Last year’s first-years were pretty rockin’ when it came to the music scene. Members of the class of 2017 involved themselves in the CC music community, and the freshman band Funkdozer slayed Battle of the Bands and earned the lead spot to play at Llamapalooza eighth block. I was more than proud; I was ecstatic.
Now we’ve moved a little past our baby status, and walking around campus feels a little strange with all of these new faces. I do not know many of them, but I’m sure that at least some of these new first-years are exploding with energy and talent, ready to light up my world and give me something to write about.
Social media became my friend, and I immediately went to the “Colorado College Class of 2018” page in hopes of finding a few people who had a little bit of soul pumping through their veins. I made a post calling all musical freshmen to contact me. I didn’t get bazillion responses, but the ones I did get were pretty cool.
Callum Neeson, a freshman from Ridgefield, Connecticut, was the first to respond. He said he would only let me interview him if I treated him to a delicious three-course meal. I thought he was serious so I told him about a wonderful restaurant called Rastall. He was not serious and denied my invitation. Awkward.
Mary Nguyen, freshman from Aurora, Colorado, also responded and immediately told me that she has been playing violin for quite some time and is a bit absorbed in the music world already here at Colorado College. I was immediately impressed and got a little nostalgic after thinking about my old orchestra days.
Q: What instruments do you play, how long have you been playing those instruments? How did you learn?
Callum: I play the guitar and saxophone. I’ve been playing the guitar for six years and saxophone for four years. The guitar was a little self-taught at first; then, I got lessons and I also had lessons for the saxophone. I would say the guitar is my main instrument but I really do enjoy both of them.
Mary: I’ve played the violin for eight years. I first started learning in a public school orchestra, and then after three years of dedication, my orchestra teacher recommended that I study privately.
Q: Why did you start playing those instruments? What inspired you?
Callum: My mom has a rule that you have to always be playing an instrument until you’re basically old enough to tell her ‘no.’
Mary: I’m not sure why I chose the violin. No one in my family is involved in music. I just know that when my mom took me to the music store, there was something about the violin that was just better than anything else. Nothing actually inspired me to get into music—I just wanted to get into music. But later on, my orchestra directors, teachers, and famous violinists like Hilary Hahn, Vanessa Mae, and Joshua Bell inspired me to continue to study it.
Q: Do you remember the first song you learned to play?
Callum: For the guitar it was “Back in Black,” and for the saxophone, I think it was “Watermelon Man” by Herbie Hancock.
Mary: Oof. It was either “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”
Q: Do you perform in public at all? Are you interested in performing in public/in a band?
Callum: Back at home, I did open mic nights and just played with friends. I’d like to perform here. I was in a band here and there but not one that I stuck with for a long amount of time.
Mary: I do perform in public. I started by playing in the school orchestra, and then later I joined the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Colorado All-State Orchestra. Now, I hope to play in the CC Chamber Orchestra and in a Bluegrass Ensemble. Fun fact: I competed in a music festival with my high school orchestra that took place at Carnegie Hall.
Q: Do you get nervous performing live? If so, what are some tips or tricks you might have to mitigate the nerves?
Callum: I don’t think I’ll get as nervous here just because I don’t know that many people.
Mary: I don’t get nervous when I play with others (like in a quartet or an orchestra setting), but I do get very nervous when I’m playing soloistically (with piano or orchestra accompaniment). To calm down, I’ll usually remind myself that my friends and family are in the audience supporting me, and it makes me feel a lot better.
Q: Are there any musicians that you admire or look up to?
Callum: Jimi Hendrix and John Coltrane – I guess would be my two.
Mary: I really admire Bond, Vanessa Mae, and Lindsey Stirling. They’ve shown the world that the violin can be quite versatile at playing various genres. I actually bought an electric violin as a result of their music. In high school, I was super obsessed with Lindsey Stirling, so I bought her sheet music, made a back track, and learned how to dance while playing the violin for my school’s talent show.
Q: What is your genre of choice to either play or listen to?
Callum: Everything. I like modern indie rock, and I like jazz music a lot. I like funk music.
Mary: It’s either classical music or video game/movie music. My favorite composers are Wienawski and Beethoven. My favorite video game music is from Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy.
Q: Do you think you have developed your own unique sound as a musician?
Callum: I would definitely say I’m still searching for my sound.
Mary: Intense and bold, yet serene.
Q: Favorite song or album at the moment?
Callum: At the moment, The White Album by the Beatles. I’ve been listening to that a lot recently.
Mary: Shostakovich Waltz No. 2, and For River from To The Moon.
Q: What’s next for you in terms of music at CC? Do you have any goals you want to accomplish or any plans for this current school year?
Callum: I’d definitely like to be in a band and play venues. I was walking in Slocum, and I heard one of the funk bands playing. I knocked on the door because I thought it was cool. Yeah, that seems really fun.
Mary: My dream/long-term goal would be to compose and write music. For this current school year, it’d be to get better at improvising, learn jazz piano, and possibly compete in the concerto competition.