In the quiet hum of daily life, many find solace and passion in activities pursued outside of work or obligation. Among these pursuits, music stands out as a rewarding hobby for countless individuals. From the rhythmic tap of a drum to the soaring melody of a violin, playing music offers an artistic outlet, a mental challenge, and a source of connection. We encourage our DiRAD Team to embrace their hobbies, as they create a positive impact on our mental, emotional, and even cognitive well-being.

This month’s Company Spotlight is focused on Musicians of DiRAD!

What got you interested in music?

Emma W: Growing up in Metro-Detroit. So many musicians grew up either with or a stone’s throw away from where my parents did. That and going to a catholic school. Choir was mandatory but they did teach us to sight read music which made both singing and playing a lot easier.

John M: Listening while my older sisters were playing their rock records in the 70’s!

Brandon H: I was fascinated by music since I was a child and I was always surrounded by all different kinds. I have always loved the way music could affect my mood whether it’s through lyrics or just instrumentation alone. Music is a universal language. If a certain mood is trying to be conveyed musically, you don’t always need to know the language the singer is speaking in. That’s such a beautiful thing. I have always loved the way that it literally brings people together. Music can do so many things. Good and bad. It’s a powerful force and I see that more and more as I get older but even a child can see what it does and how it impacts the world and even peoples personalities and fashion sense. And the ability to create music or play an instrument is basically a superpower because you are now the reason someone is feeling a certain way or doing certain things in the moment that your song comes on or the moment that you play something. There is so much lore so to speak when it comes to music too especially depending on the genre. Sometimes having the context of things being said or even a melody can enhance a song for the listener. I could go on forever about what got me interested.

Jake M: I started playing guitar when I was about 12, but I remember the first time I heard ‘Sugar, We’re Goin Down’ by Fall Out Boy, I thought it was the sickest thing ever and I immediately wanted to be in a rock/pop-punk band and go on tour!

How long have you been playing your instrument(s)? What do you play?

EW: I’ve played the guitar on and off since 2008. Piano very sporadically and mostly through knowing how to read sheet music and knowing where one note is on the piano – from there you can really mess around with a piece until you can play it in rhythm. I started learning the fiddle a year ago and am looking for my own instrument on craigslist since I returned my rental. You can apparently find some good instruments on craigslist. My roommate also tells me it’s the place to get fancy fish. Who knew

JM: I started as a drummer relatively late in life (14). At that time, I remember some kid telling me I was too old to start playing. Not true!

BH: Bass guitar is my main instrument and I’ve been playing since around 2006. I also play guitar, drums, trombone, tuba, piano, and I sing a little bit or at least I try to.

JM2: Guitar was my first instrument, and I really do love playing it, but I think I found a true passion in singing and songwriting when I was around 17. I was terrible at first, but I just kept mimicking my favorite bands until I ended up being a lead singer in a band. Currently, I sing in a band called ‘Ringpop!’ and have been doing vocals in bands for the last 5 years!

What’s your favorite thing about playing?

EW: Not having to be good. Hanging out learning a song and working at it a couple of times and being barely good enough at it to play with friends, that’s the goal. I used to be much better at guitar but I haven’t practiced regularly in years. I like how with practice that muscle memory can come back. Music never really leaves you.

JM: Playing live gigs. There’s nothing like it. I look forward to being in a band once again someday.  Ideally, it would be a Steely Dan tribute band, but I’d have to up my game because of the quality of drummers who played with that group.

BH: I love the way I can express myself strictly through sound. I love being that catalyst for people to sing or dance or cry or whatever it is they need to do. I love being able to play music with others because it’s an indescribable feeling that you have to experience to understand. It’s just hard to pick one thing.

JM2: This might sound cliche, but truly my favorite part about playing music is the emotional release it gives me. Whether it’s singing on a big stage, doing a basement show, or singing alone in a closet, it gives me an escape and a true sense of emotional clarity!

Do you have a favorite song that you like to play? What is it?

EW: On Fiddle I really like this easy piece called The Wren and had a bunch of fun playing Sliabh Russell. Love the feeling (even if not actual reality) of shredding on a string instrument. For guitar I really like playing Flogging Molly’s If I Ever Leave this World Alive – it’s not too complicated and always seems to be a crowd pleaser in a group.

JM: “Bright Lights”, a jazz tune by Spyro Gyra. It’s a great song for practicing and allows for a lot of improvisation. Playing live, I was in a country band and I loved playing “Before he Cheats” by Carrie Underwood because I could play it with a Metal style.

BH: This is an extremely hard question. I have so many songs I enjoy playing but I have a couple of go-to songs that I tend to play the second I pick something up. It’s instrument dependent as well. The one I play most is probably I want you back by the Jackson 5.

JM2: Honestly probably not haha, more so a favorite 50 or so that I cycle between depending on what I’m feeling! If I’m talking about my own music though; one that’s been really fun live recently is ‘Do I Look Like Andrew Garfield?’ by my band Ringpop!

What do you wish more people knew about playing an instrument/making music?

EW: In general, you don’t have to be good at your hobbies. It’s nice to enjoy them solely for the practice and the joy they bring to yourself. So many musicians aren’t good at music but it’s a thing that humans have loved doing for forever.

JM: You don’t have to be a great shredder or solo player to have fun in a band. These days, you can also do “collabs” where various musicians from anywhere in the world can get together virtually to record cover tunes. You don’t even have to leave the house!

BH: I wish people knew that making music isn’t as complicated as it seems because there aren’t many rules to it. And the rules that are there can be completely ignored. It’s your own creation to be approached however you want to. I also wish that if people have a real passion for it to not hesitate to get started. It’s so easy to get a song together and put music out there now which has caused an over saturation, but at the same time it’s allowing the ones who really have a passion for it to break through and be discovered. It’s allowed music to become even more diverse. It’s giving us so many good songs and more options and allows certain genres to be revived in a big way.

JM2: I suppose It would be the extent of what it takes to fully produce a finished product, as well as the amount of practice it can take to develop a skill on an instrument or your voice!

If anyone is curious about playing, where do you think they should start?

EW: I’m from a ‘learning sheet music is great’ background because as long as you know where one note is on an instrument it makes learning the others easier. However, my roommate cannot read sheet music for their life and has a great ear. I’d say, as corny as it is to say, play to your strengths. However it is easier for you to learn to do something, if you want to do it, find a way to dive in that works for you.

JM: I strongly recommend in-person lessons when you’re just starting. Then you have someone to hold you accountable and make sure your practice gets done! It doesn’t take long at all to start playing real music.

BH: It depends. We are in a time where we can easily and quickly just reference a video to understand how to play anything which is really convenient. I started out with tabs due to limited options at the time and after a little while I was able to play everything by ear. Ultimately I suggest starting with whatever sounds like the best idea for you and what is within your means, but to also explore other options as you get more comfortable to become more diverse. I would also say opening yourself up to genres you usually don’t listen to is very beneficial because there are certain key elements in every genre that you would not get to experience without giving them a listen and attempting to replicate that. The more open minded you are, the better it gets.

JM2: You should start by finding music you enjoy listening to (or have an emotional connection to) and simply learn it in its most bare/simple form. Because a song really is just a few chords with a melody over it – you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish artistically by just knowing a few basic chord shapes and basic vocal technique! ANYONE can be a singer, a musician, a songwriter – it’s not a “gift” you’re born with – you need to work hard to get there, but it’s for anyone as long as you’re willing to be creative!

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