How did you get involved in music at Campbell
I started playing music because I just wanted to play some
dang rock and roll. In fourth grade, I started a band with Nick
Pillot ’10 and Jack Frymark ’10 called the Freeloaders. That
band fell apart at some point and I joined another band
called Vas Defrans - we practiced four days a week and
played shows all of the time. We even played at Coachella
Music Festival when I was in 10th or 11th grade. At CH, I
played in Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Orchestra, and Brazilian
Tell us what you’ve been up to since graduating
five years ago.
Well, I moved onto CalArts, another great place for me to
develop creatively. I mainly focused on electric and upright
bass when I got there. I soon started playing the accordion,
which is now one of my main instruments. I got really into all
of the world music they had there. Balinese Gamalan, African
drums, and tabla were some of my favorites. Looking at
music from different cultural perspectives was pretty cool to
me. That became a big inspiration for the music I like making.
While at CalArts, I played with a lot of bands. I did a few
small West Coast tours and a few trips to Texas for South by
Southwest. I recorded an album in Copenhagen for an artist
named Monte Pittman. One of the bands, Deux Sons, I
started with my friend Spencer Ludwig. At first, we were an
accordion/trumpet duet playing at French restaurants. I
started writing original music that didn’t sound so French, so
we gave up on our French restaurant circuit. We slowly got
more and more band members until we became an eightpiece
band. We changed our name to Duk. With Duk, we
play at a lot of bars, clubs, weddings, weird events, and
some even weirder parties. Anyway, we’ve put out two
albums: Early Worm Gets the Bird and Worm Vacation.
Last year, Ari Balouzian ’07 and I did string and horn
arrangements on Tobias Jesso Jr.’s first album, Goon. It was
very fun to work on. Shortly after that came out, Tobias had a
show in Los Angeles, and I told him that Duk would learn all
of his songs if he wanted us to back him up. After that show,
we started playing as his band. We played at Pitchfork Fest
in Chicago and Pemberton in Vancouver. We performed live
on KCRW and Jimmy Kimmel Live. We also just finished a
U.S. tour. Playing with Tobias has been really great - a truly
good artist and so awesome to work with. Earlier this year, I
did a U.S. tour with a band called Wardell. We also did a
Western U.S. tour opening for Ryan Adams.
I hear you’re working with a lot of fellow CH
alumni these days – whom? how?
Ari Balouzian ’07 and I do a lot of music together. He plays
in my band Duk. We’ve worked on a few film/TV/commercial
scores together. We do a lot of recording projects together,
whether it’s something he is working on or something I am
working on. Nicky Rowlands ’09 and Juliana Rowlands ’12
made a music video for Duk. Dustin Alpern ’10 also made a
music video for Duk. Oliver Bernsen ’07 has done a lot of art
work for Duk, and I helped with some music on his short film.
Nick Pillot ’10 and I have collaborated on some recording
and have played some shows together.
Is there a specific teacher you had while at CH
that helped develop your passion and talent?
Mr. Whiting was a great mentor to me. He exposed me to a
lot of inspiring music that I still love today. Playing in the jazz
bands and orchestra lead by Mr. Whiting definitely played a
huge part in my development as a musician. I did an
independent study with him my senior year. He challenged
me in ways that really prepared me to be in a conservatory
environment. I also had a lot of fun in all of his classes. I
remember for a while, he would project a live video feed of
his pet ducks on the whiteboard while we rehearsed. I loved
As a 13-year student, tell us about some of your favorite
or funniest CH memories.
Favorite memories, I’ll list them… drama on the kickball courts,
watching The Sting in Mr. Horvitz’s class, egg drop, science
experiments in the community locker, the Disystem, watching
Blades of Glory on the environmental trip, soccer team, Dealing
with Gale Bernard (The Musical), Jazz Band, Orchestra, and, of
course, varsity soccer with my brother Tye Whipple ’08.
Funny CH memory…when I was in kindergarten, I had to get
up in front of the whole class to present the weather or
something. I was really nervous and couldn’t help but pee in
my pants. Now, I make sure to always use the bathroom
before getting on stage.