On Thursday, Mar. 10, composer Michael Engelhardt paid a visit to Elmhurst College.
He has collaborated with Ben Folds and has refined choral arts through merging groove and video production.
He gave a seminar to the composition students, worked with Late Night Blues on one of his compositions, and ended the day by working with Women’s Chorus on a song the group commissioned from him.
Despite his busy schedule, Sara Groppe of the The Leader managed to get an interview with him.
The Leader: How did you first get interested in composing?
Michael Engelhardt: I guess I first got interested in composing when I was in high school. I was in an a’capella group where I did arrangements of pop songs for the group to sing. I continued doing this when I went to college, and just went on from there.
L:What inspires you?
ME: I mainly compose in two different styles: I either take historical material and re-work it with modern elements, such as taking a chant song and adding a drum groove to it; or I’ll write it in a contemporary Gospel style. When I am doing a historical piece, I usually find some sort of historical material that inspires me. Sometimes, though, I just sit down at my computer, press record, and start singing, just to see what I come up with.
L:Who is your favorite composer?
ME:It’s impossible for me to choose just one, because there are just so many that I like. I guess if I did have to pick one, I would choose Leonard Bernstein. He had a classical background in music, and if he wanted to, could write music for classical buffs that would be way over the heads of the general audience. But he chose to make his music accessible to the common listener. He really inspires me.
L:What is your favorite song?
ME: (Thinking really hard) Oh, that’s a tough one… I just love so many songs… You know, I can’t really pick just one song, because each song has its own situation and music that it applies to. My favorite dancing and happy song would not be my favorite song for themes of love or piece. Trying to pick my favorite song would be like trying to pick my favorite emotion—there is just too much variation. Each one is beautiful in its own way.
L: Do you have a favorite style of music?
ME: I generally gravitate towards things with a groove or pulse, something that’s really moving. I still like some music without a pulse, music that’s fluid, but I really like it when I can feel the groove in a song.
L: What is your favorite food?
ME: I grew up in Woodstock. Even though I live in St. Louis now, I am a real Chicago guy. I would have to say my favorite food would be Hebrew National Hot Dogs at Wrigley Field. The hot dogs lose a certain quality if I get them anywhere else.
L: So you’re a Cubs fan?
ME: I sure am. I carry a Cubs hat with me wherever I go. Last October was great; I was at the final game in St. Louis when the Cubs beat the Cardinals. That was fun. I can’t wait until this season starts.
L: What is your favorite movie or TV show?
ME: My favorite TV show would probably be “Seinfeld”, although I am getting into “Scrubs” again. My favorite movie would have to be “Blues Brothers”. You just can’t beat that car chase.
L: Thank you for your time, Mr. Engelhardt.