Noah Sherman on Playing Several Instruments and Paying Homage: A Concert Preview

Picture of Noah Sherman provided by himself

By Reggie Goudeau

On April 14, 2023, in Tappan Square, Noah Sherman discussed his history of playing music and the logistics of his senior percussion recital, which will take place at 12:30 pm on April 22 in Stull Hall. Sherman is a fifth-year whose hometown is Oak Park Illinois, in the West suburb of Chicago. 

Sherman has made music since he was eight years old, first gaining experience and interest through the video game Rock Band. In this game, players either strum colored notes on a guitar, or tap colored drums in the order corresponding to what appears on-screen. Sherman played the game using both methods and practiced drumming often with it in an attempt to outdo his older brother. 

At the same age, Sherman sang and wrote songs with his father, while his dad created the chords (although he did credit his son for this during his childhood). After gaining more singing experience, Sherman then moved on to using the percussion set of a xylophone, several metal bells, and a snare. 

Sherman graduated to the drum set in the fourth grade and continued to use mallets, the snare drum, and the bass drum throughout elementary, middle, and high school. He also has experience playing marimba, vibraphone, djembe, West African drums, dunduns, congas, bass, and the piano. His father taught him the basics of playing guitar as well. 

When asked if anything about the music scene in Chicago inspired him growing up, Sherman spoke about people from his high school. He specifically mentioned how he and four others determined they were going to music school by their sophomore years, giving them a long time to grow and develop further. 

Other notable figures from his high school included a band director and several alumni that stayed in the area to teach younger musicians jazz and improvised Black American Music. Sherman also mentioned there being teachers ten minutes away from the town who play gigs in Chicago frequently. 

Speaking more about his inspirations, Sherman cited improvisation and having a hard time being the musician that sits down, reads the piece, and works on it for weeks. “I find that when we play ‘jazz’ or you could refer to it as Black American music or modern improvised music, that there’s a long dialogue, and it’s never the same thing twice. I like spontaneity. You can ask people around me that find my spontaneity a little shocking sometimes because I’m too spontaneous and people don’t know what to expect.”

Sherman has also played more gospel music since meeting Kelsi Bolden, which has been beautiful for him since it is also spontaneous but still has structure. He too admires how those in spaces like Oberlin’s Gospel Choir come together for the common purpose of serving God. 

Sherman listens to a great variety of music in his free time from multiple genres and locations. Ever since meeting Weedie Braimah, his djembe teacher, he’s listened to more music from Mali. Sherman even received recommendations from some people he met while in Senegal. He has five to six albums that have remained in rotation since coming to Oberlin, a habit he brought with him from high school. 

During that time, he listened to a fair amount of Chance the Rapper given his relationship with Chicago, and Sherman attested to even seeing people from his high school perform alongside Chance. He also listened to indie rock like Cage the Elephant, and various significant jazz figures like John Coltrain, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Max Roach, and Art Blakey. From there, Sherman has kept those like trumpeter Marquees Hill, Joel Ross, Q-Tip, and Roy Hargrove in rotation. 

When asked about what plans he had for this recital, Sherman gave a detailed outline. He’s playing four original songs that he just wrote this past April, but is still sure they are not rushed. He also noted how intriguing it is to primarily play the drums while using minimal drums in his recital. 

Speaking about the covers, Sherman plans to perform “Colors” by Pharoah Sanders, and “Prayer” from Joel Ross’ newest album. He will also do “Deniable Plausibility” by Bobby Selvaggio, a 50-year-old professor from Akron, Ohio that teaches at Kent State University, and who Sherman did a show with this semester. Finally, he intends to end the concert by calling his father to the stage to play “Sweet Home Chicago,” a blues song famously done by Magic Sam. 

The original songs are more relevant to Sherman’s Oberlin experience. One is called ‘Seeds,’ referencing the metaphorical ones he’s currently planting for the future and those he planted upon arriving in Oberlin. Another is a song that translates to “lion.” One more he mentioned was called “The Betrayed Heart Betrays,” referencing the many moments at Oberlin where he felt hurt or indirectly harmed others, and illustrating how pain is cyclical. 

Sherman’s final words suggested how his upcoming recital would ideally be a healing experience. “There are certain frequencies that we work with that heal your body. Might even clear up a sore ankle or chest pain. We’re gonna be playing a lot of stuff like that. Long tones, long drones, long impactful trumpet sounds, and piano chords. It’s just a whole spiritual experience. If you can come and bring a worry that might get resolved within it, I think that we can talk to you through the music.” 

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