Music tamed the savvy West Boca valedictorian

Balancing schoolwork with dual enrollment, high school band and independent band was a major struggle for West Boca Raton High School valedictorian Zachary Novack.

“I wish I had some amazing way that I overcame them, but the truth of the matter is that it was a combination of little sleep and a boatload of coffee,” said Novack, 18.

Among all his many accolades, Drum Corps was his favorite. Being away from home for 86 days and touring the country, playing music for 18 hours a day, “was life-changing.”

“With spending every day with the same 150 people, Drum Corps taught me to not only be a better musician but also a better person,” Novack said.

A 4.0 GPA (5.2917 weighted) helped him earn the top honor for the Bulls. He also scored a 1560 on his SAT and a 35 on his ACT. The Boca Raton resident is undecided which college he will attend, but he plans a dual major in economics and music composition.

“While I still don’t completely know what I want to do with my life, I know music will play a role,” Novack said. “If I do intend to pursue it professionally, I plan to work my way into the film scoring scene and work as a composer, on top of writing for other marching arts ensembles. For me, who’s found the marching arts to be an incredibly formative experience, I want to be able to give that chance to other people while at the same time finding my own musical voice.”

In addition to many clubs such as SECME, Math Academic Team and West Boca Political Union (he founded this club and helped organize a visit from Congressman Ted Deutch), Novack spent time volunteering. As BBYO Chapter Community Service chairman, he organized a fundraiser, which collected $1,000 for JAFCO (Jewish Adoption Agency).

His parents, Scott and Ida, were very proud when he earned a job at The Scripps Research Institute, where he worked in the Molecular Therapeutics lab of Dr. Scott Hansen. Novack conducted hands-on research of opioids’ (morphine and DAMGO) effect on neurological pathways.

But it’s his music that had the most lasting impression on him in high school.

“I definitely think that as much as balancing band with schoolwork was a major stressor, it also kept me sane,” Novack said. “I don’t think I would’ve been able to handle all the schoolwork and stress associated with it if I didn’t have band every day to clear my head and focus on something completely different.”

See valedictorians’ stories at


What is your favorite movie?

Currently, “Arrival” (the sound design on it is phenomenal).

What are your hobbies?

Composing music, going to the gym, coffee making (I own five coffee machines for context).

What do you do to get away or take a break?

Most of the above hobbies, as well as bingeing any Netflix original miniseries (especially “Black Mirror”).

If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?

David Maslanka. Though he only recently died last summer, his work has had a profound influence on me and I would love to learn about his writing process.

What is the best advice you ever received?

My instructor over the summer, Jacob Pope, would always tell us to think of music as writing. To interpret what we were playing as punctuation, to think of musically phrasing in terms of legitimate phrases.

What is your favorite book?


As much as I love music, I’m still avidly into economics, and the way the book approaches problem-solving is mind-boggling.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Though it’s relatively recent, my first indoor percussion competition in ninth grade opened my mind to the marching arts.

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