Posted by Tramaine Weekes on 29 Jun 2011
An interview with Will Van Dyke '96 by Jenna O'Donnell - featured in the Summer 2011 edition of Hill Happenings
Will Van Dyke ’96 was raised in Georgia, but his father’s job moved him to Rochester, New York and, eventually, West Roxbury, Massachusetts. He attended The Chestnut Hill School for the 6th grade and remembers after-school drama with Candy Gold as one of his best experiences.
While drama became a primary focus, piano was a genuine passion that started when he was five years old. Serious about his music, Will received private instruction at the Rivers School of Music. After CHS and Beaver Country Day School, Will attended The Tisch School of Performing Arts at New York University where he concentrated in musical theater performance. While at Tisch, Van Dkye met his mentor, Andrew Lippa, the Grammy nominated musician, lyricist and musical director. Lippa helped change the direction of Will’s career from acting to music and he hasn’t looked back.
Will recently released his album, Chasing the Day and is pianist for the The Addams Family on Broadway. Will and I chatted over the phone to discuss music, Broadway, and life in New York City.
JLO: What life lessons has your career in music taught you?
WVD: Always treat people as you would like to be treated. I feel so fortunate for all that I have experienced so far in my career. I have met some really wonderful people who have been incredible in helping me get where I am today. I have also met some pretty horrible people in the business and it just reminds you that you have a choice. When someone reaches out to me for insight or advice, I make sure I get back to them and try to be as helpful as I can.
JLO: Is your ultimate goal to continue the Broadway part of your career or to concentrate more on albums and performances?
WVD: Writing a musical that is someday opened and produced is my ultimate goal. It wouldn’t matter to me if it is off-Broadway, just to have that happen would be a dream. If my album went triple platinum, that would be great too!!
JLO: How long have you been working on your album? What was the inspiration for the music and how did you come to the title, Chasing The Day?
WVD: Dominick Amendum, the co-producer, and I came up with the idea of recording this album a year and a half ago, so I guess since then. Chasing The Day refers to a lyric on the second track of the album entitled, "Come Home." I'm a huge Alanis Morissette fan, and all her albums refer to a lyric, and with the images that we captured, and the stories that we are trying to tell that really captured the essence. In the liner notes of the collaborator, Josh Halloway describes the album as "songs that were written on the road. Aboard planes. Across time zones. Between sets. In hotel lobbies. At 24 hour coffee shops. Miles apart. When the thought of home is your only companion. Chasing the Day is about the places life takes us and the people who bring us back."
JLO: What has been your proudest moment?
WVD: That would definitely be playing keyboards for the first preview of The Addams Family, when my entire family came to the show. I remember as the overture began with the theme music of The Addams Family, the crowd went absolutely nuts. The sound of everyone’s excitement was just unreal. I will never forget that feeling.
JLO: Greatest disappointment? Lesson learned with it?
WVD: When I had just graduated from NYU, I auditioned to be the Musical Director of Rent. I absolutely nailed the audition and had a really good feeling about it. Two days later, I received the call that I did not get the job. I was so upset and the reason I was given had nothing to do with my ability. I was told simply, I was too young. Andrew Lippa, my mentor, said, “Will, this is fine. You will come with me to Los Angeles. That turned out to be an incredible opportunity. I played the piano for one of my greatest musical inspirations, Alanis Morrisette. Soon after, I was touring nationally for Wicked playing keyboard in the orchestra.
JLO: What musicians inspire you?
WVD: Anyone who plays piano rock: Alanis Morissette, Billy Joel, and Elton John to name a few.
JLO: What do you love most about playing on Broadway?
WVD: It’s just a lot of fun. It is wonderful to be a part of something where everybody genuinely loves what they are doing. It is wonderful to play a role in making a particular piece of art.
JLO: Greatest class ever taken at Tisch and why?
WVD: Vocal performance with Alix Korey, Broadway actress and recording artist. She was so brutally honest about how you tell a story. I remember a particular moment when someone performed and when they finished she asked how they felt. The person responded that they didn’t feel very good about their performance. She said, “Well, it’s not about you. It’s about how you make the audience feel.” That has really stuck with me.
JLO: If you could meet anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
WVD: Leonard Bernstein. I can’t say exactly why, just that I think he is so perfect.
JLO: What about your surroundings inspires your music?
WVD: The energy of NYC is what inspires everyone who comes here. For me though, what inspires me most are the moments when the city stops. They are rare, but there are moments when something beautiful will happen and collectively the city will sigh, and for a moment the hustle and bustle is gone and there is silence.
JLO: If you weren't a musician, what would you choose to do?
WVD: I don't want to be anything else but a musician. I think that's a really important thing to know about yourself when you choose to go into this career. It's the number one question in every book about choosing a life in the arts, 'would you be happy doing something else?' If you answer yes to that question, do something else.
Will’s Resume of Work includes:
Wicked (1st National/Broadway)
Kathleen Marshall's revival of Grease (associate music director), and Present Laughter
pianist/conductor for productions of Reefer Madness, The Goddess Wheel, Songs For A New World, You're A Good Man Charlie Brown, Smile, Snoopy, The Full Monty, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show
weekly role of co-host at Broadway Sessions with Ben D
lent his musical abilities to Andrew Lippa's Little Princess (associate music director), ,The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Avenue Q, 9 to 5, Book Of Mormon, The Kid, The Big Time, and Behind The Limelight.