Musician ElliottOctober, 2023
In the fall of melodies and swing, young Elliott Peeler ’24 stood in the midst of it all, watching the performance of an actor playing “Tevye” in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” that inspired him to start his own journey as a musician. Since then, Elliott has engaged in both the choir and theater departments of PHS and is currently the director of the a capella group Around 8. His passion for the arts extends beyond the depths of the school: Elliott spends a majority of his free time either listening or practicing his music. For Elliott, the musical department at PHS isn’t just a place to showcase his skills and grow as an artist, but also a small community he finds comfort in. Choir and theater isn’t just a genre but a place for him to showcase his school spirit and be a part of the whole.
What inspired you to start getting involved with the musical department?
It’s definitely one of the most open extracurricular departments in school, and the performances are so open to everyone that you can see it and immediately get involved. That’s how I really knew I wanted to do choir. I was in Chorale II the first year here and then I saw what the PHS Choir could do, and the audition process is just you audition and you get in, and all these doors open up to you, and it was the same with the musical. You could just show up to one audition and you’re in the door. Obviously you have to know how to sing, but you learn that once you get in.
How did you get started?
I moved here my sophomore year, and it was pretty much right off the bat. I auditioned for the fall play, then the winter musical, and I was in Chorale II my first year. So I saw the advertisements to audition and did it.
How has the process of the Little Prince Opera been so far?
The opera process is definitely different and a lot more than the musical. You’re on your own and you have to be ready to pick up any measure at any point because we’re running it with the orchestra and they’re doing these sections, picking up from measure 255, and you just kind of have to have that in your brain. I mean, at this point in the process we’re still looking at the score to get the time signatures and everything, but it’s definitely a lot more. We block it out once and you just kind of have to learn it on your own, and there’s so much less time to attend to the little things for every scene. It’s not an extracurricular, so we have to do all in choir class, a couple periods missing gym. We have a quarter of the time because it’s at the end of the month. We do have night rehearsals, but it’ll be at the week of and that’ll be with our tech crew.
What do you think the difference is between choir and theater?
I think in choir there’s more of a right answer to what sounds good, because you have really distinct vocal techniques they teach you and [...] it’s not just about memorizing words but the meter and the pitches of the words too. That being said, there are still [many other difficult] concepts in theater, like knowing your beats, when the tone of the scene changes, [and] when the distance between you and the character closes and opens. [In musicals], we can use those theater techniques to enhance the performance, but [for choir], there’s less emphasis on that and more emphasis on singing, counting the beats, and keeping the keys.
If you could play one role in any play, what would it be and why?
That’s a really tough question. One that comes to mind is Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof,” just because he’s a very powerful baritone bass role, and there definitely are those roles, but not so much in modern theater. He [...] has a lot of light hearted comedic moments, but there’s also a lot of emotional depth to the character. I was in the production for “Fiddler on the Roof” when I was really young, and I really looked up to a kid who played Tevye and thought, “I want to do that when I grow up.”
What do you like the most about theater or choir?
I’ll start with a cappella. With a cappella, I really like the way you get to choose or arrange all the material, and it’s like our own little bubble; it really doesn’t even feel like choir or musical theater [...] because it’s all 100 percent student lead. It’s a great opportunity to advance our own voices as students and student leaders. And I mean voices; not just singing voices, but leadership voices. Voices in organizing our own gig and everything. And with choir, it’s really great to be a part of the whole and when you come together a few moments before the performance and you stand up and I don’t get that kind of school spirit elsewhere. And I don’t know if it’s much of a school spirit but a feeling of community. I think PHS is such a big school that you have to find a belonging in a smaller community and choir’s one of those communities.
How’s being the music director of Around Eight?
It’s a lot of fun. It’s really daunting because there’s not a lot you can do to prepare for it, because all of a sudden [it’s] “Oh, here’s 12 people you have to tell what to do” and “Oh, we’re performing three weeks into school and you have to have a set of songs.” But it’s super rewarding to just kind of blaze a trail through unknown territory, and I would wholly recommend a cappella [for those] who want to sing.
Who do you get your inspiration from?
I think a lot of it comes from inside. I want to do really well in this for my own sake. I also have a voice teacher that’s really been behind my back for a long time, and he leads a really happy, thrilling, [and] interesting life in the vocal performance world, and I think that’s inspiring. [At times], performance art is incredibly cutthroat, but at the same time, [it’s] so fulfilling if you know what you want to do, and to see that example in real life it’s inspiring.
Are you planning on pursuing a career in acting/singing, and will you continue your journey in college?
I don’t know; every school that I’m looking at that I’m going to be applying to has a great theater program. So that’s sort of been the bottom line, that I can do theater in college if I want to. But I figured that I don’t want to sacrifice a general education unless it’s the best of the best conservatory.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in joining theater or choir?
Don’t get caught up in the pretense of it, like [the] gossip about the departments or what people think this means whether the people in the department like or don’t like you, or if you do well or not. Just do it if you want to develop your craft, or if you want a social circle of people around you because the department also offers that community-wise. But, if your goal is to become a better singer, a better actor, [or] a more disciplined performer, then you’ll get a lot of that. You get what you put in.