GW is usually known for its city atmosphere, where politically minded students perch on the doorstep of democracy. But the University is also home to two aspiring musicians who are reveling in the city’s thriving arts scene before leaving to pursue careers as professional singers. Their common thread at GW is the Troubadours, one of the school’s a cappella singing groups.
Angela Aki started getting seriously involved with singing when she came to GW four years ago and joined the Troubadours. Continually immersed in music, Aki played the piano for 19 years, the guitar for three years and writes her own songs. She developed her music extensively in the past year, mostly through public performances with the Troubadours.
Aki said the defining moment in her life came last year while singing her signature solo song, Sarah McLachlan’s Angel, at a concert in Lisner auditorium.
Once I stopped signing you couldn’t even here a pin drop, it was that quiet, Aki said. The fact that I was able to connect with the audience at that level, gave me a strong conviction in my heart that this was what I wanted to do.
Aki recently released her debut album comprised of songs she has written during the past three years. Contracted musicians, including a GW base guitar player, accompany Aki’s voice in all the songs.
I can’t believe at this local level I was so lucky to have the talent that participated in it, Aki said. I really lucked out.
I never thought I had what it took to be a singer, but the encouragement from the group and the performances I’ve done with them has led me to have the confidence to sing and have it mean something. I would give 100 percent of the credit to (the Troubadours).
Aki is working with a manager who is booking her on tour for several musical festivals this summer.
The plan is to just showcase myself until I get a hit song, Aki said. The CD is the beginning of a huge dream for me. I only have this because of the talent that went into the album and the technical people behind the scenes. It definitely wasn’t just me.
Serious about her music, Aki said she wants her music to reach people. While she doesn’t expect everyone to enjoy her music or to be instantly famous, she said she just wants people to be able to relate to her music and take her musicianship seriously.
I don’t want an image-orientated thing, Aki said. I’m a musician, and I’m not going to go out there selling my face or my image to sell my CD. The biggest thing for me is to gain respect as a musician.
Aki jokes about how her back-up plan is to sing at the Metro for quarters.
It’s important to be grounded, Aki said. Anything could happen. It’s important to know who you are before you go out there and try to touch peoples lives.
The Troubadours was the stepping stone for another student to gain the confidence he needed to pursue his music career.
Adam Hall, a senior and the musical director of the Troubadours, said his time with the group has given him a resum? full of singing experiences that will help him reach his goals as a musician.
Since coming to GW and joining the Troubadours four years ago, Hall’s list of performances includes the Pirates of Panzance at the 1997 Mozart festival, singing at the Kennedy Center Honors last year and paid performances at local D.C. churches. The Troubadours is raising money for its concert tour trip to Spain this May.
It’s exciting to make actual money for singing, Hall said.
Being in D.C. also has its perks. Hall was selected to sing in a prestigious group for President Bill Clinton’s Inaugural Gala that aired on television. He also sings at Vice President Al Gore’s Christmas party every year with the Troubadours.
We want Gore to win the presidency, that way he’ll invite us to the White House to sing, Hall said.
As for Hall’s future plans, he wants to get a real job during the day and work at night writing songs and getting local gigs. He would also like to start a small professional a cappella group after graduation.
Hopefully, something will happen, otherwise I’ll give up when I’m 45, and I have really long hair, and my kids think I’m really embarrassing because I keep trying to be a singer, he said.
Hall is optimistic about his abilities but still has reservations about his musical future.
Sometimes I think it’s not going to work out, Hall said. Everyone wants to be a musician. I think if I get out there and really work hard at it I can make something happen. Nobody can do anything if they do it half ass.
Hall’s advice to others pursuing careers in music is to keep at it.
It’s really hard, he said. Sometimes you think you’re not getting anywhere, but you are. Try everything regardless of if you think it is stupid. The secret is to make connections.
The Troubadours will next perform March 11 and 31.