DCD was the first place Adam Rochelle ’09 performed music for a live audience. Starting with music parties and progressing to all-school assemblies and band concerts, he became the accompanist for “Across the Wide Missouri,” which is sung by the chorus and alumni every year at DCD’s Thanksgiving assembly. Adam began piano lessons at the age of seven and is primarily a jazz pianist, although he can pick up and play just about any instrument, including the saxophone, bass, and guitar. His interest in jazz was sparked in middle school when he began studying jazz after school at the Rivers Conservatory and playing in the DCD middle school band.
“I remember Mr. Claussen had us playing some classic jazz standards as well as a bit of rock,” Adam says.
In seventh grade he started playing jazz outside of school with two of his classmates, Eric Menna ’10 and Ian Huschle ’09. “And then we’d jam during recess as well. Some of the middle school teachers recognized that we were working on music outside of school and gave us an opportunity to play during some all-school assemblies. Jazz resonated with me because I have always been sort of a counter-culture kind of person and that’s where jazz fits into the music world,” comments Adam.
“I like the fact that it’s a freestyle-based genre with improvisation and
creativity at its core.” The minimal structure of jazz and room for improvisation are really fun for Adam. He says it makes for some really cool interactions and “banter” with the other musicians.
After DCD, Adam went on to Milton Academy where he became very involved in all things music, traveling twice to South Africa on the Milton Jazz tour. “It was an incredible experience. For two weeks we were playing concerts every day, sharing music, and experiencing another culture and country. Learning about apartheid while in South Africa is a very different kind of lesson than reading about it in a history book.”
Fast-forward to today and you will find Adam deeply involved in the music scene at Wesleyan University. When he first arrived at Wesleyan, he stuck to his jazz roots but quickly found influences including South Indian music, Gamelan drumming, and experimental music. One night Adam can be heard playing in a traditional jam band and another night as part of a 10-piece Hip Hop Funk Rap band. “It’s really cool to be playing behind a front man rapper and three female harmonic singers,” he explains. He has also dabbled in musical theater.
Adam is double majoring in music and computer science. He went into college knowing that he would follow his passion for music and that he’d like to combine it with one of his other two interests: math and history. After fulfilling one of his math requirements by taking a computer science course, he realized he had an affinity for coding and continued to take several more programming classes. Before he knew it, he was on his way to completing his second major. He has grown very interested in electronic music composition and hopes to combine music and computers after he leaves Wesleyan.
When asked what kind of influence DCD has had on his life, Adam recalls nostalgically that the stage at DCD was the first place he performed music. “The positive response I received from my teachers and peers was huge for me in terms of my continuing to play. And Mr. Claussen gave me my first taste of what it’s like to lead my own songs and be a leader of a band. This is definitely something I have taken with me.”
Adam says that he had been a very shy person and had a hard time getting himself into friend groups. His involvement with music and the camaraderie he enjoyed on the cross country team with other kids and his coach really helped him to feel a part of something and feel connected to his school. The friendships he developed through music collaborations and through running he continues to carry with him today.
“Ben Castagnola ’09 and I still get together on breaks to write music together,” he says. One thing that really struck Adam is how middle school at DCD was the first time his relationships with adults enabled him to experience both friendship and support at the same time. “It makes coming back to school really fun and enjoyable.”