Teddy Masterson ’19 was one of the many talented musicians in The Lawrenceville Jazz Band. Shreya Kumar ’20 interviewed him before he graduated on June 2.
Shreya Kumar: What have you enjoyed the most about being a part of Lawrenceville music, and what will you miss most about performing with the band?
Teddy Masterson: I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything about Lawrenceville’s music program, but the thing I enjoy the most is performing. After so many weeks of meticulously practicing our parts and rehearsing as a group, it’s nice to showcase the product of all our hard work for others to enjoy. I love to share my love for music with other people, and performances are a great time for me to get in front of people and show them what I’ve got. Something about performances that I especially enjoy is when I get a chance to play an improv solo, and that’s something I’ll definitely miss quite a lot about performing with the Lawrenceville Jazz Band.
SK: Every great musician has their start somewhere, so when did you first start playing the bass and what is your favorite part about making music?
TM: I started playing bass in fourth grade. I had already been taking piano lessons for a year. I wanted to try a unique instrument that not many people played, and upright bass seemed like the perfect candidate (quite a few people think it’s a cello). When I took it up, I found that I really enjoyed it, and I decided to continue into the following year, which was when I started performing on the bass.
Although I knew that orchestras included upright basses, I discovered that jazz bands also incorporate an upright bass, so I quickly found myself joining both the orchestra and the jazz band. From there, with each year, I improved my skills and joined additional musical groups and orchestras.
Playing such an uncommon instrument also inspired me to learn additional instruments, specifically the electric bass and acoustic guitar. I also taught myself electric guitar. My favorite part about making music was when I could finally get something to sound like the composer intended, with crisp, accurate intonation and decisive rhythms that were up to tempo.
SK: You’ve clearly been committed to the bass from the start and your abilities show that your work has paid off. What has motivated you to practice and perform over the years?
TM: I just naturally love playing music, whether it be by myself in the studio sight-reading new music or performing in front of hundreds of people in a concert hall. Whenever I feel bored or stressed, I take a brisk walk over to Clark [Music Building] , take out my instrument, and jam out for a while to my satisfaction. In addition, when I learn a skill, I want to improve and get as good at it as I can, and this mindset really helps me motivate myself to play my instruments whenever I can and keep a good practice regimen.
SK: Have you encountered any hardships or challenges in your time as a musician? If so, what were they?
TM: Going through a variety of hardships and challenges is a big part of being a musician, and I have certainly not been free of that. The bass is a big instrument, so when I was younger I had at least some trouble handling it. [Everything] from simply carrying it around to making the tones sound good on such a big instrument with such heavy strings using my essentially kid-sized hands. In addition, sometimes I would plateau, and go through time periods where I practiced and practiced but my playing wouldn’t seem to get much better.
Finally, time commitment was a real challenge, as I had to set aside a substantial amount of time, whether it be for practicing, going to rehearsals, or making it to performances. Sometimes I would have to miss entire school days for orchestra rehearsals and performances, and other times I wouldn’t get back until 10:00 p.m. on a school night. And I would still have all the next day’s homework assignments in front of me. Still, these challenges were important to my growth both as a musician and as a person, and I was able to eventually overcome each of these challenges.
SK: I hate to make you choose, but what has been your favorite music program/event on campus?
TM: Probably the Kirby Music Festival. It’s not only a great time for me to perform the songs I love in front of a lot of people, but it’s amazing to see the wide variety of musical styles coming from people of all talent levels. Jazz concerts are cool, but you wouldn’t get to see three clarinets playing the Super Mario soundtrack or watch a Soundcloud rapper and a classic rock orchestra doing a joint performance of Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”
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