Humans of MHS #5 - Musicians

1/2018

By Maple Perchlik and Maddie Friend

Two writers for the Solon Spectrum are back this month with the fifth edition of Humans of MHS.  This month they've uncovered the stories of three MHS musicians, providing a window into an important, yet often overlooked, portion of the MHS community.

*Note:  If you haven't yet read Humans of MHS #1, read it here!  It explains exactly what this column is and why it matters.

Matt Koucky, Grade 12

INTERVIEW BY Maddie friend

What instrument(s) do you play?

I play clarinet and saxophone.

How long have you been playing these instruments?

7 and 3 years, respectively.

How much time do you think you spend practicing a day?

Not enough. (about 45 minutes to an hour)

Do you feel you have a hard time balancing schoolwork and music?

Yes.

Do you get nervous before a performance or competition, and if so how do you manage your nerves?

I usually try to play things other than the piece I'm playing but ones that use the same techniques. For example, I'll play altissimo exercises if a piece has parts in altissimo.

What is your favorite kind of music to play & your favorite kind of music to listen to?

My favorite music to play is Late Romantic and Early Modern classical music. I love the way these time periods meld tonality and chromaticism. Most composers during this time explored non-traditional methods of composition, but there was still the drive to maintain a certain sense of tonality. It's easy to follow but it's still super cool sounding. My favorite composers are Brahms, Debussy, and Neilsen. I mostly listen to punk — artists like Sleater-Kinney and Mitski.

What artist(s) inspire you and why?

Sabina Meyer is my fave clarinet player because she's less conceited than most clarinet players.

What is it like for you as an artist/musician in our school community?

There's a lot of encouragement at MHS but it's hard to do music if your family isn't super involved financially or in other ways. In general I think the school does a really good job getting people interested and involved as best they can.

Do you want to pursue music as a potential career when you get older?

No. I would never be able to survive.

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians in our community?

Practice more. Play etudes.

Jojo Mensah, grade 10

Interview By Maddie Friend

What instrument(s) do you play?

I play the trumpet, piano, and West African drums.

How long have you been playing these instruments?

I have been playing trumpet for 5 years, piano for 3, and West African drums most of my life.

How much time do you think you spend practicing a day?

I practice piano usually once every two days, and about the same with the trumpet for different time periods, depending on what I am playing. I don't spend too much time practicing the west african drums.

Do you feel you have a hard time balancing schoolwork and music?

At times it can be challenging with (sic) balancing music with school because of homework, sports practices and games, and lesson times.

Do you get nervous before a performance or competition, and if so how do you manage your nerves?

For me it is a weird pattern of when I get nervous. I never get nervous when I play the West African drums because I have been playing them for the longest time, so I am very comfortable. With trumpet I do get nervous during concerts and festivals but I usually get through it because I know my music well. What gets me the most is playing piano at a recital because I am with a group of people that I am unfamiliar with and i'm all by myself. I just make sure that I keep my tempo and play what I know.

What is your favorite kind of music to play & your favorite kind of music to listen to?

My favorite kind of music to play is jazz, because there is so much you can do with any piece of music. You can use different scales to solo and you can try new things and little rhythms. I would say jazz along with rap is my favorite music to listen to.

What artist(s) inspire you and why?

I don't really have a favorite artist because I just have a broad taste of music.

Do you want to pursue music as a potential career when you get older?

I’m not sure yet what I want to do in my adult life, but I could see myself going further with my music career.

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians in our community?

My only advice to aspiring musicians is to enjoy what you play and practice to be able to go further.

Eliana Moorhead, Grade 9

Interview by maple perchlik

What instruments do you play/ do you sing?

I play the B-flat clarinet and hope to learn the alto sax, soprano sax, or bass clarinet.

What was the first time you felt inspired by a musician or music?

When I was three or four, I’d sit on the kitchen floor for hours most days, listening to a stack of CDs over and over again. I listened to a lot of James Brown, Norah Jones, David Bowie, and the Beatles. I didn’t really understand the lyrics, but I would remember the rhythms. I loved it so much and when I got a little older, wanted to learn an instrument.

What artist do you get inspired by? Why?

Aretha Franklin inspires me. Back in the sixties, she brought so much to the music world. She mixed R&B and jazz into gospel music, which was new. Franklin is one of the people who made me like soul music. I like how she has a variety of R&B and pop. Plus, her voice is just pure gold. She also helped to fix the racial divide at the time. Aretha is an influential woman who has changed my music perspective since I started listening to her. And, she’s on tour!

What’s your favorite music to listen to?

R&B, jazz, alt-rock, hip-hop, and funk. I also listen to a lot of French music.

When did you start making music?

I started playing the clarinet in fourth grade and did a bit on the violin in first grade.

Do you feel you have a hard time balancing school work and music?

Not really, I make sure to practice at least five times a week. Sometimes it’s difficult to balance. But I look forward to playing, so it becomes less of a responsibility and more of an enjoyment.

How long do you practice music for?

It depends how much time I have - anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half.

Do you feel your family affects your life as a musician?

They do.  My family likes to listen to me play and they’re supportive.

Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?

Yes, but I find ways to calm down and stay focused. I’m usually only nervous before the performance. Once I start playing, I’m more relaxed.

What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?

To those who are starting out on an instrument: Congrats and welcome to the family! Starting out will be difficult, that’s just how it is with anything new. But it is much easier once you get rolling. Take it slow. You aren’t in a hurry to be an all-star musician, you’re here to have a good time. Focus on what you do well, and figure out why you make certain mistakes. Keep adjusting your technique, and you’ll get it eventually. But don’t be afraid to screw up. Ask for help! There are so many people available who have been in the same place as you. Also, play music that you really enjoy, aside from school music. Playing an instrument is a lot more fun when you love what you’re doing and have more options.

What is it like for you as an artist/musician in our school community?

At first it was pretty nerve-wracking, going from the top of the middle school to the bottom of the high school. Now, I love playing in the band with the upperclassmen. I look up to them quite a bit, and they’re fun to be around.