William “Will” Grear is a freshman from Wakefield, RI who wowed the Jazz Department at Princeton University with his renowned trumpet and piano skills. Will chose to attend Princeton for its academic programs and music department.
Will performed with the Princeton University Creative Large Ensemble on Dec. 6, 2016, where he played solo pieces in front of a large crowd in Richardson Auditorium at Alexander Hall.
University Press Club sat down with Will to learn more about his music, his interests and his guilty pleasures.
- When did you start playing music?
I started playing when I was 5. I saw my mom playing classical piano and I thought it was pretty cool so I asked her if I could take lessons. I’ve been playing since then. Music has taken me to Nashville and other places to do some pretty cool stuff.
- How good are you actually?
I’m pretty good..I’m like not bad. There’s no sense in pretending you’re worse than you actually are or in flaunting your skills, but when people ask you, it’s worth telling them. So yeah..I’m pretty good. On a scale of 1 to 22, I’d say I’m a 15. Herbie Hancock is a 23.
- Best band name of all time?
The World Is A Beautiful Place and I’m No Longer Afraid To Die. Real band, I promise.
- Who are your musical inspirations?
Herbie Hancock, because he’s my favorite piano player and Ezra Koenig, because he has a lot of respect for artistry and has figured out a way to work within the music industry and also preserves the agency of his band. He’s also maintained his voice while being really successful in reaching a big audience. He’s someone who’s balanced a love for learning and academics with being intellectually and socially conscious while pursuing an artistic career.
- Who’s the most musically talented person you personally know?
I don’t know if I can answer that really…they’re just random people who are friends of mine. I’ve just met so many young people my age throughout the years who blow my mind.
- When/where do you usually practice?
I usually practice piano in my room during downtime and I don’t practice trumpet on my own because I rehearse 4 hours a week with the jazz ensemble. Because I play the trumpet in a big band setting, I don’t need to have my chops at a high level so it’s been easier to limit my practice time for that. Piano is something I’ve always been able to practice on my own.
- Who are your favorite Princetonians?
Cornel West…I was in his seminar and it was sick. Also Norman Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor and Michelle Obama. I don’t really know any other Princetonians.
- What music-related item do you find most annoying?
The viola! It sounds horrible.
- Advice for up and coming musicians?
Place an emphasis on musical theory. You can always learn the technical skills of an instrument but you should learn musical theory while you’re in an academic context. Comprehensive theory is the best way to approach songwriting or rock or jazz. It’s the best way to get out of pop chord progressions and get into creative music.
- Why did you spend 9 months in Brazil before your freshman year?
For shits and giggles.
- Favorite pre-concert snack?
Air. No sugar or salt with that.
- If you could play music with one musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
I’d have to say Miles Davis. He set the standard multiple times for the style of improvisation that’s been prominent in jazz for the past 50 years. It would be pretty cool to play with a guy who invented that. Also, he played jazz like me and is cool.
- What are the chances I can become a renowned jazz musician?
Quite low. Slim to none. Stick to finding a desk job at McKinsey.
- In one sentence, what do you usually do all day?
I care about a couple of things and a few people but I lol at most things.
- What songs make you laugh? Cry?
Cry: Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli
Laugh: Any song by The Lonely Island, The Flight of the Conchords, Coldplay’s entire discography and Sorry by Justin Bieber.
- Guilty music pleasure?
You Found Me – The Fray
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I can only see 4 years into the future thanks to my 2020 vision.
- When’s bedtime? When do you get up?
Now. I get up at 10:33 AM usually. Sometimes PM.
- Princeton bucketlist?
Graduate and make Chris Eisgruber say something thought provoking.
- Favorite musical note? Why?
A flat. Because it’s God’s key.
- How did you like this interview?
It was fine. Quite loly. I’m going to go play the piano now.
Check out Will’s high school band, S. Walcott: