Steuard and Music

I have enjoyed music, primarily classical music (in the broad sense), for a very, very long time. More specifically, I love both the Romantic and Baroque periods, as well as a fair bit of twentieth century orchestral music. My tastes aren't all that unique: I still adore classic symphonies like Dvorak's 9th ("From the New World") and Beethoven's 5th and 6th, though my fondness for Vaughan Williams' 3rd and 5th is at least a little less common. I enjoy a good bit of Copland and Stravinsky, and have been a fan of Pictures at an Exhibition by Moussorgsky ever since I first heard it played (at a concert by a pianist friend of the family, shortly before she played it at Carnege Hall). I'm trying to get out and explore a bit more when I can. When we lived in Chicago, Kim and I had a subscription to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which was a fantastic treat.

I do like some more recent music as well, don't get me wrong. I've been fond of Simon and Garfunkel and They Might Be Giants for a long time, and my wife (and other friends) eventually taught me to love the Beatles, along with an eclectic variety of other artists, from Sarah McLachlan to Sligo Rags. I've become a fan of Jonathan Coulton's music ever since following him onto a boat in 2011 (where I also discovered John Roderick and The Long Winters). I'm also fond of a number of musicals, including Les Miserables and Into the Woods. And rather to my surprise, I've really enjoyed some of the music accompanying the webcomic Homestuck. You might think that my musical tastes are a disorganized jumble; you'd be right.

Of course, I don't just listen to music. My singing now generally just embarasses my friends, but I have been in several choral ensembles in the past. Somewhere around 4th grade, I sang in my church's (adult) choir, including a solo at one music-themed service. I went on from there to join Purei Cantores, a Lincoln boys' choir directed by Carolee Curtright. I sang with that group for five years until puberty finally brought that to an end. In college, I sang for three semesters in the Claremont Colleges Choir. That was a lot of fun: my first semester, we sang Carmina Burana, which I have grown to really enjoy. Later on, we also sang Mozart's Requiem and Beethoven's 9th symphony, with quite a few smaller works tossed in as well. (My fondness for Vaughan Williams began with singing his music.) Since coming to Alma, I have had the delightful opportunity to occasionally join the Alma Choir and Chorale in performing some of those same pieces at their spring Masterworks concerts.

I also play the trumpet, although I'm woefully out of practice. (It doesn't help that I wasn't precisely superb when I was playing regularly and taking lessons.) I started playing in fifth grade, where I was taught by Michael Veak. I played in my junior high orchestra in eigth and ninth grades and in the orchestra at my high school in eleventh and twelveth. While I was occasinally first chair in those ensembles, that was as much by default as anything else: it usually happened when the better players couldn't be in the group that semester. During high school I took lessons from Tom Kelley, at which point I finally started to improve a little. He hooked me up with a brass quintet composed largely of his students ("The Lancaster Brass", we called ourselves); I played with them for the year or so before I left for college.

Finally, no discussion of me and music would be complete without mentioning my fondness for writing parodies. Harvey Mudd has a traditional surprise for freshmen that (in many dorms, at least) involves some relyriced Beatles songs; I feel reasonably safe mentioning it here, as this site isn't actually on a Mudd server anymore, but I'll avoid giving too many details. At any rate, when I was first exposed to this tradition, I decided that while Beatles songs were nice, a bit more variety was in order. My sophomore year, I wrote new words to If I Only Had a Brain from The Wizard of Oz, and found a group of people to sing and record it with me for later playback. That only whetted my appetite, however, and led me to create my masterwork: a complete rewriting of One Day More, the finale of the first act of Les Miserables, which includes virutally every character and every musical theme in the show. I found a large group of people who wanted to be a part of that recording, and we actually tried to record it both my junior and senior years, always with mixed success. However, the result was greatly enjoyed and appreciated by members of its target audience, so it was worth it.

Along the same lines, I should mention the song parody that I wrote (and recorded) for the Tolkien Newsgroups parody E-text project. One of my contributions involved the return of Maglor son of Feanor in a chapter entitled "The Pugilist" (which was inserted right after "The Black Gate is Closed"). The chapter title inspired me to include a parody of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer", and for good measure I decided to record myself singing it (both melody and harmony).

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