J.C. MacMillan: From Barbershop Boy to Basso Profundo

J.C. MacMillan ’03 takes part in nearly every possible performing arts program at Andover. His history of avid involvement in singing, music, and acting has contributed to his past three notable years at Phillips Academy. In the following interview, this diverse artist recounts his participation in the many facets of performing arts, both on and off campus. Phillipian: When did you begin your career as a performer? J.C. MacMillan: I started singing around the 5th grade. In middle school, I was in a Barbershop Chorus and a Barbershop Quartet as the lead singer. Phillipian: When did you get a chance to perform with these choral groups? J.M.: We participated in different competitions. As the lead singer, I won best soloist in a competition that was held between middle schools in four states. Phillipian: How have your goals and interests in singing changed since you came to Andover? J.M: To give you an idea of my voice back then, I sang “Duke of Earl,” the melody, the really high melody. Basically, I was a soprano. When I came to PA, however, I started as a soprano, then got “sick” one day junior year and experienced a dramatic change in octave. Mysteriously, I have not recovered and my voice remains eternally altered. The voice change sent my singing career in an entirely different direction. I’m a basso profundo, a fancy way of saying that I sing very low. Quite an extreme change from my “Duke of Earl” days. Phillipian: Despite the “sickness,” how did you become so involved in the singing programs at Andover? J.M.: I joined Chorus and Cantata, and the rest is history. Phillipian: You recently received the role of Pontius Pilate in the Cantata Choir’s production of Bach’s Passion of Saint John. How were you honored with such a respectable solo? J.M.: I paid off Mr. Thomas. No, actually, I just auditioned and he took a chance on me. It is an honor to receive such a challenging part. The role of Pontius Pilate is pretty difficult, but amazing nonetheless. Phillipian: Your involvement in arts at P.A. extends far beyond Chorus and Cantata. For instance, you play an instrument, correct? J.M.: Yes, in fact, I play jazz and classical piano. Phillipian: How did you begin playing? J.M.: Well initially I started with the jazz piano. I picked it up as a hobby the summer before I began attending PA. Although I began playing only five years ago, I practiced so much that I improved rather rapidly. It was one of those really dull summers that allowed excessive practice time, on average four to five hours per day. Phillipian: Do you still dedicate such a large amount of time to your musical endeavors? J.M.: Once I got to PA, practicing became much more sporadic. I’ve taken lessons every term since I arrived. In addition, I took the AP music course and have spent two terms as part of a small jazz ensemble. For the mere sake of improvement, I am currently learning how to play classical piano because my jazz technique is becoming faulty. Phillipian: What is your opinion of the music programs for both singing and instrumental performers? J.M.: I really love the Music Department on campus. The opportunities are pretty amazing. There is so much musical talent at this school to enhance the program and encourage growth. Phillipian: You bring yet another aspect of your artistic self to Phillips Academy. How did you become so involved in your other passion of theater? J.M.: Like any actor, I began in a theater classroom. The name of my first play was Bed & Breakfast. Phillipian: Since you’ve moved up from the ground floor of GW, in what other shows have you taken part? J.M.: I got ambitious after my theater classroom success and auditioned for the Winter Drama Lab, The Fantastiks. After that I was cast in all different size shows of the Theater Department including another Drama Lab called Six Degrees of Separation. I’ve directed a classroom and acted in another since Bed & Breakfast. I will have been in what will be three Theatre 520’s after this spring. Phillipian: What have been the highlights of your time as an actor here? J.M.: In the Fantastiks I played Mortimer. To this day, I still remember it as my fondest role. Also, I was honored that they asked me to emcee Grasshopper night this fall with Alex Colaianni ’03, and I had an absolute blast doing it. What I will most likely take away from my time here however is that I was lucky enough to be cast in both Scotland shows during my time here, Parabox and now Rhinoceros. It is a wonderful sector of the program and a chance I thought I would only get once in a lifetime. I recently got cast in the in Broadway Reveue as the teen angel in Grease.