“Bass Tones and Pedal Tones:” Cam Harrington on the Sounds of Dublin

 

By Rachael Jennings

With snow slicking the sidewalks, dusting the trees, and coating the nordic trails and bucolic campus hills, a special kind of energized quiet settles in. Cam Harrington, a senior beginning to reflect on his high school career as he is doubly immersed in the Play and festive arrangements with Dublin’s a cappella group, has been thinking about the sounds of Dublin.

“I think there’s a general hum to this campus that you can hear,” he says. “There’s an energy and an audible presence that changes across the seasons and trimesters. It changes, and you have to listen to it. Finals week, there is this huge shift. It is quiet. Focused. The hum changes. You realize then: you’ve been listening to this campus without realizing it for all of these days. And you notice when it quiets or changes.”

Cam’s been noticing and listening a good deal lately.

“Any big shift in the outside world or in our world causes a shift in speech and sound,” he elaborates. “You can hear it, feel it, see it. People missing from campus causes an effect. Sometimes, you can see that if someone’s away, their friends are lower. Quieter. But then you can see a counteract: other people are kinder, reaching out to those friends, talking more.”

When is the hum most jovial? 

“Friday nights,” says Cam. “Gillespie’s music is thumping. But even in the library, there’s an excited weekend hum: what trips are we going on? What movies are we going to watch? Which card games can we play in the library? In the holidays, right before a break, right after a break, there will be this excited, ready-to-get-back-into it feeling around campus.”

 

Cam Harrington is a self-described “goofy, musical athlete.” He elaborates: “I’m definitely goofy, that’s got to be in there. But otherwise, I’m a student, an athlete, a musician. A goofy one.”

His main focus this year, his senior year at Dublin School, is to get into a college where he can thrive as a potential pre-med student with a Biology focus. He wants to study the sciences “without forgetting everything else” that’s out there; Cam is a dedicated musician with a variety of academic and extracurricular interests, so he wants the flexibility of studying and learning in many ways, just as he has in his high school career.

Simultaneously, he wants to try new things at Dublin, and he has taken up that goal wholeheartedly. 

“I’m assistant directing the play, I am leading the a cappella group, I am trying to be a leader and give back to a school that’s created who I am,” Cam says.

When it comes to his involvement with the Play, Cam has been a crucial participant and leader. The past three years, he has played a major role. He was Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors; he was Jack in Into the Woods; he was Bobby Strong in Urinetown.

“I wanted to try a new challenge in the theatre world [this year],” he explains. “I talked with Ms. Foreman last year about this possibility of assistant directing, and we met this summer to talk. This is a new side: deciding on which play to do, the casting decisions, getting to know the intricacies of theatre work beyond acting.”

What has he been learning on the journey so far? 

One of the earliest parts of the process of assistant directing was landing on the right show. 

Cam in Urinetown

Cam in Urinetown

“We began by looking at who we knew we had: we had strong actors and singers, but we also lost some strong distinct parts. We were thinking: what can we do with the cast we know we have? And, at the same time, what’s something new and interesting we can do?” 

“We normally do a funny Broadway show,” Cam notes. “[The show we chose], Once on This Island, isn’t as funny. It’s serious. It’s lesser known. The style of music is Caribbean and has a stronger presence with the drums. Beats and rhythms are very important to this play. Dance is very important. That adds a challenge: we have to teach everyone how to sing and dance and learn Afro-Caribbean dance. Shaneil, another student, is helping choreograph and teach dance, and so is [Arts Department Chair and Play Director] Ms. Foreman’s friend yon Tande.”

Cam’s other roles as Assistant Director include getting practice started, organizing team-building exercises at the start of each day, talking with Ms. Foreman about potential directing ideas: “how will we do this scene? How will we stage this? Can we bring in poetry? How will we build the stage? How will we do shadows? How can we create light and shadow and space?”

In addition to his role as Assistant Director for the Play, Cam has immersed himself in a vibrant new musical adventure: helping found Dublin’s a cappella group.

Cam performing at Coffeehouse 

“I’d wanted to do this for three years, but I hadn’t built up the confidence or the musical understanding. I decided to just go for it this year,” he says.

After holding auditions, he and Mr. Marr, Dublin’s Music Program Director, met to discuss who could devote musical talent and time to the program. 

As Cam explains, “a cappella is a difficult style of choral singing. There are new challenges: keeping on rhythm, keeping on pitch.” They found a committed group of twelve singers to take on the challenge, though, and they will be premiering the Pentatonix’s rendition of “White Winter Hymnal” at Celebration of Light.

Additionally, Cam is working on arranging a version of “All Time Low” that’s inspired by Jon Bellion’s acoustic version. 

After taking vocal classes like Introduction to Singing and Vocal Studies and music courses like Music Performance Lab, where Cam concentrated on guitar study, piano, and music theory, a cappella is a satisfying cumulative venture.

When it comes to giving back to the community that has nourished and shaped him as a person, proctorship has been a crucial venue for contributing and spreading good energy.

“I was really thinking: ‘how can I give back to the school senior year?’” The answer for Cam: “Helping people go through the process that I went through, being available to talk to anybody, offering my time to people who might need it: that was important to me.”

Serving as a proctor has given him these opportunities.

Inspired by the leaders he came to know and admire when he was an underclassman, Cam has appreciated chances to lift others up.

“[When I was an underclassman,] I looked up to people who were always friendly. I looked up to those who were always open and accepting to anyone. They could talk to anyone. They never seemed to struggle with conversation,” he says. “There was this easy-going confidence about them that wasn’t intimidating. Instead, it brought confidence out of other people. That gave other people the feeling that they could be confident and they could be totally themselves. That’s something that I try to follow, as well. I always want to talk to people about what they are interested in. I try to see what they are doing, see what they care about, see the other things that are happening on campus.”

“When I talk to people, I am always surprised,” Cam adds. “You get to know really interesting things that people might not tell you right away: backpacking for months with a small backpack, skydiving, travelling the world. There’s a lot to listen to.”

In fact, listening has been more than a journey for Cam as a senior. It has been an essential part of his understanding of what it means to be a leader.

“Listening is as much of being a leader as talking,” he reflects.

“You need to listen to people about what they want,” he says. But that alone is not enough. “You need to listen to how they are feeling,” he elaborates. “And they may not tell you directly. If you listen carefully, their intonation might tell you that they are stressed. If somebody is super talkative, listen to what’s not there.”

For Cam, that is true leadership: “Listening carefully. Asking questions.”

When he reflects on the sounds of his time at Dublin, he grows quiet and pensive.

“There are so many different movements to my score,” he says. “There are happy times, sad times, times of feeling ashamed, times of feeling stress, family life challenges, school life troubles; triumphs in school life, triumphs with friends and family. The 72 on the test versus the 92 on the test. The ups and downs.”

“One thing that is consistent across the whole score is that the same friends are always there,” he smiles. “They are always there supporting and listening. They are there for you. Those are your bass tones, your pedal tones throughout your life at Dublin. Some friends have graduated, there are old friends, there are new friends, and I will keep listening.”

He is so excited for college and the future adventures that lie ahead, and this eagerness has, thus far, prevented him from reflecting on his time at Dublin, prevented him from growing nostalgic yet.

“I’m looking forward and I’m not looking back right now. But I know that as soon as I am ready to go, I will look back. And that will be the hardest moment. The finale. The drum crash. And I will bawl my eyes out. Because I will have completed my time here. I am not ready yet.”

Until then, Cam will be listening.

Dublin School

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