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My WiNK Project: Music Interviews with Teachers, Round 2
Posted 05/20/2022 03:35PM

by: Ioanna Aspras

This week's edition of music interviews includes Dr. Sullivan, Mr. Rexford, Mr. Wolfson, and Mrs. Herrmann.

Dr. Sullivan:

Growing up, Dr. Sullivan's parents had a huge impact on what music he'd listen to. With his dad, they would mainly hear music from his grandparents' generation like the 30s and 40s. But with his mom, it would be a range from the 50s to the 70s. His parents also had a collection of vinyl records which included lots of the Beatles' music.

As he approached his teenage years in the 90s, he started developing his own musical tastes in genres such as Grunge--Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Gin Blossoms, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers--and Pop-metal--Aerosmith and the Offspring. Then he formed his love for Weezer, reminiscing about hanging out with his friends in their basements playing pool. He's "probably listened to the Weezer blue album more times than any other album that [he's] listened to straight through." Other artists that he started listening to around this time were Pink Floyd, Chicago, Fleetwood Mac, Journey, and Boston.

In his later high school years, he would watch MTV, specifically a show called Pop Up Video which showed original music videos but also had facts about the production of the song and video. Dr. Sullivan thought Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer music video was mind blowing, as well as Michael Jackson's Black or White being somewhat revolutionary as "it had a lot of video-graphic technology that no one had ever seen before." Take On Me and Smells Like Teen Spirit are other music videos that he remembers distinctly.

Until he was about 12 or 13 years old, the radio was his main source of listening to music. Then, it became CDs. Dr. Sullivan remembers buying CDs and the music was so clear sounding. He found it fascinating that "in a matter of maybe a year, they went from something that nobody had and being really expensive, to something that was much more common." The first CD he ever bought for himself was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles.

In college, most of his peers would listen to and share music through peer-peer sites which wasn't great for the artists in terms of profit, but it was "great for gaining exposure" for the artists.

Even though he still has much of his CD collection, his current main form of listening is mainly streaming on YouTube and Pandora. He also has started collecting records of his own over the past two years as it allows for him to listen to a whole album--the way it was made to be listened to.

He's seen a number of amazing live performances. In grad school, he saw some jazz performances: he saw saxophonist Sonny Rollins, as well as Wynton Marsalis. In the very early 2000s, Dr. Sullivan saw Fleetwood Mac in concert in Pittsburgh. He's seen Pat Benatar twice in the last two years. He was actually able to see her in Ridgefield which was for about 300 people, then at a state fair that had 5-10,000 people. It's very cool that he was able to "see basically the same show in an indoor, intimate setting and then an outdoor and really different setting." Dr. Sullivan does admit that he regrets not seeing Tom Petty live when he had the chance to.

All in all Dr. Sullivan says he "enjoy[s] music without regard to the genre necessarily." His tastes have broadened over the years and he listens to and enjoys just about any kind of music. Because he is also a musician who plays multiple instruments he also loves the social aspect of music. From being able to relate and connect with fellow fans on their love of the same music, to creating music with others, that's also a really important piece of his musical experience. "Even if it's not sounding that great, it's still a good time"

Mr. Rexford:

In the beginning, it was Mr. Rexford's dad who shaped the music that he was listening to; like the Beatles. But by middle school, Mr. Rexford was able to find his own likings like the Doors, the Who, and the Rolling Stones. The band Styx was from his town in Chicago, so he was lucky enough to see them live in parks for free.

A major influence on what he later started listening to could have been a John Denver concert he went to at the age of 16... the youngest one there for probably around 30 years. Denver later led to artists such as Jim Croce, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Gordon Lightfoot. These artists "are all poets in [Mr. Rexford's] mind." This music that he listened to, he labeled as Americana and is the main music he still listens to, especially when he has the time to really pay attention to it. He enjoys this simple kind of music over the big productions.

Mr. Rexford deeply appreciates lyrics. He enjoys hearing about peoples' stories and their perspectives about any moment in their lives. He believes that "everybody's got a song in them; it's whether or not we write it." He even tries to translate that into his own life by writing down things or poems that resonate with him; usually about things that have shaped him or about his feelings. He is, however, really impressed by the "people who can write beautiful things about small, everyday occurrences."

On the other hand, Mr. Rexford also loves music without lyrics. For example, he said his favorite concert was Leo Kottke who is a 12-string guitar player, and the show he went to had minimal to no lyrics. Altogether, he "love[s] the sound, love[s] the artistry, and love[s] seeing and listening to peoples' talents." He compared this to watching baseball. Even though he isn't the biggest fan, watching MLB games is very enjoyable because you're seeing the best.

With his own experiences with artists and his friends who had connections with famous artists, he's come to the conclusion that "they're not that far from us; they're very human people." For the most part, he's noticed that lots of singers are a lot more 'down to Earth' compared to athletes or other stars. Taylor Swift, he used as an example, has "been a star for a long time but she can write songs that connect with everyday experiences."

As much as Mr. Rexford appreciates the current methods of listening to and sharing music, he also misses the special experiences everyone would have such as in record stores and purchasing concert tickets. He reminisced about the first concert he got tickets for. It was for the Police and he (like everyone else) would camp out outside for at least four hours prior so that he could be in the front to purchase the tickets. Nowadays, that just doesn't really happen anymore. It wasn't as bad as it may sound to those of us who never experienced it, because you're hanging out with tons of people who appreciate and love the same music you do.

Going along with that, record shopping was also an experience in and of itself. Mr. Rexford shared about how people would recommend albums to each other in the record stores if they knew something similar to the section you were going through. Although records are starting to make their comeback, our main source of socializing about music is through the internet and that lacks the level of personability. He is excited, however, for this comeback because "there was nothing better than going home after the record store and listening to an experience that some artist has made."

Mr. Wolfson:

Mr. Wolfson's mom was big into musicals when he was growing up. Living in Stamford, they were able to go to the city a lot to watch many Broadway shows. As he got older and began listening to his own tastes, he was immediately drawn to movie music, especially the Pirates of the Caribbean--this was most likely a result of the musical soundtracks he listened to before. He was, however, also influenced by his friends' liking of genres such as pop-punk or what he called "emo."

Still, his interests sort of lie in a spectrum of rock types ranging from folk-rock to symphonic rock. He finds bands that incorporate a small orchestra or unique styles of instruments very interesting and he always loved concept albums. Mr. Wolfson, being an English teacher, made the connection between this musical preference and his passion for finding stories and connections.

From cassette tapes when he was a little kid, to portable CD players in middle school, and then MP3 players in high school, Mr. Wolfson went through many different methods of listening to music. He remembers how culture-changing MP3s and iPods were because you could now fit hundreds of songs on one little device. He still owns a good portion of the CDs he collected, but now, of course, he leans on digital platforms to stream his music.

At around 14 years old, he was able to see one of his favorite pop-punk bands, Yellowcard, perform in the city, as well as Green Day at Madison Square Garden. What later became one of his all-time favorite bands, the Duhks, he actually saw them live on a whim. He heard of them through someone else and went to a small venue where they were performing and really enjoyed the music they were playing.

The Duhks are a folk fusion band; fitting into his instrumental taste in music, as well as Jethro Tull, who he somewhat got from his parents.

Looking back, Mr. Wolfson likes a lot of music--especially rock--from his parents' generation, so it would have been nice for him to see them live. But, you can't really do that much anymore unless you go see a tribute band or artist.

Admittedly, he isn't too engrossed in modern music, but he has noticed that a lot of it doesn't sound too different from the music when he was a kid. Mr. Wolfson mentioned that maybe "we're waiting for the next big breakthrough" in music.

Ms. Herrmann:

Ms. Herrmann grew up in a household full of musically driven people. Songs were always playing, and they were always singing.

Early on, she developed a love for music and started studying it just for fun at a pretty young age. She began with 70s pop from her mom--including disco which she absolutely hated--and arena rock from her dad. Some of these artists ranged from Carpenters, Styx, Queen, and Chicago.

In high school, she got really deep into musical theater. But, at the same time, she was also developing a taste for pop-punk like the All-American Rejects, Green Day, and Fall Out Boy. Then, in college, she drifted toward things that she would want to play on guitar and/or piano; so more acoustic sounds. Collectively, lyrics really speak to her... the English teacher inside of her loves analyzing lyrics. Her main genre, currently, is folk--Fleet Foxes, First Aid Kit, Mumford & Sons, and Regina Spektor--and she loves that it sounds really good on vinyl. In some cases, the graininess that exists with vinyls is part of the listening experience.

Growing up, vinyl wasn't Ms. Herrmann's way of listening to music, but it is now. At her house, she has a record player attached to a large sound system, so her friends all leave their records at her house because the player is there. She, unfortunately, doesn't have too much of her own collection, but her husband collects enough for both of them to enjoy.

Some artists she has seen live are Billy Joel, Elton John, and Mumford & Sons. Fortunately enough, she was able to see Mumford & Sons before they became big and signed and she was front row to that show. Because Ms. Herrmann lived in Colorado, plenty of artists performed at the infamous Red Rocks venue, so she does wish she was able to see some of her favorites perform there.

Currently, in her opinion, pop seems to have become very repetitive. For example, Charlie Puth's Light Switch was purely created to be a short sound on TikTok but blew up from there. That has been the story for many recent hits. Mrs. Herrmann says she doesn't appreciate overproduced music and is grateful that the autotune 'phase' sort of came and went. She believes that it should only be used as a fun addition and insertion in songs instead of how it used to completely take over the music.

Now, Ms. Herrmann has "a very prescribed idea about when music can be listened to: there's music for morning and night; winter and summer; when you're alone and with people." She always used to say that music is "such a key part of humanity, and it is proof of culture."

Next week, I will introduce the final four of the twelve teachers I interviewed!

About WiNK

WiNK (“Wooster Ink”) is Wooster School’s online student news publication. WiNK serves as the student voice of our community, and provides readers with a weekly overview of what's happening in our students' lives, and it gives students a chance to share their interests and voices. The majority of the content is developed in our Upper School Journalism classes, but we also accept contributions from other students and faculty members.

WiNK Contact

Brooke Thaler

Publications Teacher

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