Member Highlight: Bass, Geoff Phillip
Updated: Sep 12, 2020
My name is Geoff! I am a bass in the Chorale and I’ve been singing with them for almost 6 years, but I have been singing for the better part of the past 12 years. Ever since I was a child, I have been singing. I remember being in 5th grade and I had dreams of performing on a stage. I would put on performances for my family and, when no one else was around, I would put on performances for my toys. Music has always been a major part of my life. I grew up listening to country standards like Leann Rimes, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, Brooks and Dunn, and so many others in my mother’s home. My dad’s taste in music was much different. With him, I was exposed to Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, ACDC, Linkin Park, Disturbed, Nickelback (yes, I like them), Queensryche, Guns N’ Roses, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and others. Rock and metal were always on the radio in his car. My dad always told me that he would blast Metallica and drive me around the block a few times when I was baby to get me to sleep. My grandfather, bless his heart, tried so hard to get me to like Patsy Cline. I remember it being on in his truck when he’d drive me to school, and I’d complain loudly about it. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how influential she really was (you finally got me, Don, I love Patsy Cline now).
Extremely long story short, I grew up in a tumultuous household. I grew up around a lot of chaos and strife. During all of that, I always had music. I always had it as something to lean on or to drown out the noise of the chaos. Music became my comfort in just about every way possible. My parents were divorced when I was 12 years old, so I was old enough to see the whole process unfold. While all of this was going on, I would go back and forth between my mom’s house and my dad’s house every week, having to uproot my entire life each time. I had to have two wardrobes, two holidays every holiday, two different groups of friends sometimes, and it often felt like I was leading two different lives. Many people wish for two Christmases. I can tell you it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Even when transitioning from house to house, I always made sure that I had a way to listen to music. My Walkman or my CD player was the first thing I’d pack and the one thing I never forgot when going from one house to the other. Once iPods came to be, I was the happiest person in the world. I could take my music literally anywhere.
Believe it or not, another thing that drew me to music was video games. These were another source of comfort for me, amid all the turmoil. Game systems were much easier back then, you could just pack up the cords, the discs, and the console and, if you had a TV, you could bring it anywhere. No need to fuss over Wi-Fi or internet connections. When I was growing up, games didn’t have voice acting, you’d have to read a lot of text boxes. They didn’t have professional actors to bring the characters to life. It was imperative that they had expressive music to evoke feelings associated with the characters and the setting. The villain had to have a foreboding and scary theme, the battles had to have rousing music that inspired you to strategies and tactics, the love interest had to have an evocative (or even provocative) theme to get you attached, the world had to have a theme that evoked feelings of exploration and wanderlust. That music became familiar and safe to me. As I played, I’d hum along or make up words. I guess that is how I learned to match pitch and to follow rhythms. I learned how to play my first piano song from a video game score, in fact.
Fast forward to high school. I had a friend (thank you ever so much, Elle) who FINALLY wore me down to audition for Guys and Dolls…but I chickened out. To compromise, after getting an earful about chickening out, I decided to do Solo and Ensemble Festival at my school, despite not being able to read music and never having sang before. My teacher at the time, Mr. Adam Cave, gave me some basic coaching and gave me my first song to learn, “The Vagabond”. I got near top marks in every category they were measuring. I was completely floored! From then on, I’ve been a singin’ fool. I have sung in choirs ever since my junior year of high school. Not a year went by when I wasn’t preparing music for a concert, or listening to YouTube recordings incessantly (and trying, unsuccessfully to get other people to be as obsessed with them as me) or buying copies of the scores of the pieces I liked to try and learn the piano accompaniment. I tell people all the time that choir is my favorite thing on the planet. That is true, and I would not be where I am today without music.
When I’m not singing, I am a licensed mental health and substance abuse counselor, helping people through very similar things to what I went through as I was growing up. I often weave music, or song lyrics, or other artistic methods of healing in my practice, because I can testify to the healing and comfort that music and art bring. Music is universal. I do not know a single person, and I doubt I will ever meet someone, whose life has not been touched by music is some profound way. I still play those video games and I still hum along. But, now I get to make gorgeous music with my own voice alongside the voices of about 100 other people. That’s pretty darn cool.