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Jim Keenan

June 27, 2016

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With perseverance, passion, and support from parents and teachers, Andover Real School student Dylan Walsh fulfills a life-long dream to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music

The following article is part of our Student Spotlight series, which highlights the stories and experiences of Real School students and their families. 

Songwriter and Multi-Instrumentalist Dylan Walsh 

When you ask a musician which instrument they play, it's rare to hear, 'everything.' But, that's exactly the answer you could expect from Dylan Walsh. The recent Andover High School (MA) graduate is now about to embark on a life-long dream to attend Berklee College of Music

Dylan started piano lessons at age five. Since early piano lessons provide a great foundation for future musical studies, it's no surprise that Dylan has expanded his musical realm to include singing, guitar, drums, bass, and ukulele. He excels with every instrument. In fact, one of his Real School teachers, Andrew Clark, commented, "There are musicians in the world who can do everything themselves both in music and in the studio. They can play almost any instrument. They write compelling songs. They know how to record and produce their songs. Dylan Walsh is on this track - he is a singer with perfect pitch that can play several instruments well enough to write and record his own songs. I see a bright future for him in the world of music." 

When asked about Dylan's flexibility and eagerness to try new instruments, his guitar instructor, Matt Fisher, said, "Dylan is seemingly able to play any instrument he puts in his hands-and at high level of proficiency at that. Playing the 'McCartney-eqsue' role of guitar, piano, drums, bass, and vocals-whatever is needed...coupled with perfect pitch-he is an MVP, an all-time ensemble member/leader. I am psyched to see how far he takes his talents." 

Dylan_Walsh_Qoute.jpg"Dylan is an eager student who is constantly wanting to improve his musicianship, always up for trying new things, and works very hard to grasp new concepts," says voice instructor Matthew Condon-Rivera. "He has picked up vocal technique really quickly, and has had some major breakthroughs with his performance and understanding of the voice. He is always positive, practicing with a smile on his face, and, truly, a great guy." 

We asked Dylan to share his most memorable experiences in music, what drives him, and what he and his mom recommend for young musicians and their parents. 

What has been some of your most memorable experiences in music so far?

Dylan: Getting into Berklee College of Music definitely comes to mind. I've been wanting to go there since I was a little kid, and the fact that I got in is a dream come true.

Other than that, I think the most memorable experiences I've had with music was helping my friends write songs. In 2014, one of my friends came up to me with lyrics he wrote, asking for my opinion on them. I loved them and asked if he wanted to collaborate and make a song out of them. He had no musical abilities other than his lyric writing, so he was definitely excited that I offered to help make it a song.

I've made 4 songs with my friends so far, and they've all been (in my opinion) some of my best work. I love helping them achieve their dream, and I love seeing how happy they get when I send them the finished product of their song.

At what age did you start with music lessons and what brought you to Real School?

Dylan: I started taking music lessons when I was around 5 years old, at the Winchester Community Music School. I took piano lessons, and that's where I got most of my theory knowledge. Since then, I've moved around a lot and had to switch music schools.

At age 10, I started taking guitar lessons and piano lessons at the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center, until age 12 when my family moved again and I stopped taking lessons altogether. At that point I just taught myself more about piano and guitar, while teaching myself how to play bass, drums, ukulele, and started working on my voice. I also started writing songs at this point. It wasn't until I was 17 when I started to get back into taking lessons at The Real School of Music in Andover.

How has playing music made a positive impact on your life? 

DylanMusic is definitely my number one everything. My stress reliever, my hobby, my thing I do when I'm bored, everything. WhenDylan_Walsh_2.jpg.jpg I'm feeling sad, I pour my heart out into a song. When I'm feeling angry, I bang on my drums until I get it all out. I also incorporate music into my schoolwork. When there's a project I find particularly boring, I find a way to incorporate music into it so I have a bigger motive to do it.

Most people find a primary instrument and focus their energy on it, but you're skilled in playing many different instruments. Why do think that is, and, has it been difficult? 

DylanI think it's just the way my brain was wired when I was born. Either that or my mom. She was the one that signed me up for piano lessons when I was 5, she was the one who sort of thrust me into playing music. She always supported my passion, so I never really had a roadblock while playing music. 

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are looking to develop their skills?

DylanJust keep on going. Sure, there are going to be some things that are hard, and there are going to be things in your life that might prevent you from working on your instrument or voice or whatever it may be. You just have to keep on doing it, no matter how hard it may be at the moment.

Real School parents can help to bring their kids dreams to reality with their extraordinary support and encouragement. Our final question is for Dylan's mom, Kate. What advice do you have for other parents to help support their child's musical growth?

Kate: Do your best to help them reach their dream. If they want to be a drummer, but you can't afford to spend a thousand dollars on a drum kit, start them off small. Get them some bongos, or some African drums to get them started. If they decide they don't want to be a drummer anymore, that's fine.

Don't force them to do something that they don't want to do. Music is something that you need to want to do. If they don't want to be a musician, don't force them to be a musician. If they want to be a musician, give them support in whatever ways you can. They'll appreciate it later.

Kate_Wash_qoute.jpgReal School has been such an important part of Dylan's life this past year. With all the emotions of Senior Year in High School, the uncertainty of what the future might hold, the Real School was like a second home - a healthy outlet for those emotions, a place to explore possibilities, opportunities to play in the community, and an entire staff of people who can relate to what he's going through, because they had all been there.

In an age when so many children feel disconnected, you provide so much more than music lessons. Playing music can be therapeutic. Exploring ideas with a diverse and compassionate group of professional musicians is inspirational, and at times, life changing.

Where can people go to learn more about you and stay plugged into what you're doing?  

DylanIf you want to check out some of my own music, you can find me on my YouTube page, and on SoundCloud. I'm planning on releasing an album soon named Say Something Nice, and I think it's some of the best material I've written.


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