Oratory’s Own Master of MusicーMy Interview With Mr. Van Hoven

Mr. Bruce Van Hoven

Image Courtesy of Oratory Prep

Mr. Bruce Van Hoven

Recently, I had the chance to interview Oratory’s Mr. Van Hoven by email. Everyone from Oratory knows him—maybe from his classes, from his award-worthy direction of the school’s music, or just his constant presence around the school. Mr. Van Hoven requires little introduction. Without any further ado, here are his answers to some of our burning questions.

  1. What is your favorite genre or subgenre of music?
    1. “Wow, that’s hard. I have such varied tastes that on any given day I’m listening to rock, country, big band jazz, classical… but if I had to pick one, I’d say singer/songwriter AKA contemporary folk—the kind of thing where you go to a concert and it’s one person with their acoustic guitar.”
  2. If you had to only pick one genre to listen to for the rest of your life, would you pick the same genre or something different?
    1. “I think I’d keep my answer – but that sounds like a lifetime of torture. No matter how much I love any style of music, I wouldn’t want to listen to that exclusively.”
  3. Who is your favorite artist?
    1. “Another difficult question, and in light of my other answers it may seem unusual, but I think I’d have to say Billy Joel. I’ve been a fan of his really my entire life.”
  4. Picking a favorite song is difficult, so what are a few songs that could count as or come close to your favorite? If you have a true favorite, feel free to go with that.
    1. “Billy Joel’s ‘Vienna’, Janis Ian’s ‘In The Winter’, and Tom Waits’ ‘Ol’ 55’ all come to mind pretty quickly.”
  5. What’s a piece of music that carries some sort of emotional significance for you?
    1. “Handel’s ‘Messiah’, specifically the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. I’ve been going to a Messiah Sing-In in New York since I was a freshman in high school. 3000 or so people gather at Lincoln Center and sing through almost all of the music. I use my grandfather’s copy of the music, which still has his notes and reminders in it. He sang in a local production of ‘Messiah’ for nearly 50 years, and that music is very special to me.”
  6. What are the last three songs that you listened to?
    1. “‘Rusty Old American Dream’ by David Wilcox, ‘You May Be Right’ by Bily Joel, and a jazz version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ by former Yankee and now brilliant jazz guitarist Bernie Williams.”
  7. Are those three songs typical of your listening habits?
    1. “Well, there’s a singer/songwriter in there (Wilcox) as well as some Billy Joel, so there’s certainly no surprise there. Bernie’s a bit of a wildcard, but I love good music regardless of genre.”
  8. Outside of your favorite genre, who is your favorite artist or song?
    1. “The Count Basie Orchestra, and if I had to pick one song it would be ‘Lil’ Darlin’’.”
  9. Are there any genres that you dislike or just don’t really listen to?
    1. “I don’t like much contemporary rap, although I do like some of the older stuff from the 80s and 90s. And I don’t enjoy EDM as it’s too repetitive for me.”
  10. What is something you can appreciate or an artist you enjoy from those disliked genres?
    1.  “I appreciate that, in its context, EDM can be a lot of fun for people in a club. It’s just not my thing.”
  11. How do you organize your playlists (mood, genre, something else)?
    1. “I’ve only recently started listening via Spotify. I was an iTunes guy for a long time and I would mostly listen to full albums rather than create playlists. I’m enjoying how Spotify will introduce me to some new artists based on the things I’m listening to.”
  12. What’s a unique challenge that faces you when teaching as opposed to, say, a science or English teacher?
    1. “Twice each year I need to pick new music for the band to play. That’s really the hardest part of the job, finding something new and appropriately challenging for the guys in band to play for the concerts.”
  13. If you could make a one-sentence pitch to why someone should take one of your classes, what would it be?
    1. “I hope that my students leave my room in a better mood than when they came in. Music will help you release stress, relieve anxiety, and give you the opportunity to create something beautiful with other people. (yes, I know that was 2 sentences…)”
  14. If you could have everyone reading this article do one thing today, music-related or not, what would it be?
    1. “Music-related, I’d say break out of your comfort zone. Listen to something new and REALLY listen to it. No distractions. Just focus on the music. Non-musically, I’d say everyone should go home and hug their mothers. You probably haven’t done it recently enough, and she’ll certainly appreciate it.”
  15. Do you have anything else that you would like to say?
    1. “I have a poster in my room that I think applies to everyone, whether they make music or not. It says, ‘The difference between the master and the beginner is that the master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried.’ Whatever your passion is, pursue it. And when it gets hard – keep going.”
This email interview is presented with no changes to Mr. Van Hoven’s answers besides a few very minor grammatical edits (adding a comma here, removing one here, etc.).