For some music is an outlet—a way to express your thoughts and emotions. For senior Jeff Slark music is more than just his outlet; it’s his talent. “Music, as a release, that’s the only thing I’ve ever known,” he said, “If I want to be present in the moment I’ll go and play some music. Music is my escape, it’s the one thing I’m highly passionate about.”
To Slark, music has been that one constant passion. At the age of ten, after watching his mother play the piano all his life, Slark started to take piano lessons. After four years of lessons, Slark began to teach himself the rhythms and melodies present in the styles of Billy Joel and Elton John—his two favorite artists to emulate as he plays the piano.
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For him, “Tiny Dancer,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and “New York State of Mind,” are the melodies that inspire his fingertips to come to life as he slides them across the glossy black and white piano keys. “New York State of Mind,” by Billy Joel is the example of perfection to Slark. “When he did that song it was so connected to that place,” he said. Kellan Grady, who attended high school with Slark and was his suitemate freshman year said, “He’s always been good at singing and playing the piano, throughout high school he was kind of known for that.” One of Slark’s fondest memories is during his freshman year of college when he brought his keyboard to his friends house off campus.
There, Slark entertained a group of his friends by bringing Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” to life—once Slark struck the keys, he immediately captivated the crowd—forcing everyone to sing along to the melody “Piano man he makes his stand, in the auditorium, looking on she sings the songs. The words she knows the tune she hums.” When Slark came to pursue an education at Keene State College in safety, he discovered the a capella group, Chock Full of Notes. During the seventh grade, Slark joined his middle school’s chorus group.
From then on, Slark stuck with singing, further diversifying his skills as a musician.
Once Slark heard that CFON was allowing males to audition, he decided to join and has been singing with the group for the past three years performing his solo of “She’s Waiting,” by Eric Clapton.
Just like Clapton sang, “You keep pretendin’ not to care. But I will hear you sing a different song,” Slark always continues to sing a different song. His diverse taste in music is what has made him successful as an artist—for him singing the styles of jazz artists Duke Ellington and Maceo Parker is what inspires him most to sing.
Katie Nunes, the music director for CFON, said, “He’s incredibly knowledgeable on anything music oriented, even more than I am. He’ll come up with these ideas that I would never have thought of.”
His ability to take an idea and revolutionize it is what has given him his favorite memories of performing. During Slark’s senior year of high school, he and his friend compiled a hip-hop medley that had been remixed for the styles of guitar and piano and performed it at their talent show.
Even though Slark and his friend were in trouble for the lyrical content, it is one of his performances that not only captivated his audience, but one that has even captivated him.
This medley is one that Slark continues to perform. His success with his main passion music is attributed to his hard work and dedication of practice—the practice that has allowed Slark to turn one moment into an unforgettable musical experience.
“People will try to learn the easy way, but it’s just not going to happen,” he said. If you are not growing, you are decaying—one must always build on their talents and continue to improve, Slark added. And that is what Slark has done; he has continued to strengthen his muscle that is his musical ability and has kept it in shape—a shape that allows him to blend all of his musical styles and create one harmonious performance.
For Slark, his main passion has always remained DJing. When Jeff was a senior in high school, his interest in turning tables piqued. He would remix tracks and make instrumentals of other songs.
It wasn’t until his sophomore year in college that he was able to bring his passion to life. Slark started to save up money in order to purchase his first set of turntables.
As Slark became more and more enthralled with being coherent in the style of turning tables, his skills further advanced.
It wasn’t until the summer before his junior year that he would soon become one of the students’ favorite DJs at McCue’s.
Now, every Thursday night you can see Slark bringing his passion to life as a DJ. For now, focusing on his DJ career is what Slark wants to pursue most. “All that definitely takes time, it’s one of those things you got to build up,” he said.
It’s through playing the beats and lyrics of old school hip-hop by artists Pete Rock & CL Smooth and Biggie Smalls that Slark does just that—builds up the music to pump up the crowd. “Two of my most favorite albums of all time are Ready to Die and Life After Death by Biggie,” he said. For Slark, old school hip-hop is nothing like the hip-hop today. “It’s fun, it’s not about the money, the cars, and the material things,” he said.
For Slark that is what music is for him—it’s not about money, the cars, or the material things—it’s about performing what he is passionate about. “I’m really passionate about it. It helps me keep a clear head and be present,” he said.
Music is also a way for Slark to impact an audience. “I want the crowd to feel emotionally changed and to feel different when they listen,” he said. But his crowd will do more than just listen.
Elton John sings, “Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band. Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you’ll marry a music man.” And a music man is what Slark is.
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