The following article is part of our Student Spotlight series, which highlights the stories and experiences of Real School students and their families.
When we talk about the education experience at Real School, we like to say that students can immerse themselves in the music they love. And we can't think of a student who is a better example of this than Ethan Gagnon.
A resident of Concord, MA, Ethan is in the ninth grade at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA. From his classical piano training since the age of three, to taking drum set and voice lessons, to playing in an ensemble and being a part of the RealJams Advanced summer program, Ethan is truly immersed in music. At his day school, he's even involved in radio broadcasting and performs with the choir and hand bell choir.
Ethan studies voice with Nicole Berke, drum set with Pat Santorelli, and plays in an ensemble with Chad Maggs. Ethan recently met with Leighann Hodgkins to talk about his background, his eclectic musical influences, and why he enjoys coming to Real School.
Leighann: We’re very excited to have you here, and thank you so much for letting us interview you!
Ethan: You’re welcome!
Leighann: How long have you been studying the piano?
Ethan: I’ve been playing piano since I was about three years old. I mainly think of myself as a pianist, but I also take drum lessons and voice lessons here, and I’ve done that for the past two to three years.
Leighann: What are your future goals and plans as a musician? What are your career goals?
Ethan: For my career goals, I’m hoping to be a radio broadcaster!
Leighann: That would be the perfect job for you.
Ethan: Well, let’s put it this way… I’d really like to do half and half, because I really want to do radio and music so I’m thinking of splitting it up whenever I can.
Leighann: Who are the people who have been most supportive of your musical goals?
Ethan: I’d have to say my parents.
Leighann: Do you take part of any bands or orchestras at school?
Ethan: I do at Perkins! I take chorus and I’m in a hand bell choir.
Leighann: What are some of your favorite things to do outside of school?
Ethan: I like going camping, hiking, walking, and biking. I like rural areas. The city is fun to visit, but I’d rather live somewhere like in New Hampshire than say, downtown Boston.
Leighann: Who are some of your heroes and who are you inspired by?
Ethan: I’m inspired by who I hear on the radio, no particular artist.
Leighann: Do you have any favorite artists in particular?
Leighann: Yes, it is good. You’ve got a great list going there! Why did you decide to come to Real School and what do you like best about it?
Ethan: Real School... since I started in 2015... I will never go to any other music school. The staff really get me, they help me along the way, and they know what kind of music I like, not some boring classical stuff!
Leighann: (laughing) How has music impacted your life, and how has it affected your attitude?
Ethan: I just do it for enjoyment. When I hear a song, I don’t have to learn it by lessons, I can just hear it.
Leighann: Yes, because you have perfect pitch as well, right?
Ethan: Yes I do! Since I’m totally blind, it’s a gift.
Leighann: What has been some of your most memorable experiences in music so far?
Ethan: Everytime I do a showcase, I’d say it’s something worth remembering. Sometimes I even get to announce the songs.
Leighann: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are looking to improve their skills?
Ethan: I’d say, practice and just do it for enjoyment!
Leighann: What I love about you is when you’re performing, you play and sing with such conviction. You can tell that you’re really feeling what you’re playing and I think sometimes people take for granted all of the gifts they don’t realize they have in this life. It’s really beautiful to watch you craft your music and really embrace all of the gifts you’ve been given.
Ethan: Thanks! I don’t think I ever want to graduate.
Leighann: (laughs) You don’t ever want to graduate? Good, can we keep you forever then?
Ethan: Yes, most music schools don’t teach like you guys.
Leighann: Well, thank you being here today and we really look forward to watching what the future holds for you.
Ethan: You’re welcome!
Like this video and article? Here are some others you may enjoy:
- Student Spotlight Series: Voice Student Emily Campagna
- Student Spotlight Series: Piano Student Zack Zahagian
- RealJams Academy: Real School's Premier Summer Program
- Student Spotlight Series: Guitarist and Vocalist Ashley Koman
- Student Spotlight Series: Songwriter and Multi-Instrumentalist Dylan Walsh