The parents of John Plotz ’13 owned a piece of furniture that they imagined would remain forever untouched: a piano. Luckily for them, and Vassar, five year-old Plotz found himself subconsciously drawn to the piano. He began to play nonstop, and begged his parents for lessons for over a year. Finally they gave in, and the future Vassar Music major found his calling.
Although he was unable to articulate the internal reasoning behind his attraction to the piano, Plotz can rationally lay out its benefits. As he explained, “the piano’s versatility allows me to create both my own harmony and melody, to play a full orchestra reduction, and to produce a wide variety of sounds.” This flexibility has given John opportunities to perform as a soloist, musical director, and accompanist.
Plotz came to Vassar for the beautiful campus, liberal arts course load, and, most importantly, the third largest Steinway collection of pianos. Initially adamant that he would not be a Music major, by October of his freshmen year, he knew he could not deny his destiny any longer. He would be a Music Major. Philaletheis approached him early in his first year at Vassar, and Plotz agreed to work on a project with them. Over the next three weeks, he experienced a world of music far different from the classical training he had previously received. Accompanying and musically directing, he learned and lead much of the show for the next three weeks, working with a group of talented artists, teaching singers, and quickly picking up the music. The experience was a positive one, and spurred Plotz’s involvement in the theater department at Vassar.
He has worked mainly with the Future Waitstaff of America on productions such as “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and, more recently, “Spring Awakening.” It was the latter experience he claims has been his favorite thus far at Vassar. It was during this project, working as a musical director with an exceptionally talented and committed crew, that he realized how lucky he was. Reflecting on his time with “Spring Awakening,” Plotz explained: “I realized what an honor it is to be able to do this kind of thing, to shape a musical production with people who all care so much.” Besides working with a group that constantly inspired him to perform to his utmost, he learned a great deal about the technical aspects involved in a musical production. As for working in the Shiva, John explained, “it’s different from working in any other space because of the high level of respect performing in a student run space demands, as well as the strict guidelines in place.”
Plotz is heavily involved on campus, but one passion in particular has recently captured his affections. As a reporter for The Miscellany News, he has really enjoyed devoting more of his time to writing. During some of his Composition classes at Vassar, taken with David Means and Michael Joyce, among others, he has come to take on a unique style. “I am interested in the way in which people coming from two different parts of life can interact, can connect on one level and not another- two people both inhabiting space but in very different ways,” Plotz said about his writing. His creative impulses are not contained solely by the music he produces, but also flow freely in his writing.
Despite a great deal of success, Plotz’s musical career has not been without its obstacles. While studying abroad in Sydney his Junior year, the Conservatory attached to the school was nearly 45 minutes away from the part of main campus where he was staying. Since the Conservatory was such a hike, John was forced to find a piano to practice on closer by in addition to attending lessons and classes. Although the commute was nearly an hour and a half, John still committed to practicing. The silver lining of the experience was that his willingness to spend so much time in transit for his craft made him realize just how important the piano is to him. Through moments of lackluster motivation, centered primarily in 8th grade, Plotz never seriously considered quitting. He explained this inability, saying, “I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I couldn’t not play piano because it was the only thing I was good at.” For Plotz, music provided the perfect venue. As he says, “even people who don’t do music, like music. Who doesn’t like using their ears?”
To round out his final semester at Vassar, Plotz will be performing his senior recital on March 30th. The variety of pieces connect to different areas of his Vassar curriculum. For example, two compositions created by Liszt and Ravel were inspired by Plotz’s experience in the Art History department. The pieces, entitled Jeux d’Eau, aurally replicate the feeling of water effects made by Italian fountains. Plotz will also be playing a duet with Jane Cardona ’15.
As a Music major, Plotz often feels as though he’s cheating, because: “I enjoy my Major too much.” However, his future remains unclear. While considering going abroad, working in music business management, or possibly a recording studio, what he recognizes he needs most is time to figure out his professional future. Regardless, he does feel certain about one thing. He will never stop playing the piano. He explained his connection to the piano as such: “I know I need to play the piano like I know I need to sleep at night. I don’t know why but I know that I need to.”