Students don’t get much more engaged, thoughtful, and intelligent than our Student Spotlight Carolina, who takes guitar and vocal lessons with Ben. With an impressively diverse range of musical tastes that she developed at a young age–everything from Pink Floyd to Bjork–Carolina is preternaturally mature both about the music she listens to and the way she approaches it in her own study. We loved watching her perform David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” at our last recital, and we’re excited to watch her progress as she enters OCSA‘s guitar program next year.
MM: How did you get started with guitar, and how long have you been playing guitar? What made you interested? Do you play any electric right now? When did singing start coming into the picture, too?
CH: Bands like Pink Floyd and Radiohead sparked my interest in pursuing the guitar. After hearing their songs, I desperately strived to play them myself. I began playing the acoustic guitar about three years ago, when I was eleven years old. I’m almost positive “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd was the first real song I learned to play: I was quite proud of that and probably excessively played it, annoying my parents. I now play classical, electric, and acoustic guitar. Singing publicly is fairly new to me. I’ve always enjoyed humming discreetly, but letting others listen is a new feat. I actually began to sing at concerts just a few months ago. Before that, I didn’t even know I could sing!
MM: Who are a few bands/artists who have inspired you, and why? Who’s your favorite guitarist, singer, and guitarist/singer? In general, what genres/artists do you tend to listen to the most, and who influences you?
CH: My taste in music is always fluctuating. I’m currently on a huge Hamilton kick, but who knows what I’ll like a month from now? Pink Floyd’s album The Wall probably had the biggest musical impact on me. I discovered the album as a curious tween and was absolutely infatuated with it. Since then, I’ve dug up various underground music. I enjoy listening to many different genres of music, so I don’t really have a favorite. I just recently got into Krautrock, and it’s supremely interesting! Some guitarists I revere are Django Reinhardt, Johnny Marr, Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, and Thom Yorke. I also find Björk, David Bowie, Damo Suzuki, Janis Joplin, and Morrissey to be excellent singers. Well…Yorke, Hendrix, and Gilmour are obviously stupendous singers too, but if I listed all my favorite singers and musicians it would be never-ending.
MM: We’ve had the chance to see you at a few recitals, but are there any other ways where you share your music? I know you have a younger sister in music programs too; are there any family music nights? Of the two performances with Radiohead and Bowie, do you have a favorite? Why?
CH: Although I’m quite shy, sometimes I’ll perform for my family. Some members of my family are musically inclined too, so we occasionally jam together. My sister just began playing the piano, so I enjoy teaching her little things here and there. Family music nights sound like fun…maybe we should try that! As for my two performances, I’m not sure if I favor one over the other. They both remain special to me in their own separate memory cabinets. Sorry if that didn’t make much sense, but it’s the only way to describe it
MM: Congratulations on getting into OCSA! What songs did you do for the audition? What was the audition prep and process like for you, and what do you know about what to expect in your department for the fall? How are you feeling?
CH: Thank you! For the audition, I played “Autumn Leaves” and “Andante in C Major.” Then, I was asked to play various scales and read simple musical notation. The audition preparation was quite strenuous because I needed to know a repertoire of songs and theory and polish my ability to read music. I am not entirely sure what will occur this fall in my department, but we will most likely practice musical theory and have live performances. Hopefully, OCSA will obliterate my stage fright and permit me to play fearlessly at future Molly’s Music recitals! I am looking forward to attending OCSA.
MM: What are your longer-term goals, both musically and other-wise? What are you looking forward to in high school? Do you have any college or career dreams at this point? Outside of music, do you have any favorite hobby, sport, tv show, hike, book, or a special summer activity?
CH: Musically, I strive to master as many instruments possible. Academically, I strive to master as many subjects as possible. Yes, I realize those are broad-sweeping statements, but they’re true. In high school, I’m looking forward to the curriculum and diverse population. I haven’t yet pinned down a specific field of study for college or thereafter. Medicine or History are possible majors. Outside of music, I enjoy reading, watching documentaries, and sketching. But even during those activities there are songs trapped in my mind.
MM: What makes you keep up your practice? Where do you usually practice, and how much? What does Ben have you working on now? Does he coach you on vocals, too, or is that independent?
CH: Plenty of things keep up my practice. Now, as OCSA draws near, I feel extra pressure to hone my guitar skills! Ben also inspires me to practice with homework. Right now we are working on a bossa nova piece, so he assigned me to review it at home. Ben does coach me on vocals as well. In fact, he significantly helped train my voice for the recital and provided great tips to become a better singer in general.
MM: What’s been one of your biggest challenges as a developing musician? Is it something you’re still dealing with, and if so, how’ve you learned to get around it?
CH: Well, I’ve always had a good “musical ear.” Because of that, reading music has been difficult for me. But I strive to read music properly and eventually compose it myself. I’ve just got to keep practicing.
MM: What advice would you give to other students just starting out, or wondering if they should start guitar?
CH: The guitar is a beautiful instrument and rewarding to play. It may be difficult at first, but if you persistently practice the outcome is wonderful. I remember a time when my parents practically begged me to practice the guitar. Eventually, it clicked and I began to love playing the instrument. All you have to do is stay inspired (watch cool guitar videos, read books about the guitar, play your favorite songs) and practice. I think the guitar is a marvelous product of life that everyone should be acquainted with.