Spotlight On… Seth Finch, Class of 2020
Prestigious music schools nationwide have seen numerous BRHS students and graduates come through their programs. This year Seth Finch, a sophomore, has been selected to attend the National Youth Orchestra at Carnegie Hall Jazz program. Seth is among 25 musicians (ages 16-19) chosen in the US to take part in a 4-week fully-funded summer program. Two of the weeks will be spent touring in Europe. It’s quite an honor, especially as there were only 2 spots available for pianists. In order to apply for the program, students must submit a recording as their audition. BRHS Talented Music teacher Mike Esneault made arrangements for Seth to record his auditions at Esplanade Studios in New Orleans. Assisting Seth with his recording sessions were Roland Guerin, BRHS Class of 1986 and Simon Lott, Class of 2000. Both Roland and Simon are talented and successful professional musicians.
We spent a few minutes with Seth and asked him about this extraordinary accomplishment, BRHS and his goals after high school
BRHSF: What made you decide to attend BRHS?
SF: Well, my mother attended BRHS and she always raves about what a great experience it was for her. I think she found it that it helped her become well-rounded and connect with interesting people. Many are still her friends today. Also, she always remembered BRHS’s emphasis on the arts, so that was definitely big factor in my decision to attend.
BRHSF: By all accounts you are one of our most talented music students – when did music become such a dominant part of your life?
SF: Music really has always been a dominant part of my life. I started taking classical piano lessons in Kindergarten and still do to this day. But music really came to the forefront for me in middle school, when I joined a local band program called Baton Rouge Music Studios. The organization assigned six or so students to a rock/R&B band that would rehearse weekly and receive musical instruction. We would play shows around town frequently. That was really my first experience with playing in a live situation and it really stuck with me.
BRHSF: Full disclosure here, your mom Angela Finch served on our Board a few years ago and we know that both your parents are very supportive of your musical pursuits. How important is that to you?
SF: My parents’ support of my musical endeavors is extremely important to me. They are the reason that I have the opportunities to pursue music at all. Without my parents paying for piano lessons, covering tuition for jazz programs, or taking me to live shows, I would have no chance at doing what I love most. Having parents that support my musical explorations helps me feel more comfortable because I know that my parents truly want me to do whatever makes me happy.
BRHSF: In our introduction, we touched on how Mike Esneault, your BRHS music teacher, was involved in putting the whole recording process together. What does it mean to you to have a teacher so dedicated and attentive? And how great was it to have two former BRHS grads in on the session?
SF: It means the world to have a teacher that is so invested in his students, especially in the field of music. There are lots of musicians who teach as their side gig, and aren’t all that passionate about educating. Mr. Esneault has helped me find my voice and lead me in the right direction without taking away from my personal sound. Having someone so experienced who could offer great suggestions for my auditions and was able to pull in favors to make the recording session happen was invaluable to the success of my videos. Playing with two former BRHS grads was awesome! I could hear the diversity and open-mindedness in their playing that is usually associated with the Baton Rouge High School experience.
BRHSF: Share with us your thoughts about being in New York and Europe for the summer and what you would like to accomplish at the NYO Summer Jazz program?
SF: I am extremely excited to be attending the NYO Jazz program this summer. While some of my favorite musicians to play with are located here in Baton Rouge, I would love to start putting myself on a bigger map. This means playing with kids from all around the United States, especially up north where the jazz scene is a lot bigger and lends itself to greater opportunities. The program will be a life-changing to be able to work with the world class faculty (Gerald Clayton will be the piano instructor and happens to be one of my favorite players!) and kids who will push me to become the best player I can be. And as for the tour, I don’t even know what to expect at all because I’ve never been to Europe before or gone on tour with a band. I am aware that there is a much higher level of recognition for jazz music overseas, and performing for crowds that can really appreciate what we have to offer will be such an enjoyable experience. My end goal for the program is to make as many connections as I can, and to absorb all the information and life experience that NYO has to offer.
BRHSF: And in August it’s back to BRHS for your junior and senior years. What are your goals for those final years? How about post high school?
SF: For my final years in high school, I plan on challenging myself academically and musically. I will be taking AP Seminar, AP Calculus, and Debate class next year. Musically, I want to get more involved in the jazz scene in New Orleans by performing and gigging as much as I can. Also, I’ll be applying to many more prestigious music programs similar to NYO Jazz such as the Grammy Camp Jazz Session, YoungArts, and Vail Jazz Workshop. After high school, I plan on attending a music conservatory in New York and getting involved in the music scene so that I can eventually make a living out of music in some form.
BRHSF: Seth, you’ve got quite an ambitious and exciting ‘to-do’ list for the next couple of years. We are so excited for this amazing opportunity in New York City and look forward to a full report in August!