Gingrich dedicates life to music

On the downbeat of his college career, Joel Gingrich was recently hired as the choir director at the Church of the Brethren. Next spring he will be doing some conducting for the Chamber Singers, as well as presenting his senior recital. / photo by Jeff Leard
On the downbeat of his college career, Joel Gingrich was recently hired as the choir director at the Church of the Brethren. Next spring he will be doing some conducting for the Chamber Singers, as well as presenting his senior recital. / photo by Jeff Leard

by Cherryl F. Cercado
Staff Writer

Snuggled in the basement of Founders Hall is a small room where senior Joel Gingrich spends a lot of his time. In this room lies an electronic keyboard and a computer where he composes most of his music.

Music, to Gingrich, is life. For him there isn’t a day that passes where music doesn’t affect him in one way or the other. For him, music is a reminder of memories past. But, most importantly, music is a channel in which to express who he is.

“If you’re driving along and you hear your favorite song, it puts you in a good mood,” said Gingrich. “If you hear a song that reminds you of a bad experience, it puts you in a bad mood and you change stations. Music is all around us.”

Gingrich, a music major, has been involved with music from early on when he was a child, taking piano lessons, participating in the handbells chorus (at church) and singing both in church and youth choirs.

“A lot of my beginnings in music was through the Church of the Brethren,” said Gingrich. “The church has been a continual support in my life. When I think about the church, I think of the people who’ve supported me, the people who’ve said that they like it when I play the piano…it’s [the church] given me love and support and it’s something that I continue to get.”

Both of his parents are musically inclined, his father (Dr. John Gingrich, dean of College of Arts and Sciences) has sung with the Los Angeles Master Chorale for a long period of time and his mother is also a singer and used to play the violin when she was younger. His older brother, who tried everything from piano lessons to drum lessons, however, didn’t “pick up any of the musical genes.”

Gingrich not only acquired the “musical genes,” but also mastered several musical instruments. He has been playing the piano for 12 years, the handbells for eight years and the wooden recorder (which is similar to a clarinet) for two years. Currently, he is taking cello lessons and is in the “frustrating as hell” stage.

“I wanted experience in playing a string instrument, because I have the piano and the woodwind,” he said. “I would love to eventually take guitar lessons and I’m thinking of taking drum lessons next semester.

“In conducting, it’s important to have some sense of the instrument, in terms of what it’s like to play them. It’s important to have that knowledge so you can talk with them on the same level,” said Gingrich. “It’s just a matter of time in learning these new instruments.”

Gingrich has recently started choral conducting one Sunday a month for his church and enjoys it immensely.

“I love being in front of the choir,” Gingrich says excitedly. “I’m not a power hungry person but I like being in control of the voices, when you want them to sing, they sing, if you want them to cut off, they stop.

“You’re the person that they’re looking at. You’re the person that they’ve put their trust in to do the preparation, to know the piece and to lead them,” Gingrich said.

Composing original material is an integral part of Gingrich’s musical talents. However, he mostly shares his own compositions with his family or close friends.

“I think it’s because of the fear of people not liking my music. It’s all right for people not to like my music, just as long as I like it. Yet, there’s still that fear present.”

Gingrich is almost always amazed when composing. To him it is a mystical experience. “I’ll be sitting at the piano or I’ll be thinking of something and I don’t know where a harmony or melody comes from, but it just happens and something sounds right. I feel like something’s there guiding you and you have control and you know it’s coming from you, but yet, I still don’t know where it’s coming from,” he says passionately.

Born in Pomona and raised in Claremont, Gingrich is ready to leave La Verne and hopefully attend graduate school. His first choice is Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N. J. because of their strong choral conducting and handbell program.

“I love this place but it’s time for me to move on,” said Gingrich. “I need to find new experiences, new people and just a different way of life. When I went to England last fall, it was such a life-changing experience, and going back East, will help me experience that again. Hopefully, it will help me focus on music because I’ll be around people who love music as much as I do.”

Going to a college where his father is a dean has only strengthened his relationship with both his parents.

“Being able to jump into his office, talk to him and be able to get his view on something, is like having your best friend right there, always waiting for you,” said Gingrich. “Both my parents are one of my best friends. People are surprised when I say that, but it’s the truth and that’s the way I feel about them. They’ve brought me up and they’ve helped shape who I am and they’ve always been there for me.”

Gingrich’s closeness with his family is obvious when he speaks of them. His brother is in Germany working with a consulting firm and Gingrich admits that he misses him.

“We get to see each other once in a while but not often enough,” he says softly. “Our whole family seems like a perfect picture and that’s something I noticed too, how lucky I am to have my whole family.”

Gingrich recently performed on stage with his father in Elijah. Although it wasn’t their first time sharing the same stage Gingrich says that it was “…a kick for me. How many people can say that they’re singing next to their dad? Other sons and fathers play catch or do other things together, for me and my dad it’s singing.”

His mother, who is shy about her singing, has also joined in on the family affair by singing in the church choir.

“I get to conduct them sometimes and tell them what to do,” says Gingrich with a laugh.

Currently, Gingrich is preparing for his senior recital in April. The recital will consist of his various musical activities, including singing. “It’s going to be a mixture of everything,” said Gingrich.

Cherryl F. Cercado, Editorial Assistant
Cherryl F. Cercado
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Jeff Leard, Photography Editor
Jeff Leard
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