Senior Duncan Hardy

Photo by Carolyn Zhang

What are the multiple roles you play in the performing arts?

“I play in Wind Symphony I, in band, I play in Symphony Orchestra, and I also play drums in the jazz band and show choir.”  

Could you give us a rundown of your musical career?

“Well, I started out music taking piano lessons like everyone else, but when it became the time to choose in instrument in fourth grade at my elementary school, I chose the clarinet. Once I realized it wasn’t as cool as percussion though, I switched over and started getting private lessons in fifth grade, and then I was completely switched over to percussion by middle school, and it’s been kind of the same thing since then…I’ve been getting more and more involved in ensembles and orchestras as I progress. I used to just be in band but then I joined show choir and jazz and orchestra and I do ISSMA and stuff.”

What prompted you to become more involved in being a percussionist in more than just band?

“The biggest jump I had was last year, well, a few years ago they had the greatest percussionists ever in band and orchestra but they were all seniors and they all graduated and left a ton of open spots. And that’s why I became the drummer for Jazz I last year as a junior–because all of these seniors left….I had this great example of (previous exemplary percussionists) and I wanted to be how good they are, and I thought to do that I needed to do all the stuff they were doing. I even started taking jazz lessons last year to prepare for jazz band because I didn’t think I would be anywhere near how they were.”

Is there a particular role you enjoy being a part of? Why?

“By far, the most fun ensemble I’ve ever been in was show choir (band), and I don’t know if that’s because I get to play loud drums and it’s pop music, and I still find orchestral and classical music interesting and sometimes even playing timpani and tambourine in a concert band is fun, but there’s just something about playing loud pop tunes with the show choir that’s really really fun.”

Do you feel like playing percussion and music is a large outlet for expressing who you are?

“Yeah totally, I’m a big believer in art and that art is very important, and the reason why I’m not doing painting or photography or writing is because I’m not very good at it, and thank God I’m good at drums, and so that’s what I do to express myself really. I also like songwriting stuff, and I am kind of into that, too, but a lot of people write (music) for talking about experiences or put their emotions they have through music, but I feel that it’s more building a skill to be able to produce any emotion or anything that you want to express through music, and some of that comes from writing music and some of it comes through performing. So when I play, I don’t necessarily bring my own emotion into it as much as I bring in what I think needs to be expressed emotionally through the music.”

Photos by Carolyn Zhang

You said that you believe performing music is more expressing what should be expressed. Where did that philosophy come from?

“The (song that was played for the video online) I recorded that for a concerto competition, and I didn’t win, but I worked super hard for months and months, and it was really frustrating to have to play that same song over and over until my teacher told me each performance can be different and each one is different because of the way you express it musically, and I took that as, “What can I do to make each performance special?” and so when I practice that tune, I focused way more on the musicality instead of just playing the notes and just expressing what I thought the music wanted me to say.”

Have there been any moments where you thought as you were playing “This is who I am” as if you were almost laying your heart out for everyone to witness?

“Jazz band and show choir on the drum set during the convo last year when I played in front of everybody in the school, it felt like so good to have a gigantic solo, and…that’s the whole thing about soloing; it comes from me. So being able to show that talent in front of everybody felt so good, like, playing so loud and being immersed in show choir was so fun, and there’s never going to be a point where I’m like, ‘Nah, that wasn’t me.’”

How do you feel yourself when you’re playing these solos and expressing yourself?

“(Playing a solo) is kind of intimidating, and drum solos are completely different from any other type of solo because with trumpets, saxophones, whatever, you follow a key and it’s more melodic, but with drums it’s more rhythmically and sometimes it’s kind of difficult to come up with new ideas. My jazz teacher tells me when you’re soloing you’re like singing a melody but around the drums and paralleling it with a trombone for instance. I get very nervous all of the time, and I was very nervous at the convo last year but I still had a lot of fun.”

“[Improvising in jazz band] took a while to get used to, and a lot of it came last year when I joined Jazz I, but no longer are you trying to play every note right and playing it perfectly as the composer wanted it. Each time there is a new director or new band members it’s a different arrangement of the song you’re playing, so you can play swing classics and old-timey music as a funk groove, or even as a rock song if you so wanted to. That whole aspect of making the music versus playing it, there’s a lot more creativity. You have a lot more freedom, and I liked that a lot about jazz.”

What do you think makes music different from other art forms?

“I don’t know. I think of art a lot of times like it has to have a specific purpose. Writing has to be read and photos are meant to be looked at, and music is supposed to be listened to, I suppose, but other than that it’s kind of hard to explain its purpose. You can have music to dance to and you can have music to be get emotional over, but I think the main difference is that you listen to music. The expressive part of art is all the same though.”

Do you feel that music is your only outlet to release your voice?

“I think that music is one of the most defining parts of me….Being able to express yourself through art and organize your thoughts, whether it’s by music or writing a school paper. And in general, everything you do in music kind of ties to the rest of your life, and I find being able to express yourself and think your own way really important.”

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Rachael Tan