Several talented KO alumni have taken their love for the arts and gone on to become successful musicians, writers and visual artists. Most of these artists said that KO’s provided them with many opportunities to explore their artistic talents and showcase them in school wide events, helping them develop the ability and confidence they needed to succeed in the real world. Some of these alumni include Joshua Zucker ‘90, a successful musician and staff writer for the San Francisco chronicle, and Danielle Turano ‘03, an exceptional violinist and teacher who has performed all over the country.
When asked when and how he first became interested in music, Mr. Zucker said that his love for music got off to a rocky and interesting start. “I was raised in a musical family,” he said. “My mom was a piano teacher throughout my childhood. My brother David (‘88) was an accomplished concert pianist before he was 10. I tried to learn piano, but knew instantly that I could never achieve even a fraction of their competence. As a young child I would emcee for them, and also I fancied the idea of being a journalist, so I would put on my important reporter hat and cover their piano recitals under the pen name ‘Bob Johnson.’”
Mr. Zucker soon discovered that while he was interested in music, his interests were unlike his mother’s or brother’s. “In my tweens I felt a growing desire to make music and figured “if you can’t beat them, join them” so I focused on singing, and then at 13 I asked for a bass guitar for my Bar Mitzvah — so I could accompany them. Somewhere in the cobwebs of my mother’s attic is a video of 13-year-old me – already an 8th grader at KO at the former lower school campus – wearing a tux playing ‘Summer of ’69’ by Bryan Adams on my shiny new bass at my Bar Mitzvah. My first big gig.”
He also said that coming to the Upper School at KO helped him further his involvement in music. When I got the the upper school, where my brother was already well-established in the music program, I was approached be either Mr. – now Dr. – Pierce or Mr. Chiarappa who told me “you’ve got bass hands — you should play double bass in the orchestra!” Translation: They needed a bass player and heard, maybe from my brother, that I was learning the instrument. I certainly did not and do not have bass hands — I’ve always admired those great players with incredibly huge hands who can dominate and really control the instrument. Alas, I get by on finesse and charm — gotta go with your strengths,” said Mr. Zucker.
“KO provided me with an instrument and private instruction from a member of the Hartford Symphony. That was how I learned the rudiments of the instrument — proper hand position, how to sight read, basic theory, the foundation upon which everything else develops. I played in both the orchestra and the jazz band throughout my four years of upper school.”
While Mr. Zucker did have an interest in music from an early age and during his schooling at KO, he was never sure that he wanted to pursue it as a career or later in life. “I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to do when I was at KO and nobody tried to answer that question for me. Instead, they opened up every opportunity in the world to me and set me loose to flourish. It was a critically formative part of the person I have become. “
After his graduation from KO, Mr. Zucker thought he would major in something that would help him find a job. “After graduation I went to Skidmore College with the intent of continuing my musical path but figuring I’d better pick up some marketable job skills, so I majored in English with a vague hope of being some sort of writer, a journalist perhaps,” he said.
He later decided he wanted to move to San Francisco, and soon became a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. He kept up with his musical activities, and has performed at several high profile venues. “I am now an in-demand, competent, professional electric and upright session bassist with more opportunities than I have time for. Two weekends ago I was on a festival stage in Golden Gate Park playing for tens of thousands of happy San Franciscans with a band that I also musical direct – something I learned how to do at KO – and did not for one moment forget or take for granted how fortunate I am to have continued this journey that began over 30 years ago in West Hartford, CT,” Mr. Zucker said.
Mr. Zucker’s brother, David Zucker ‘88 is also a very accomplished musician that many KO students have had the pleasure and opportunity to work with, as he is involved in the electronic music department at school. “My brother David lives closer to home in Connecticut and is a professional musician too — both a performer and an educator — and is far more advanced in performance, composition and theory than I will ever be,” he said. “I heartily recommend the electronic music program. I promise the students will learn much more about music and life than just how to make beats.”
His advice for current KO students is this: “Work your hardest, believe in yourself and chase your dreams. You won’t end up where you expect, and you won’t get there the way you thought you would, but later on you’ll find that you’re exactly where you were supposed to be all along and that every experience big and small — every victory and every stinging defeat — were a necessary step along that path.”
It is fair to say that Mr. Zucker’s achievements in both the writing and musical worlds are a good testament not only to the education KO provides its students, but also to the sort of mindset it helps its students develop. We wish Mr. Zucker, and all of KO’s other thriving artists, best of luck in their upcoming endeavors.