10 Questions with Kevin Siegfried

Kevin Siegfried is a music composer who currently teaches at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music. His previous teaching experience includes Harvard University, the New England Conservatory, and the University of Iowa. His music has been performed by renowned ensembles, such as The Cardinall’s Musick and the New York Choral Society. Since 2014, Siegfried has been a composer for the award-winning Capitol Hill Chorale in Washington, D.C. On campus, he lives in Morton House with his wife, Abbey Siegfried, Chair in Music, and his family. In his free time, Siegfried enjoys going outdoors, cooking, and learning about plants.

What inspired you to start composing?

I was always just a kid who was playing around with sounds… at the piano [and] the keyboard. I was a teenager in rock bands, and then later, I fell in love with classical music. But in all the different things I did, there was definitely a common thread from when I was ten years old or so—I was always tinkering with music and sounds, so it was a natural outgrowth of just something that I loved to do, which is to play with sounds.

Do you have a favorite piece you’ve composed?

I do not think I have a favorite piece that I’ve composed. It is usually the one that I am working on right now, and that’s just necessary; it’s part of the journey. Currently, I am in the midst of a two-year period where I have not written a lot of music because the pandemic shut down a lot of long-range projects that I had on the table, as it has for so many people. And so in the absence of a lot of deadlines right now, I have not been writing as much in the last couple of years, but it’s been a good time to take stock of the direction of my career and of life in general, so it’s actually been a good time to reflect on future projects and plan ahead!

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your composing, if at all? Were virtual concerts a thing?

I have done some writing, just not big pieces and not on a large scale. I have been the composer in residence for the Capitol Hill Chorale in Washington, D.C. since 2014, and so I worked with them and put together a number of virtual projects last year. Just this weekend, [they] performed their first concert in two years for a live audience. And [the other group is] a small choir called Radiance, based in Seattle, Washington—I’ve collaborated with them and two other programs as well. Radiance in Seattle came up with this wonderful idea last year. They did three programs, and they were all recorded in nature, so they sang outside and they had a program that was filmed at the sea, one in the mountains, and one in the fields. And so I worked with them on their hills concert, and they did a lot of work of the mind, and it was a great project and the first time I have ever seen a choir perform in snowshoes because they had to trek into this location in the Pacific Northwest. So it’s definitely been slow, and I have yet to experience that with the group that I am directing or singing, in that I have had that freedom. Although my wife has had the pleasure of keeping that going here at Andover, which has been wonderful, thanks to just the [Andover] bubble!

What is your favorite piece of music to listen to?

I think one of the pieces I admire most is a piece called “The Lamb” by John Tavener. It is the setting of the William Blake poem, “The Lamb,” and it is a short, three-minute piece. But I think it is one of the best examples of a musical miniature that is really just perfect in its construction, and one of those things that just seems like it has a sense about it that it has always existed. Like the composer sort of just pulled it down and put it onto the page, and I love that about it, and I also love its simplicity and its restraint. It is a choral piece.

Outside of composing, what are some things you enjoy doing in your leisure time?

I love spending time outdoors. In the past couple of years, I have really taken the opportunity of more time at home, since I did not have to commute to Boston this past year. I have been doing a lot of gardening, working with native plants, pulling out invasive plants here at Morton House, where we live, and I always had this dream to be able to walk through my environment and actually know the names of the trees that I was passing and that sort of thing. And so I finally said, “Well why don’t I start with that?” So I have just been learning a lot about plants and the environment, here in New England in particular. I also love to cook! Especially this time of year, I love to make one-pot meals, like stew.

Do you like traveling? What are some favorite places you have been to? And do you draw inspiration from your travels?

Yes, I love to travel, both with my family and when I have the occasion to work with groups that are performing my music or premiering it. Particularly to the West Coast, to the Pacific Northwest, and to California. I would definitely say, in terms of frequent travel, the place we travel to more than any other is Vermont. During the summer, we almost always go there and stay as long as we can, so yes probably the state of Vermont [is my favorite place to travel.] Absolutely, [I draw inspiration from my travels]! There’s inspiration everywhere.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

The [Cochran Bird] Sanctuary is a favorite spot, the old Bird Blind, which is not kept up any longer. I do not know if you have ever been over there. It is across the street and down the road from Gelb [Science Center,] so it is accessed by Highland Ave. Someone did an Abbot Grant to put up this Bird Blind, and so there were bird feeders, and you could sit by and watch the birds from behind this large fence. But last time I was there this past year, it had not been kept up for a while, and it was going wild again. So yeah, the Sanctuary, the [Addison Gallery of American Art,] and the [Cochran] Chapel are probably my favorite spots on campus!

What’s your favorite Andover tradition?

I think the events around graduation are always really powerful! I love the procession with the bagpipers; I always try to make sure I am there for that. I feel like that’s really special, and I love how that tradition echoes the beginning of the year when the ninth graders are welcomed into the Chapel for the first time, and they are led in the same way by a bagpiper. I was able to experience that this year since now my son, Skyler [Siegfried ’25,] is a [Junior.] And the way that comes around full circle at graduation is really a beautiful tie-in.

Do you work with your wife, Dr. Abbey Siegfried?

She’s definitely one of my musical confidantes and advisors for sure, yes! I frequently will—before submitting a new piece to a group or something like that, I will always take some time to run it by her. And she is definitely a very solid part of my process. I really really trust her feedback and have come to rely on it.

Looking towards the future, are there any pieces you are working on right now, or performances of your music you are looking forward to?

Right now, [I am] looking forward to a lot of recordings, which is kind of the number one priority for me as I have a lot of pieces that are currently held up in the publishing stage because I need some professional recordings to accompany those publications. So right now for me, that is my number one priority. And the thing I am looking forward to—as it’s starting to become easier now—is to assemble groups for singing together!