer Music 2013 program and had the opportunity to compose an original piece for the Oregon Bach Festival in June.

“It’s exciting,” Davis said. “I am happy to be recognized for my work, and I am always glad that others appreciate my music.

“As a musician, it is a good idea to get your name out. But it is not something I focus on. I don’t want to allow the attention to detract me from making music.”

His musical journey began when his parents, Rick and Gordana Davis, enrolled him in a music class for 6-year-olds. The class met it a room equipped with a cluster of pianos, and he was enthralled.

He spent the next six years practicing and playing mainly on an electric keyboard. It wasn’t until he turned 12 or 13 that he began learning the piano in earnest under the tutelage of Elise Yun, professor of piano in the music department at Willamette University in Salem.

He took to it immediately. He was soon playing with the Salem Youth Symphony.

Around the same time, Davis took up another hobby. He rescued Lucy, a corgi, and Polo, a border collie, and began training them to compete.

He termed showing dogs “similar to music in the fact that it is collaborative.”

He said, “In music, I work with other people. During dog shows, I am collaborating with my animals.”

While he remains dedicated to performing, as he continues to develop his musical talents, he has also taken up composing. He uses a laptop loaded with a program called Finale to write pieces for musicians and groups, including full chamber orchestras.

Davis enjoys 20th century Russian music best, because it is direct, emotional and very communicative.

“Through music, people can express emotions that they otherwise may not be able to,” he said. “Words can express things, but music can go beyond that,” he said.

While he grew up in Salem, Davis never attended public schools there. He was home-schooled by his mother, a retired California teacher.

During his high school years, he sped up the process by taking credit courses at Chemeketa Community College. Through Chemeketa, he met Jill Timmons, a professor emerita at Linfield.

“She is the reason I came to Linfield,” he said. “She is a great person and musician, and I knew I wanted to study with her in college.”

Davis is nearing fulfillment of requirements for a bachelor’s degree in piano performance, composition and theory.

He has also been pursuing two minors, one in math and the other in education. In conjunction with the latter, he recently completed his student teaching at Sue Buel Elementary.

He has played piano and timpani in a number of orchestras over the years, including Linfield’s Chamber Orchestra and Concert Band, the Willamette Valley Symphony, the Amadeus String Orchestra, the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Salem Chamber Orchestra.

Davis spends at least three hours a day practicing piano. In his spare time, he plays with various groups, composes new pieces and puts his dogs through their paces.

On Sunday mornings, he can be found serenading the congregation at Salem’s Unitarian Church, where his dad is a minister. He also plays for the elderly at Lancaster Village Nursing Home in Salem. And if all that weren’t enough, he also offers private piano lessons in McMinnville.

Meanwhile, he is practicing for his senior recitals. His composition recital is set for 8 p.m. Nov. 5, during the current winter semester, and his piano recital for 6 p.m. April 19, during spring semester.

“Music has always been a hobby,” Davis said. “It’s something that I enjoy doing and try not to over-analyze and I am fairly happy doing it.”