Meet Finn Lippard '27, a first-year Contemporary Musical Arts undergraduate at New England Conservatory.
What did your journey into music look like, and what made you decide to pursue music in college?
What started everything for me was doing bluegrass with my dad's band. I would play fiddle with them and sing, and it created a community to bounce ideas off of each other musically. It was a great place to grow up in. But past that, I did a lot of musical theater, which was my first big jump into a musical world and having a true community of like-minded people. That made me want to study music in college — to be around people with the same ideas as me and that I can build something out of.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
My biggest musical influence of all time is probably David Bowie. I take a lot of inspiration from his chord writing specifically and how he has these kinds of personas that he follows. I like to call them my eras. It's like different styles of writing through different periods of your life. I think it's really reflective of who I am as a songwriter, and I think that's really interesting.
Phoebe Bridgers is also a major one for me. I admire her lyric writing so much. I mean, she just really gets in there with all the metaphors and everything.
But, above anything, Matt Maltese's piano playing has affected me so much. He creates these melodies that get in your brain like an earworm. But not only that, they pull at your heart. You can feel the emotional tie he has to his piano, and I feel that with my home piano.
How did you decide specifically on NEC as the school you wanted to go to?
Walking through the doors and seeing how everyone interacts with each other — seeing that there is such a community vibe here where everyone knows each other. On my tour, the tour guide was talking about how you see everyone you know in the halls, and then you go and make music with these people, and how life-changing it is to have such close friends that you can create with. That's a really beautiful thing.
The CMA program was also very suited to what I wanted to do as a musician. I remember having a conversation with Hankus Netsky in my audition where I was debating between some other schools. We were talking about it, and he said that the difference is that at NEC, songwriting has no rules. I remember that really struck me because, in my old school, they were formulaic about writing, which makes sense, but to hear that I could be free in my expression in any form and be able to pursue exactly what I wanted to do was really meaningful to me.
Who are your teachers this semester, and what's your experience been like working with them so far?
I'm working with Henkus Netsky and Eden MacAdam-Somer. We work on songwriting a lot. Something I've learned in my lessons this year is finding where to make space to create that emotional pull in a song and how to build an arrangement differently than I have in the past. Also, this has been a major one for me: how to connect my voice with my instrumentation because I feel like my voice is the most authentic expression of my soul, and connecting that with my instrumentation is like finding the soul in my hands, if that makes any sense. Kind of expanding my voice to something I can't just sing.
Would you say that Hankus and Eden are helping you to accomplish that?
Yes, definitely. They really inspire me to be authentic in what I'm saying in my songs and push myself musically in ways that are kind of out of the box for me. For example, Hankus pulled up a Joni Mitchell song the other day and said, "Okay, now do this differently. Do it more in her style." It really expanded what I thought of as a piano arrangement.
Are you gearing up for a performance right now? And if so, is there a specific piece or a specific aspect of the performance that you're most looking forward to?
I'm currently working on the Songwriting Workshop final performance, which I wrote something for, and I'm playing with my friends, and that's really exciting. But I'm also super excited for the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble performance. We're doing this song called Desert Song by säje, and it's got these beautiful layers of harmony that just speak to my spirit. And coming together with everyone and singing together, it's like we get in this kind of zone where it's just like hearing each other, truly listening to each other — it's like creation at its fullest form.
I was really excited to work with Farayi Malek in the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble. She's really great. She's definitely changed what I think of as vibrato and how we use that as a tool instead of just something that carries the pitch, which has been interesting.
Looking ahead, what are you most looking forward to during your time at NEC?
Right now, I'm looking forward to the David Bowie concert in the spring that the CMA program is doing because he's been such a big musical influence on me. Those concerts are very cool because we get to create any sort of project that aligns with what we're doing. So there will be music of David Bowie, but it'll also be compositions inspired by David Bowie, which I plan on doing. I'd really like to write something super spacey and cool.
Do you have an idea of what your goals are after NEC?
Yes, I want to be a touring musician and produce my own original music. And possibly own a record label. It's been a big goal of mine for some time because I love production, and my original music is at the core of my artistry. I want to change the hearts of others in whatever way I can, and I think the widest reach I can get is through touring.
What have you been enjoying about living in Boston?
Just the amount of music crawling in the city at all times. You can walk down the street and go to the Bebop, or you can go to the Lilypad, but there are also big artists that come here, which has been really exciting. I got to see Boy Genius! That was crazy. I've been buying concert tickets left and right for all my favorite artists that come here, which is something that I didn't really get in my hometown. So that's been exciting for me.
What has been your favorite part about studying CMA at NEC so far?
Getting to build my own path, not only in my classes but in my lessons. They tell me, "Just bring in what you're working on." In other music I've done, sometimes it can be like, "Here, this is what you're working on right now," you know. But in CMA, whatever music I'm working on in my personal life, I get to bring that in and build exactly what I want to do. It's also great to see what everyone else is doing, get ideas from that, and hear different types of music at all times. Because everyone in CMA is doing something different, and it's inspiring.
What’s one thing you like to do outside of music?
I do textile art. Right now, I'm working on a project with the Queer Student Union at NEC where I will make clothes out of poems that my friends have written about the trans experience, and I'm hoping to display those on campus.
Would you have any advice for a new student entering the CMA program at NEC?
Yes: You have a voice that is yours, like none other. Music is meant to change lives and souls and elevate our human experience, so find your authentic voice and use it for the good in the world.
Keep up with Finn on Instagram @disco_dalton and listen to his music on Spotify here.