Hillside Chats: Stephen Loverde Gives Interesting Insight to Classical Music

Thursday night doesn’t have to be so thirsty. In fact, a lot of perceptions about BC culture aren’t always as accurate as they’re hyped up to be. Instead of sabotaging my ability to function in my Friday morning classes, I spent my Thursday night with Stephen Loverde, musical extraordinaire – and environmental science major. Endearingly enthusiastic about music, and charmingly humble about his accomplishments, Stephen let me into the world of classical music—which, surprisingly, is much more accessible than I had previously thought. So accessible, in fact, that Stephen has taken his favorite composer, Russian genius, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, home with him in the form of a bust of the man that he keeps in his bedroom. (He describes his pal, Tchaikovsky’s bust as “really cute.”)

Although I don’t have a cultivated taste for busts nor composers, I do have a bit of an obsession with the unfamiliar. Music at BC seems to fit this genre, and I’d even go so far as to say that it really shouldn’t. I talked with Stephen about the mostly unknown and forgotten about classical music scene at BC.

Let’s jump right in. What’s your relationship with music?

Strained. Unnecessary. [Laughs] For someone who’s not a music major, my life is extremely cluttered with music things. My legitimate major is environmental science. I guess my relationship to music started in elementary school, and I was sucky. I started getting good in high school and thought, you know what, “I could do this.” So I kept it up in college.

Were you a part of any ensembles before college? What was that experience like?

I was a part of the New York State All State Orchestra, of which I was principle. It was really rewarding. You audition for it the year before, go to a festival in December, and then audition for seating order. You’re being compared with people from all over state; literally thousands of people auditioned. It was cool, and it’s something to put on a resume. I guess you can say it also reinvigorated my passion for music, or at least justified the hours I put into music. It’s actually a funny story because my performance made my mother cry—but not in the way you’d think. We played West Side Story, and my mom told me how she cried during the last song. I assumed it was, because, you know, your son is principle of this prestigious New York State All State Orchestra, and you’d be very proud but my mom cried because she could picture Tony dying. I was like, “Wow, thanks, Mom.”

That’s great. What is the community experience like here at BC? Can you talk a little bit about the Boston College Symphony Orchestra?

Interesting. [Laughs] We’re all just regular people, although I know a lot of people think we’re this weird group, but we’re really just like any other club. There are 70 people in BCSO, and every year it’s a lot of new people coming in. We are really diverse, and a lot of people find this surprising, but there are very few music majors; there’s actually only 10 or 12 in the entire school to begin with. A lot of BCSO members haven’t ever taken a music class in their life. We’re predominantly undergrad, with a few professors and grad students. Oh, and also one professor’s wife. We’re a close-knit group; almost all of my friends are in orchestra.

Wow. There are really only 12 music majors at BC? That’s crazy.

Yeah, it’s really easy to forget there’s an arts program here at BC that is actually really good. Our school is so centered on athletics that people really seem to lose track of the musical groups. It also doesn’t help that we’re sequestered away in the fourth floor of Lyons. Our orchestra does a great job of playing classical music, but no one knows we exist.

That is surprisingly heartbreaking. What are you guys doing to try and gain more publicity? I’ve heard some of your performance recordings and I think it’s worthy of more notice. How can people discover classical and develop an appreciation?

Thank you. We’re moving more into social media, and trying to get ahead of things with flyers for performances and events. It’s hard because there’s not a high demand for classical music anymore, so it’s not easy to get ourselves out there. I think more people would care if they explored classical music.

How can people discover classical and develop an appreciation?

Well there’s the stereotypical scenario of when you’re studying, but I think it’s better to listen to it like a regular song. Or you can always be a groupie to the orchestra like some of my friends are. The classical music umbrella is so big, most people don’t know where to start; there’s a lot to explore. I guess newbies should start with the iconic classics: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart – those guys are pretty good. Boston College students also have the unique opportunity to see live classical music for relatively cheap. You can see the Boston Symphony Orchestra at as many shows as you want, for only $25 with the college card. There are also so many other schools in Boston, each with an orchestra that you can go see. Harvard has an amazing one. There are crazy opportunities for classical performances available to us. I mean Yo-Yo Ma is playing in 2 weeks, and BC students are going to go see his performance for $18 – normal tickets are $100+.

Which performance has been your favorite since you’ve been at BC?

One of the most interesting and fun performances I’ve done was the one for Arts Fest my freshman year. We did this insane version of “In The Hall of the Mountain King” that was like a “Metallica meets cello band” arrangement. It was ridiculous, heavy metal for cellos and it was amazing.

Awesome. So is the Boston College Symphony Orchestra taking new members?

At the beginning of each semester we have a series of auditions. They consist of scales, sight-reading, solos; all the good stuff. We take the people who are competent and interested. The slogan in music department is that this is not a conservatory; everyone is talented, and we embrace each other’s abilities, it’s not a cutthroat, intense environment.

The Boston College Symphony Orchestra will be having their first concert on November 17 in Gasson 100. To tide you over, check out a past performance. Otherwise, stay tuned and discover the world of classical music – maybe you'll find that a bust would be the perfect touch to add to your dorm!