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At 19, Beverly’s Austin Davy is writing songs and serving as music director for a Boston Children’s Theatre production

By Wendy Killeen
Globe Correspondent / February 2, 2012
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Austin Davy spends hours every day sitting alone at a piano practicing. But when he plays for the theater, he comes alive.

“I like playing piano for singers because of the energy exchange,’’ Davy said. “And I love to conduct because it requires your entire body, and animation is allowed.

“I definitely have explosive energy, and the orchestra and singers really feed off the energy of the conductor. If you pour that energy in you really get it back, and that’s what the audience sees.’’

That combustion will be on display during “Calvin’s Monster,’’ presented by Boston Children’s Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Feb. 11-12.

Davy, 19, of Beverly, is music director and conductor for the show, and one of the composers of the original score.

“Austin already is having an extraordinary career, and it will just get bigger and bigger,’’ said Burgess Clark, executive artistic director of Boston Children’s Theatre. “He had an early calling and he is one of those unique kids who can make it happen.’’

When Davy was 7, he learned a classical music song from a CD by ear and played in it on the piano. He started taking lessons at 9, and became serious about the piano in high school.

He also became enamored with musical theater, and joined Boston Children’s Theatre as an actor and singer when he was 16. “I learned of his ability as a musician and was blown away,’’ Clark recalled.

Davy became a pianist and assistant musical director for the theater and taught at its summer program. After he made an a cappella arrangement of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer’’ for the theater’s choir, he was asked whether he could do other arrangements.

During his junior year at Beverly High School, he wrote the underscore for the theater’s production of “The Velveteen Rabbit.’’ His senior year, he worked as an organist, singer, piano accompanist, and music director for several local productions.

After graduating from Beverly High last year, Davy enrolled in the University of Hartford’s performing arts conservatory, the Hartt School. He is majoring in piano, but plans to include music direction, musical theater, and composing.

In October, at the initial reading for “Calvin’s Monster,’’ a new musical adapted by Clark and based on the book “Fairy Tale Moments’’ by Marcia Trimble, Davy met Jesse Soursourian, who had written the chords and melody for the score. Davy was brought on board to add the orchestrations, harmonies, and arrangements, and also wrote a few new songs.

“It was so good to give my music to someone that competent,’’ said Soursourian, 30, also a Beverly native. “He knew what I was trying to get at with the music and lyrics, and what Burgess was getting at with the writing. He knew how to meld them together, and add his own things and make it a good production.’’

Back at college, Davy was hard at work composing. “Calvin’s Monster’’ is a range of styles, from upbeat dance music to ballads.

“I actually work well at ungodly hours of the night,’’ he said. “I’d get so carried away that if I got an idea at 11:30 p.m., I’d look at the clock again and it would be 4 a.m. The music has been so much fun.’’

Davy also loves the messages of the show, which is about youngsters facing their fears, and the importance of literacy.

“He has done an amazing job,’’ said Colin Budzyna, 14, of Newburyport, who plays Calvin. “He has a lot of energy and is very enthusiastic about what he does.

“He is a very kind person but also someone who is going to make you work and get better. The amount of work we get done in rehearsal with Austin is awesome. He is there to have fun, but mainly there to get us to improve and get a good product.’’

That is an attribute Davy learned at the theater. “They never allowed me to settle for anything less than the best I could possibly be doing at any moment, musically and personally,’’ he said.

Davy gives a lot of credit to his parents, Wendy and Bill. “They have always been supportive of me wanting to be a musician,’’ he said. “Financially it was difficult, but they really made up for that with an understanding of what I wanted to be.’’

Davy’s goal is to someday direct music on Broadway.

“He has extraordinary potential to go on and work on Broadway, as well as compose for television and films,’’ Clark said.

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