Here comes number three, folks! In this installment of our Goodbye Seniors series, Peter Olsen (AKA Peeeeeeeetah) sits down with me to talk about his life with the Madrigal Singers of Boston College. Interestingly, Peter is in his third year of Boston College but is graduating early and leaving us this Spring. Enjoy!
Anthony: So Peeeeeeeeeetah, take me back to the beginning and tell me why you joined Mads?
Peter: Well, I joined because I was friends with Jon and Louie through Chorale and I went to the Mads concert my Freshman year and I really enjoyed it. I remember “There Will Be Rest” as a song that really stood out to me. And, I also wanted to sing in a small group and be involved with music in a more intimate setting. So I joined second semester sophomore year and since then its become more about the music.
A: So you went to a concert your freshman year?
A: Then why did you wait until second semester of Sophomore year to join?
P: Oh, I guess the tights were a big deterrent for me (laughs). That’s actually true, but then I put them on and they felt wonderful (laughs).
A: (laughs) So you never did Mads in High School before?
P: No, I sang in High School but I never did the whole Madrigal thing.
A: Were you in a regular choir in High School? How big?
P: Well I went to a really big High School. My senior class had about 1000 students in it. Our choir was about 300 people and we had smaller singing groups as well.
A: So you said you wanted to be in a smaller group. Were you in smaller groups in High School? Did you like that a little better?
P: I was, not as small as Madrigals though. I do like smaller groups better, I like singing in that setting. I think it’s a great chance to really bond with the people that your making music with.
A: Right, cool. Did you know about Mads before coming to Boston College?
P: No, not at all. I found out about it when I got here.
A: Well, Peeeeetah, you’re graduating this year even though your only a junior. So talk to me a little more about the how and why of that.
P: Well, how I’m doing it, it’s something called advanced standing which just comes from having AP credits in High School that can count towards my degree. And my English major is less demanding than something like Bio, so I’ll have that done by the end of this year. I found out about it first semester; the decision from there, a lot of it was my parents saying “Oh, if it’s possible for you to graduate, you’re going to graduate.” And I am ok with it because I can spend my time getting ready to apply to Grad school next year.
A: Cool! What are you going into?
P: Music composition
A: Sweet, where are you thinking of applying?
P: I just visited New England Conservatory the other day, it’s really nice there. They have tons of practice rooms. Here you walk through the practice rooms everybody is playing piano or violin or cello, but there was somebody playing harp, somebody playing an upright bass solo, it was great. Any kind of instrument you can imagine and in all sizes of groups, it was really cool.
A: Great! So what else are you involved with on campus here?
P: I write fiction. I’m taking a fiction workshop with a professor named Bob Chibka. The way that class works, it’s 12 students who are all writing constantly and every class two stories will be read and the whole class will give the writer feedback and discuss it. It has really helped my writing I think.
A: So the students give you good feedback?
P: Yes, the students are great. I was worried at the beginning of the year that people just wouldn’t have anything to say because that would be worse than the worst kind of criticism, because then you can’t improve. But everybody is really outspoken and they are all creative writers, so I’ve learned a ton from them. And not only has my writing gotten better, but I have a much better idea of what my weaknesses are.
A: Cool. So is there anything else, any other clubs or organizations?
P: Yes, I do Chamber Music and that’s mostly playing piano.
A: Please, tell me more about that.
P: Ok. Chamber Music includes small vocal groups, sometimes a capella and sometimes with an accompaniment. The instruments include piano, string, and sometimes a clarinet or some sort of wind. I’ve done a lot of accompaniment of string players from the piano and right now, actually, I’m doing a trio that I wrote with a violinist and a cellist.
A: Is there a moment during your time with madrigals that stands out to you?
P: Well, this is kind of a random moment, but I’ll share it with you (laughs). My first Mads rehearsal, after the audition, I was taking the elevator with Louie when Dan Accardi walks in.
A: Oh boy (laughs)
P: And he was introducing himself and talking about this class that he was taking with an English profesor that I know. And I said something along the lines of “Are you an English person?” And he says “Yes, I’m American!” (laughs). So that is my first memory of Madrigals. But another significant memory is the Spring concert last year and everyone was talking to the seniors that were leaving and Katie Ring came up and gave Katie Weintraub a hug and everybody made little speeches and it was very emotional.
A: Yeah, those family moments are very special. That is one of my favorite moments too, that’s a tear-jerker. What does Mads mean to you? Is it more than just an excuse to dress up in costume and sing 500 year old music?
P: No, it’s nothing more than that (Laughs). It’s a lot more than that. To me, Mads is all of the things that I want to be as a person. All of the caricatures that I would like to emulate are in one person or another in Mads. The collection of people is incredible.
A: Yes, Kim said something about that, too. She said it’s interesting how Mads collects such different people that all love the same thing and fit together.
P: That’s definitely right. I remember reading Michael’s interview and he said something about how we are all very weird. And, you know, for 4 hours a week it all fits together in a puzzle of weirdness.
A: (laughs) So you talked about how you wanted to go to grad school a year after you graduate, so what are you going to do in between?
P: Ideally I’ll find a job as a waiter…
A: In your hometown?
P: No, in Boston. And I would be taking composition lessons so that way I can still compose.
A: Oh, so you’ll be around, you’ll visit us!
P: Yeah, and what I ultimately hope to do before grad school is have a piece written for orchestra. That’s a big thing that they look for in applications.
A: Wow. It always boggles my mind how composers can put all the instruments of an orchestra together and know what they sound like and when the time comes to play it, it all comes together.
P: Well, I have a computer program that plays the music for me as I’m writing it (laughs). But before the computer program, composers had to do that. But it still takes imagination and many hours; and even with the computer playing the music, it still doesn’t sound like an orchestra so you really have to know what your doing and make changes when you need to.
A: Thanks for doing this, peetah.
P: Yeah, thank you!
Anthony Marte ’14