#MSMspotlight

Conversations about creativity, inspiration, and life at MSM.

“MSM Precollege gives you an education aside from just performing. We learn theory, music history, literature—these classes really help me with understanding the music I’m playing, and learn about new composers and genres.”

Benjamin Rossen (Precollege '20)

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“The message I hope people take away from my project ('Morningside') is that everyone is dealing with something, even when it’s not visible to others. Everyone needs help in some way or another and no one should be left behind.”

Jarrett Winters Morley (BM '20, Musical Theatre)

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“I have an oral style, I tend to use paper only when needed. My style is based on actually embracing the information in the moment. I think my teaching style is is similar to the way I was taught on the bandstand, and I try to keep that element present in an institutional setting.”

Marc Cary, Jazz Arts Faculty and Pianist

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“Last summer I found my favorite book here, it’s called 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay' by Michael Chabon. It’s a fictional work about the lives of two Jewish cousins, one born in Prague and the other in NYC, around the time of World War II. They form a creative team and write and draw a comic book series called 'The Escapist' that’s a fantastical interpretation of their lives. It’s a really fascinating story!”

Seth Birrell (BM ’21, Classical Bass Trombone)

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“The main reason I wanted to be the Orientation Assistant was because last year’s assistant, Helena Hallberg (BM ’20, Musical Theatre) made such an impression on me. She made the experience so wonderful and exciting, and I want to do my best to help these students through an amazing transition that can seem daunting at first. For me, Orientation is so much fun and completely took my mind off of the stress of moving and going to college. I want to pay it forward and recreate this experience for the new students.”

Anna Maria Vacca (BM '22, Voice)

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“I’m from South Florida and throughout my childhood I lived in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Broward County. I started playing trombone in seventh grade, but my middle school actually didn’t have a band, so the local high school let me sit in on their rehearsals. The high school band leader was very influential to me; he opened me up to the world of music and introduced me to jazz, which I came to love so much that I decided to pursue it as a career.”

Armando Vergara, Jazz Trombone (BM '19)

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“Over the past two years, working and performing with Tactus [CPP Ensemble] has consistently been the most rewarding and enriching institutionally-based musical experiences of my life thus far. There is nothing quite like collaborating with an intimate group of driven, like-minded, and progressive musicians that are unwaveringly committed to the future of chamber music.”

Jon Clancy, Contemporary Performance (MM '19)

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“We’re doing some amazing tunes that I’ve always loved. What’s great is many of these arrangements were written specifically for certain vocalists. I remember listening to these on YouTube thinking, “these sound so amazing, singing with big bands is simply magical.” It is so great having Jim McNeely as a resource and conductor, with his arrangements… these are iconic for jazz vocalists.”

Julia Keefe, Jazz Voice (MM '19)

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“I love how MSM has students from all over the world, and the freedom we have here to pursue classical music in traditional and modern ways. Being in New York City, you have the world at your fingertips. MSM gives me world-class accessibility in the music world, but also fosters an inclusive energy that makes me feel like part of a musical family in a city that can seem very chaotic.”

Sienna George, Double Bass (BM '22)

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“I feel that all great musicians come to NYC at some point in their lives — the atmosphere at MSM, but also in the city, inspires me to keep reaching for my dreams.”

Gabriella Fahnenstiel, Classical Piano (MM ’19)

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“I think that's a running theme in this semester's concert, that percussion gestures are extremely varied and can be very subtle or very dramatic. We have an atmospheric piece by Anna Thorvaldsdottir called "Aura" that’s extremely gestural. It's the sounds of Iceland brought to life using complete darkness and finger lights, which adds another element to the show. I think that percussion ensemble music is extremely unique. We can do things that other instruments can’t quite do, so it’s always a spectacle.”

Tae McLoughlin, Percussion (BM ’20)

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“I’m really partial to Herbie Hancock’s 'Butterfly' because I’m from Dallas and the neo-soul scene in Dallas is huge, it’s absolutely huge. Snarky Puppy came out of that area, so did others like Erykah Badu and Norah Jones… so I definitely grew up listening to that song.”

Austin Zhang, Jazz Saxophone (BM '21)

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“My advice for anyone new to MSM, especially undergraduate students, is to try to widen your perspective in terms of musical learning. Take as many classes as you can with many different teachers — MSM has such an amazing faculty, and it’s great to hear their take on different aspects of music. Make an effort to get into their classes, drop in on their lectures, or even talk to other students who study with them. It will open up your mind to completely new worlds and ideas that will ultimately help hone your craft.”

Toby Winarto, Viola (BM '19)

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“Studying at a conservatory in New York City provides a realistic experience of what it’s like to work in the musical theatre industry, as well as what it takes to succeed. Just about every day, my classmates and I are on campus working from 9 in the morning to 10 at night. These expectations toughen us and encourage constant improvement, which is necessary to excel in the real world.”

Spencer Gonzalez, Musical Theatre (BM ’21)

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“My takeaway [from the opera production of Emmeline] is that in life, there isn’t always going to be a silver lining or a happy ending. We want to live in a bubble where everything is wrapped in a pretty little bow by the end, but not every story can end that way. So much happens to Emmeline that is very, very dark, and as humans, we tend to push the darkness away. Sometimes you just have to hold a mirror up to it and say, 'look there it is!'”

Briella Chea, Voice (MM '20)

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