When Two Disciplines Meet
A Q&A with Chris Natale
Q: Please tell us a little bit about yourself, including your hometown and what drew you to The Hartt School.
My name is Christopher Natale, and I'm currently a senior at The Hartt School pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance. I'm from Danbury, CT, which isn't far from campus, although I rarely find myself going home because Hartt is like my second home. I spend a lot of my time teaching younger students, specifically in the marching arts. Immediately after graduating from high school, I applied for a Front Ensemble Tech position (oddly enough at the high school I just graduated from), and got the job. In the two following years, I taught drumline at the same school instead of the front ensemble. This past fall, I got a new position at Naugatuck High School to be their drumline instructor. Even though these past 4 years I taught marching band, I haven't actually played in one since high school. So, I recently made the decision to audition for a World Class drum corps, called Jersey Surf. I ended up getting a contract for "marimba 1," and I immediately signed it so now I'll be gone on tour with them June through August!
I was drawn to The Hartt School because of the world-class faculty I'd be studying with. Benjamin Toth is an absolute monster percussionist, and I just knew from my trial lesson with him that this was the place for me. Additionally, my main interest coming into Hartt was pit orchestra work for musical theatre productions, and both knowing that the theatre department at Hartt was top notch and that the music students got to play in the pit orchestra for the productions made it a very easy decision for me to choose this school!
Q: What are your current involvements at The Hartt School?
I just finished playing the percussion book for the production of CHESS the musical, music directed by Cody Dry. I also got to play under Cody during my sophomore year in the production of 9 to 5. Cody inspired me to want to learn how to music-direct a production, so I ended up taking lessons with Michelle Fiertek in the vocal department to learn how to sing properly, which would aid me in working with actors and actresses if I were to music-direct a show. Afterward, I contacted Cody who invited me to come to NYC with him to shadow him while he worked with singers for a benefit production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Q: What is your favorite memory created thus far at Hartt?
My favorite memory has to be shadowing one of the percussion guest artist teachers (and Hartt alum), Shane Shanahan, in the Broadway musical, Mean Girls. Shane worked with us on Middle Eastern percussion styles and instruments, but another thing he does on the side is playing in Broadway shows! So that connection I made with him as his student allowed me to have the opportunity to sit in and watch him play the percussion book to a Broadway show!
Q: What is your proudest Hartt accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment at Hartt was organizing a non-required duo-recital for me and my pianist/composer friend, Dax Avery. We put together a recital of both new music (including a world premiere composed by Dax), as well as a few fun ragtime tunes for piano and xylophone. Since it wasn't required and there were no guidelines I had to follow in terms of what I played, we were allowed full creative freedom in putting together a fun concert that an everyday general audience could enjoy, as well as introducing that same audience to more "serious" music.
Q: What are your post-graduation plans?
Once I graduate Hartt, I'll be going on tour with Jersey Surf for a few months, and then immediately following that I'll be starting graduate school in NYC! In terms of career goals, I would love to be doing what Cody Dry or Shane Shanahan are doing! Regardless, I would love to be involved in the theatre scene in NYC whether it's as a music director or a percussionist!
Q: Is there anything else that you think we should know about you?
As much time as I spend alone in a practice room, my most enjoyable times at Hartt would have to be spending all of my free time with all of the best friends I've made here. It's such a tight-knit community and it's rare I pass someone in the hall that I don't know. Spending time with friends is just a great thing to do to balance out all the time spent practicing or doing coursework!