Poet-musician prepares to take the next step
Published: Sunday, May 20, 2012
Updated: Sunday, May 20, 2012 15:05
Hirst sings, writes her own music and lyrics and plays the guitar and ukulele. She’s also a member of Up the Octave (Brandeis’ all-female a cappella group), the University Chorus, and the Chamber Choir. This summer, she and a few other musicians from her home region of Cape Cod will raise money to begin recording their first CD together.
JustArts: How did you first begin writing your own music?
Anna Hirst: I started in elementary school. Just about everyone in my immediate family plays guitar, so between learning from them and teaching myself, I picked it up fairly quickly. I wrote my first song in the fifth grade and continued to write throughout middle school. It wasn’t until high school that my songs reached what I would consider performance quality, but my desire to write and affinity for writing started early.
JA: What kind of music do you play, and what instruments?
AH: I play what I would consider folk or folk-pop. The songs I write are fairly simple musically, since my main focus is on singing and communication of stories and emotions. I take a lot of pride in the words I write. They are never arbitrary and are always based on real events and people in my life. I play quite a few instruments (piano, trumpet, French horn, guitar, ukulele, some flute) but wouldn’t consider myself an expert in any particular instrument. My voice is my primary instrument, so for my own music I typically play guitar or ukulele for accompaniment.
JA: Which artists inspire you?
AH: Bob Dylan is probably my greatest inspiration since I’ve been listening to his music basically since I left the womb. I consider him more of a poet who plays guitar than anything else, which is what I aspire to be. I do hope that, compared to Bob Dylan, what I lack in poetic ability I make up for somewhat with vocal prowess. ... I also am very influenced and inspired by Joni Mitchell, the Weepies, and the Decemberists.
JA: Have you ever performed at Brandeis?
AH: I have only performed at Brandeis in the context of other groups: the University Chorus, the Chamber Choir, and Up the Octave. ... The two choirs have held various formal concerts during my year here, and with UTO I’ve performed at coffee houses and, of course, at our semester shows. Although I hope to soon, I haven’t yet performed any of my own music at Brandeis, unless you count informally playing for my friends in the hallway of my dorm. Those are probably my favorite performances of all.
JA: Where else have you played?
AH: I live on Cape Cod and often play with other local musicians at benefit concerts and open mics. For instance, I wrote music for and performed with my high school’s world music ensemble, which plays at the annual Clothesline Concert, a benefit concert which helps victims of domestic violence as part of the Clothesline Project. I’ve also performed at the annual Ukulele Cabaret which is, as expected, a night of ukulele performances by musicians near and far.
JA: What are your goals for your music? Would you like to play professionally?
AH: Some fellow musicians from the Cape and I are hoping to record an album soon and are in the process of raising money for recording. I haven’t yet decided if I would like to pursue a professional career in music. I would love to play professionally, but I needn’t remind you that it would be a risky endeavor and I’m not sure if I quite have the confidence yet to take such a risk.
JA: Have you taken any music classes at Brandeis that influenced you at all?
AH: Yes. I’ve been taking music theory and private lessons and have been participating in University Chorus and Chamber Choir, and both have been very encouraging and influential in my potential decision to pursue music as a career. Every single professor I’ve had has been inspiring, and I would be nowhere without them.
JA: What has been your biggest succes?
AH: So much of my time as a musician has been spent raising money for various charities which has all been worthwhile and rewarding. I suppose my most inspiring moments as a musician arise when I make people smile or cry, or otherwise take people out of their emotional comfort zone. I was once playing a benefit concert and after I ended one of my songs, there was what my choir director from high school calls the “pregnant pause”: the moment right before the applause where there is a beautiful, intense silence. In this instant, in the middle of the silence, I heard one person give the most incredible sigh, as if a weight has been lifted from his shoulders, and then applause came in. That one person may never know what an extraordinary gift that one sigh has been to me. I don’t think audiences realize how much their participation as audience members means to [the] performer.