THE event: Find Your Voice

Eric Temple, Rebeca Mauleón, Nathan Chan and Samuel Carl Adams photo by Gene Cohn

Eric Temple, Rebeca Mauleón, Nathan Chan and Samuel Carl Adams
photo by Gene Cohn

THE event, a TEDTalk-style presentation hosted by the Lick-Wilmerding Alumni and Development Office, is a newly created annual fundraiser held in the Ehrer Theatre. Last year was the inaugural year with guest speakers David Kelley and KR Sridhar, which succeeded in raising over $130,000 for the new Building and Programming Intelligent Machines course at Lick. This year, the fundraiser was focused on raising money to purchase better speakers and sound equipment for the theatre. In keeping with the music theme, guest speakers and performers for this year’s fundraiser were musicians Rebeca Mauleón, Samuel Carl Adams ’04 and Nathan Chan ’11, who all spoke to the idea of “finding your voice.”
Rebeca Mauleón is a Grammy-nominated producer, pianist, composer and educator (and mother of Alejandro Santana ’14). She has worked with the likes of Tito Puente, Carlos Santana, Steve Winwood, Joe Henderson and Mickey Hart and has released three critically acclaimed Latin Jazz recordings. She has also published six Latin Jazz songbooks. Recently, Mauleón was named Director of Education at SFJAZZ, a non-profit organization that puts on jazz concerts at the beautiful SFJAZZ Center in Hayes Valley.
In describing how she found her voice in Afro Cuban music, she told the audience how she had originally wanted to be a drummer. She loved the sounds of Latin Afro Cuban music, but realized that it was an extremely male-dominated field. Instead of pursuing a career with the drums, she chose the piano instead as her way of entering the field. She attributed her love for music to her family; she was able to have access to a variety of instruments in her home. “When I was bored, I was always told to go play the piano,” she said. Mauleón finished by displaying the passion she spoke of throughout her presentation with some improv on the piano that showed off both her technical chops and her creative ear.
Samuel Carl Adams, Class of 2004, has risen in the classical music world for his experimental compositions. He’s known for using electroacoustics to compose pieces that blend multiple musical disciplines together, such as jazz and classical. He recently composed “Drift and Providence,” which uses live electronics with an orchestra, as a commissioned piece for the San Francisco Symphony and the New World Symphony.
Adams began his portion of the presentation with a disclaimer: even though he originally sought to answer the question “Why do composers compose?” he realized that it was an impossible feat. Instead, he chose to describe his intent for his own music. He began by playing a sample of Pérotin’s beautifully harmonic church choir music. He explained that since Pérotin was composing for the Notre Dame in Paris, he had to be aware not to write any dissonance in his music due to the acoustics of the church. Yet, when listening to his music, it was never aurally uninteresting. Adams excitedly explained how there was “so much change [in the sound] in just a vowel change” in the lyrics. From there, he went on to relate it to the music listened to in this day and age. He asked the audience, “What are our modern equivalents of the cathedrals?” Headphones were one option. Another was our cars. He played an audio clip of himself driving his own car around with the sound frequencies displayed alongside it. Most of the sound was between 60-750 Hz, which, he explained, are the frequencies that most classical music is in. That would explain why listening to classical music in the car can sometimes be a struggle; the sounds of the car and the music clash so that the listener can’t properly listen to either. When listening to music in the car or on our iPhones, the fidelity has to be diminished in order to share it as an mp3 or AAC. This results in the pure form of the music lowering itself in quality. To demonstrate his point, he took a passage from Debussy’s “La Mer.” Every couple of seconds, the fidelity would be reduced and more “sizzle and crackle” could be heard.  For Adams, he actually became intrigued with this white noise and incorporated into many of his compositions, such as “cares you know not,” a piece that featured eight cellos all recorded extremely close to the point where the listener could hear the performers’ clothes rustling and the scratchy sounds of the bows moving on the strings.
Next came Nathan Chan, Class of 2011. An internationally acclaimed cellist, Chan has soloed with the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, the U.K. Northern Sinfonia, Albany Symphony, Marin Symphony and Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra, among others. He is currently a student of the Columbia University-Juilliard Exchange Program, where he will be pursuing his Masters at Juilliard next year. Chan has an active online presence, with over 3.3 million views on YouTube. He also founded and is a member of the all-cello quintet String Theory, which recently performed at the Google Zeitgeist in 2013.
Chan spoke of how he found his voice through an overwhelming connection he had with music from a very young age. He played a video clip of the world-renowned conductor Seiji Ozawa passionately conducting the ending of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (commonly known as the “Resurrection” Symphony). The clip then cut to a home video of Chan, age two, conducting in a living room with the same enthusiasm and love. He waved around his makeshift baton (which happened to be a wooden chopstick) and made hilariously cute facial expressions that matched the epic music. Like Mauleón, music was an integral part of his childhood. He made his musical debut at the age of three conducting the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. At 13, he was fortunate enough to be asked by Roberta Flack to be on her latest album when Yo-Yo Ma was unavailable for the job. He then went on to describe how music had such an impact on every aspect of his life, and that he felt the meaning of life, despite being such an enormous question, could be answered with music. Chan completed his presentation with a soulful performance of “Meditation” from Thaïs by Massenet and a flashy “Tambourin Chinois” by Fritz Kreisler.

Chan and his mother, Rena Ling, perform photo by Gene Cohn

Chan and his mother, Rena Ling, perform
photo by Gene Cohn

Head of School Eric Temple then joined all three artists on stage for a Q&A session. They all shared their thoughts on the arts and education, what power tool they would be (Mauleón decided on either a cassette or a Walkman because they “paved the way” for making music more accessible despite being quite set on a pencil sharpener earlier, Adams chose a power stapler for practicality reasons and Chan picked a 3D printer because he believed that it mimicked what he did as a performer because it works “layer by layer…[but] the final product is the only thing the audience sees, they don’t see the preparation for it”) and the beauty of a live performance. Both Adams and Chan were extremely grateful for their Lick education. Adams, who was a part of the architecture program at Lick, said, “Goranka [Poljak-Hoy] was one of my best music teachers” because he learned how to use both his head and hands through the numerous architecture models he had to create—skills he still uses when crafting music.

Mauleón, Adams and Chan answer audience questions photo by Gene Cohn

Mauleón, Adams and Chan answer audience questions
photo by Gene Cohn

At the reception, inspiration was clearly in the air. Audience members excitedly spoke to one another of the talent and creativity they saw on the stage. For Nichil Stewart ’14, he was amazed to see how “people interact with live music. It’s a completely different experience than listening to an mp3.” Elisa Boles ’14, who is a seasoned singer and actress herself, echoed Stewart’s thoughts: “I really appreciate what they were saying about live music from the performing perspective…and [about] being able to feed off the energy [of the audience].” Tano Brock ’14, who is also a musician, producer and composer, said, “It was almost like being starstruck because they’re so talented and very inspiring…just seeing them be so accomplished on stage…and knowing that that’s a possibility.” August Rock ’15 was particularly inspired by the three artists’ approaches to modern music-making. Even as a self-declared “non-musician,” he enjoyed “[seeing] someone who’s trying to think about [new music], while still appreciating the classics, but interpreting [them] in a new way for a new and modern world.” A wide-eyed Charles Ryan ’14 exclaimed, “All I want to do is go home and play my trumpet now!”


UPDATE: In the print version of this article that appears in the May issue of the Paper Tiger, the photos were incorrectly credited to Eleanor Sananman. The Paper Tiger staff apologizes to Gene Cohn.

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