When did you get involved in music? Do you come from a musical family or what?
My family has been very active in music but it has only been my siblings and I who were actually musicians. I played violin when I was really little, then piano for about 12 years, cello in orchestra, percussion in junior high school band, a lot of musical theater when I was younger so that got me started with voice lessons and what not, and that just took off. I sang with the Bowdoin choir when I was in high school because they have community members so my mom and sister sang with me in that. There’s not a ton to do in Maine so I did a lot with the theaters there. I was a big dork.
[Laughs] I’ve never lost the dorkiness. I think we are all surrounded by dorkiness so it’s all relative now.
So, I take it music is a passion for you. Is it something you want to stay involved with? Do you want to conduct or write or…?
Yeah, I think I want to go on to music grad school. So that was big part of the reason I started this project [Winter Study Chorale]. Basically, I want to be Brad [Wells], you know, a chorale director at a college. So I thought I’d try it out. I think I’d like to do some composition as well. I kind of came into Williams thinking that I either wanted to go into music or theater and I knew that at some point I was going to have to make a choice. So after the tour in Italy [with the Williams College Concert Choir, summer 2001] I really saw how music can touch someone. I’m really not a fan of the arts being sort of “entertainment.” I think music and the arts in general can be used for good things. Music can affect people and I felt like the way in which music can affect people it’s a lot more applicable in music than in theater. I think there is something so awesome about choral music. The human voice is such a tangible thing because everyone has it. So when you hear a choir sing, it feels like you’re a part of it.
So, speaking of touching music and what not, the chorale sang a Gaelic piece you wrote. Where was the inspiration for that?
I spent some time traveling around Scotland by myself last summer. There is a ton of folk music up there. I got caught on a boat with the Louis and Hert bag piping association, so it was like 100 bagpipers and me. The music was really beautiful and very haunting. I find classical music very beautiful and very touching, but I find it very Western and formalized. So it’s cutting out half the world. I’ve tried to incorporate other music ideas, so that’s where the Gaelic idea came from.
If you were going to be a vegetable, what would you be?
Woah! That’s a good question. [Pause] I want to say artichoke heart.
What a great vegetable!
Well yeah, but I mean it’s only because I like to eat them.
Yeah, plus you’d have a cool name; it’s not boring like, broccoli, carrot.
Yeah, and they are really cool because they are all prickly on the outside, and then you cut off the stem and the inside is all soft.
Do you realize that you almost just quoted “Shrek?”
I’ve never seen “Shrek!” Here’s a little known fact: I have also never seen a full episode of “Seinfeld” or “The Simpsons.” I’m a big dork.
Is there anything else you want me to inform the masses of?
Well, can I talk about classical music a bit? I feel like this a great opportunity to put in a plug for classical music. You know, the Mozart Requiem sold out more tickets than Madeline Albright coming to speak. So I know people like classical music. It’s obvious that classical music touches people, but I feel like classical music is often seen as dead white men’s music. There is just so much formality involved. I mean, you go to a formal hall, you sit quietly, you don’t clap between movements. I think it’s so awesome that it’s so technical. You can analyze music; it’s very mathematical. I can explain a piece of music to you, but I can’t tell you why it sounds so awesome and why a certain grouping of chords can sound so natural and right. That’s the coolest thing. It’s so technical but it’s so innate. A family friend told me that he felt that music healed souls. So that’s a little corny, but after the Italy tour when we were only able to communicate with these small villages through music and we were affecting people, it was just so meaningful. So basically what I’m saying is that people should come to the classical concerts. There’s a lot more to them.
So you think that there should be classical music groupies?
Yes! Choir groupies would be so cool! We could have choir after-parties and what not. How fun would that be?