Meet Three Local Young Men Embarking on Careers in the Music Industry
Music in the making.
- Written & Photographed byKat Monk
Nick Sievers, 20 | Classical Composer
When Nick was 6 years old, he got his first drum kit and set his sights on becoming a successful rock star. His musical journey took an unexpected detour when he watched his sixth-grade band teacher, Peter Park, play the four-mallet marimba.
“I was so blown away, and at that point my interest shifted into percussion,” explains Nick. Peter went on to be Nick’s orchestra instructor at Mira Costa High School. “Mr. Park made so many influences on me in my musical path at really vital moments.”
While attending Mira Costa, Nick played in multiple bands for the school. He was the snare drum section leader for the marching band, and during his freshman year he played timpani for the Mira Costa Orchestra and Concert Ensembles when they won a Grammy award.
“Composing music gave me something to look forward to. Without something to look forward to or something ongoing that gives you purpose, there’s just nothing enjoyable about life.”
The timpani carries the orchestra forward during big crescendos. It consists of four tuned drums and serves as a rhythmic emphasis as well as harmonic support for the orchestra. “The attack of the instrument is immediately audible—making it an absolute necessity to be very rhythmically precise,” explains Nick.
Nick also played and traveled with the prestigious Drum Corps International (DCI) the summer before his senior year. DCI is considered the major leagues of marching music—traveling the world to compete at the highest level. One of the highlights for Nick was performing for thousands of fans at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
While at Mira Costa, Nick wrote his first symphony. He began writing this seven-minute piece by singing the melodies out loud. At the time, he was suffering from a condition that prevented him from attending classes.
“Composing music gave me something to look forward to,” Nick says. “Without something to look forward to or something ongoing that gives you purpose, there’s just nothing enjoyable about life.”
Peter, also Mira Costa’s director of orchestras, proved instrumental in mentoring Nick. The two met on a regular basis so the teacher could help the student with his progress.
“When I started to write out my music, I began to bring my music to him. It became a big motivation to continue making progress,” shares Nick. “I really respected how open Mr. Park was about the music. At that time I needed someone to tell me, ‘This is good’ or ‘This is bad’—to not be worried about my feelings. Music composition is a craft, and to have someone coach me along in the early parts was really healthy.”
Peter says that Mira Costa has only had two other students compose a symphony that was performed by the Mira Costa Symphony Orchestra, and Nick’s piece was the largest piece. “When I first saw the score, I immediately thought his composition was very sincere and introspective, which is exactly what a composer is set up to achieve,” Peter says. “I saw a unique opportunity to perform a piece that reflects on such a personal and emotional and intellectual time in the life of this young composer.”
Nick is currently in his freshman year at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), majoring in music composition, after spending a year at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts located in northwestern Michigan. Interlochen served as a year-long artistic retreat in nature where there were no distractions—allowing Nick to hone his craft before attending a conservatory. He chose SFCM over Boston Conservatory at Berklee because he wanted to study under David Conte, who was a student of infamous composition teacher Nadia Boulanger.
Jesse Eads, 18 | Jazz Bassist & Instrumentalist
Like Nick, Jesse wanted to play drums in a rock band, but he didn’t have a drum kit. “I wanted to be a drummer because my favorite band was The Police,” he says. “I loved drummers like Stewart Copeland.” However, one day Jesse’s dad came home with a bass guitar, and the rest is history.
“He approaches his musical partnerships with a depth of character that almost always adds sophistication to his music.”
Jesse currently attends Mira Costa High School, where he plays electric bass in both the jazz band and the orchestra. He also simultaneously enrolled at El Camino College, where he plays in the pit orchestra adaptive ensemble. “If the musicians around me are challenging me, then I am growing,” says Jesse.
“In addition to being a phenomenal musician, Jesse is an old soul,” shares Mark McCormick, orchestra director at El Camino. “He approaches his musical partnerships with a depth of character that almost always adds sophistication to his music.”
Larry Steen, bass professor at El Camino, adds, “He is an exceptionally talented bassist with skills far beyond most musicians his age. Unlike many with his ability at his young age, he’s quite humble, non-defensive and open to critique.”
Jesse notes that rhythm is the crucial first step to playing any instrument. “Everyone should start wanting to play drums,” he believes. “If we don’t start with rhythm, we end up with a bunch of people without rhythm. Having a rhythmic foundation early on is crucial to one’s development. Now I am playing a drum set, and it is coming to me pretty quickly because I have been tapping out (rhythm) on my hands and feet for years. It was just a matter of realizing it into my sticks.”
Jesse considers himself a “work in progress,” as he intends to conquer the music world and play as many instruments as he possibly can to create new music. Aside from bass and stand-up bass, he is also teaching himself how to play piano, drums, banjo, guitar and ukulele.
“I understand everything that is going on. It is just getting it [the music] into my fingers,” he explains. “That goes for pretty much every instrument; I understand what is happening, but my fingers don’t understand it yet.”
Jesse intends to double major in composition and bass in college. “Composition is where I have my broadest skills,” he says. “There are a lot of stylistic or genre-based boundaries that are really hindering a lot of cool music that can be made—they just aren’t realized yet.”
Jesse was recently awarded the prestigious YoungArts Merit award by the National YoungArts Foundation for an independent submission. “Jesse has a bright future with many musical options,” says Mark. “From performing to arranging to teaching, I think Jesse could be successful on many platforms. This spring Jesse was given the conductor’s score of a Broadway musical and was asked to create a guitar part just by listening to the soundtrack. Not only did he produce a score from scratch, but what he brought to the project elevated the entire musical and everyone involved.”
Matthew Mack, 17 | Hip-Hop Producer & Manager
Matthew works as a hip-hop producer and artist manager, all while attending his final year of high school at Bishop Montgomery High School. “He is one of the most creative students I have taught and is using his creativity to promote his positive message of acceptance and tolerance,” shares Kathryn Bagnell, one of his instructors at Bishop.
It was only a couple years ago that Matthew found his calling for music. With a supportive mom, he applied and was accepted to a music camp at Stanford University. The camp consisted of a two-week introductory class that included a crash course in music software including Logic Pro X and Ableton Live.
“The camp confirmed my passion to make music,” says Matthew. “We learned how to record. And being surrounded by so many creative people helped expand my taste in music.”
“He is one of the most creative students I have taught and is using his creativity to promote his positive message of acceptance and tolerance.”
Last year Matthew was one of thousands of applicants who applied for the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music summer program at NYU’s School of the Arts in New York City. He submitted a five-minute creative sample of his best work with a resume. After his interview, he was one of only 32 people accepted into this exclusive, four-week intensive.
The program serves as a spectacular opportunity for entrepreneurs-in-training to study how music is recorded, produced and distributed to consumers. Students are divided into several groups including two producers, a songwriter, an instrumentalist and a singer.
His group named themselves Red Element. They were in the studio every day while taking three college classes in production, arts and culture, and music business taught by Lauren Davis, who has provided legal and strategic guidance to bands such as The Allman Brothers Band, The Psychedelic Furs, Rev. Run from Run DMC, Jennifer Holliday (Dreamgirls) and salsa legend Celia Cruz.
Field trips helped Matthew learn how to brand himself as an artist through social media. He went to the headquarters of Apple, Spotify and Tidal to speak to the CEOs. Not only did he receive an education in music, he created bonds with other extremely talented musicians.
Kathryn believes Matthew’s creativity, passion and determination will help him succeed. His current musical influences are contemporary hip-hop artists like Kendrick and Pharrell, as well as psychedelic rock band Tame Impala.
Skilled with social media, Matthew has been quite successful at meeting new artists to either produce and/or represent. He is currently representing a couple artists and making sure the right people hear their music.
This fall Matthew will attend St. John’s University in Queens, New York, to major in business management. He is excited about all the opportunities that await him in the center of the East Coast music industry.
Whether they become professional composers or instrumentalists, producers or artist managers, Matthew, Jesse and Nick hope to be part of an industry that inspires new generations of music listeners.