I’m not musically talented. It’s sad, I know. Aside from my three-year oboe stint in middle school, I banish my tone-deaf musicality to singing along to the radio in the car. But Maddie Mclean ’17 has enough musical talent for all of us. Fully embracing the liberal arts experience Bates offers, McLean is a Music and Biological Chemistry double major, also serving as the music director for The Crosstones and this semester’s production of Cabaret. She participates in the funk band and the school choir, too.
McLean comes from very musical stock. Her father, uncles and grandmother are all musical. McLean attributes her love of music, and one of her inspirations, to her grandmother. In an interview, McLean stated, “I thank [my grandmother] a lot for throwing me on the piano when I was three because that’s the only reason I like music now.”
In high school, McLean came to realize that music was something she really wanted to pursue, but she also wanted to have a more practical side to her studies. For her, Bates was such a great choice because it let her “do both.” She is able to pursue her love of music in conjunction with Biological Chemistry. While “balancing BioChem and Music is an adventure,” McLean is able to get exposure to two diverging subject areas.
For McLean, the Music Department afforded her many opportunities. In the junior class, there are only six majors, so this accounts for such small class sizes. Just last semester, McLean was in a two-person class with Abbey Bierman ’17 taught by postdoctoral fellow, Professor Janet Bourne. Though only here for two years, Professor Bourne is helping the Music Department revamp the music theory component to make it more accessible to people who do not have much background in the area.
“I don’t know if I were at a bigger school if I would get the same attention I’m getting here, which is pretty remarkable and a cool thing that a lot of people don’t advantage of,” McLean states. One of the best parts of the Music Department at Bates is the individual attention each student receives.
It is not just the small classes that make the Music Department special. McLean also notes that “they make you do a wide variety of [classes] because they want you to be a well-rounded musician.” Classes such as theory, musical theory and jazz are just a sampling of the smorgasbord of what this department offers.
Outside of academia, McLean is able to explore the worlds of a capella and funk. As musical director for The Crosstones, McLean arranges music and runs rehearsals. Being part of a student-run group is very different from the department because “everyone has their voice and gets to be heard” in terms of decision-making. A capella is a collaborative experience of constant exploration and discovery.
When I asked this musician why she likes a capella, she simply told me, “you find your people and they are definitely my people.” Finding a group of people who support you, challenge you and inspire you is something that every student should try to achieve, and for McLean she found it with The Crosstones.
VCS is another great platform for musicians to showcase their talents. With a chuckle, McLean says, “Greg the sound man makes you sound like an angel, whether you’re an angel or not.” For performers, McLean emphasizes how much of a benefit VCS is to Bates. When the spotlight hits you, the crowd fades away and all that’s left is the singer and the music.
Out in the real world of the music industry, Adele is another one of McLean’s inspirations. She bluntly states, “Adele is queen for me. Adele is number one.” However, with McLean’s eclectic tastes, she loves so many types of music. She gathers inspiration from funk, jazz, and of course the strong female singer-songwriter type.
But this is not to say that her only inspirations come from family and celebrities. McLean thanks her high school teachers, Bates Professor John Corrie and the whole Bates music faculty for helping her on her musical journey.
At the end of our interview, McLean tells me, “I wish I could be Adele, that’s the dream, the ultimate dream.” With the support of her teachers, peers and family, I think McLean is well on her way.