Musician Profile: Ellen Kaufman ’13

"I like this one in particular because it looks like I have a weird extra arm." - Ellen Kaufman '13

“I like this one in particular because it looks like I have a weird extra arm.” – Ellen Kaufman ’13

This week, I sat down in the lobby of Storer music hall with vocalist Ellen Kaufman ’13 to talk about her experience with music at Kenyon. “I think you made a good choice,” remarked Prof. Sanders, when asked what he thought of the interview that was taking place outside his office.

In terms of music, Ellen seems to do it all. She is the president of Take Five, “Kenyon’s premiere, co-ed Jazz acapella group,” the music director of Colla Voce, and has been in Chamber Singers for four years, serving as their tour manager for this past year.  She also did the Opera-musical theater workshop this semester, and takes voice lessons in the department. “And…that’s it,” said Kauffman as she finished reciting her list to me.

From jazz a capella to the Gamelan, Kenyon has a varied population of talented musicians. The mission of the musician profile is to highlight some of those instrumentalists and vocalists who work so hard to do what they love.

Musician Profile: Ellen Kaufman

Class: 2013

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Major(s): Music and English

What is the favorite project that you have worked on?

I’ve been in Take Five since freshman year, and it has been incredibly rewarding to be a part of that group. I did not know a lot about jazz before I came to Kenyon and sort of auditioned on a whim, and it has been a source of really great friendship… I am [also] so proud of where we have come musically since my freshman year in terms of our arrangements becoming more sophisticated and our level of musicality really improving. We have a concert on Friday, (just wanted to throw that in there). (Ed: everyone should go!)

What is your favorite thing about being involved in music at Kenyon?

This is super, super corny, but I have been so happy to have been a part of this community; Kenyon has an amazingly strong musical community both within the department and in terms of extra curriculars. It’s so easy to get involved with music at Kenyon…I would say that meeting people from completely different walks of life through all of the different musical organizations I’ve been a part of has been the best part. Also I just absolutely love singing. Maybe that’s lame or obvious, but singing with my friends is definitely the best part.

Who are your influences?

I grew up listening to musical theater soundtracks in the car, and I’ve always been an unashamed musical theater nerd. I would say I grew up being influenced by Patti LaPone, Audra Macdonald, and those kinds of musical theater performers… I think in the last four years I have really been influenced by Ella Fitzgerald… I also have really come to love opera when I’ve been here, and so almost all of the music I have done in my voice lessons and my senior recital a month ago have been influenced by Opera performers I am a fan of, like Natalie disse…[s]he is my big influence because she has super human ability.

How is the balance between English and Music?

It is a double major that I do not recommend, because the tests are the same day…That being said, even though I thought about whether or not it was a “good idea,” I wouldn’t have changed it because that is a big reason that I came to Kenyon; that I wanted to be able to still pursue my love of music and get the liberal arts education… The balance is actually very nice, and… necessary to my sanity.

Any Ellen Kauffman-Ellen Hoffman mix-up stories?

Last year I got all the Motown e-mails, and we frequently get each other’s e-mails. We were also both in chamber singers this year, which was also good… It’s funny, It’s like the more Ellens involved in music at Kenyon, the better.

Anything on your iTunes right now that you would recommend?

My big recommendation to everyone is that Amy Winehouse has all of these B sides of jazz standards that are so good. Specifically, her cover of “Someone Watch Over Me” is amazing, and her cover of “Teach Me Tonight” is also awesome. My friends all make fun of me that I discover popular music six months too late… like, “Hey guys, have you heard of this song by Bon Iver that’s been out for two years?” So those would be my recommendations…Finding contemporary covers of Jazz standards, those are the kinds of thing that I’m super into.

Any advice for aspiring musicians?

I would just say that there are so many opportunities and so many niche groups that there really is something [in the music department] for everyone. If you have even just the slightest interest in music, get involved with one of those groups because I’m sure those people would love to have you, and it’ll be worth it.

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