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Artist of the Month: Emmett McCleary

Senior Emmett McCleary is April's artist of the month.
Senior Emmett McCleary is April’s artist of the month.

by Maya Abou-Rizk

Senior Emmett McCleary has been playing drums since he was two, has been a part of numerous bands, and plans to have his own show on a radio station in the future. One might be surprised to hear, however, that he has never learned to read music.

To McCleary, music is about the meaning of the sound, not a technical set of markings in paper. McCleary is the April artist of the month. He writes many of the songs and is the drummer in the band Toy Boat, along with seniors Alex Fabry and Sam Mayer, and sophomore Sam Eastman. Although he never learned to read music, music itself is a large and important part of his life.

Q: How did you start creating music?

A: I was never really into sports much as a kid, and I basically needed something to do. One day I discovered my parents’ drum kit, and they just put me behind it as soon as my feet could reach the pedals. I was probably about three and a half when I started playing; I wasn’t serious though. I just started hitting things and found it pretty fun to make lots of noise. Once middle school started I decided I wanted to be part of a band, and that’s where I really begun. Now, I am part of a four-part band called Toy Boat.

Q: How did you get involved with Toy Boat?

A: Well both my middle school rock band and my folk band were beginning to wind down, and I remember seeing Levity play, a band with two members that are now currently in Toy Boat, and I was inspired by the drummer. Later, Levity broke up and one thing led to the other and now, Fabry, Mayer, Eastman, and I make up the entity known as Toy Boat.

Q: What kind of music do you play? How does it differ from other types of music? Do you plan to continue playing this genre after high school?

A: I play rock. Rock is less about the technique than jazz or classical is. I do plan on starting a band once in college, but I won’t be taking any music courses mainly because they are all technique-based. Since I play rock, I don’t think those classes would really do me any good.

Q: Do you participate in music related classes or groups in school?

A: I don’t now, and I never did. I never learned to read music, and I think they generally look for more classically trained musicians. I never took lessons, I mainly self-taught. For example, I play piano and guitar, but if you ever watched me play, you would see I have absolutely no technique. I play for the sound, and I can get the sounds I want by playing like that, so that’s pretty much how I’ve always done it.

Q: Where do you see yourself, in terms of music, in the next few years?

A: One of the first things I want to do when I go off to college is get a show on the radio station that the college has. Back home, I have a huge vinyl collection. I’m kind of a hipster in terms of that I like finding songs that are not on the radio, but ones that I think are fantastic and should be. I’ve always wanted to have a show where I could play whatever I want and have people listen to it.

Q: What about music appeals to you?

A: This is going to sound really corny, but music is the best escape. Music can make you feel a certain way. After a long day, music will be able to mellow you out or help express the happiness after a good day. There’s a lot of restorative power in music. It’s also just really fun to listen to, as well as play. I can put on a song and want to dance, or I can put on a song and want to cry; music can make you feel just about any way, and I think that’s really special and that why I love it so much.

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