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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Music in His DNA

For Sean Polan, music was just a part of growing up. His dedication to music has caused him to flourish into a musical mutitasker.

From an early age, Polan, a senior vocal performance major, was exposed to all sorts of music, which has guided him toward becoming a broad musician. He is an avid singer, as well as a player of the piano, harp, and organ.

"Probably the oldest memories I have of music are of my grandfather singing to me when I was a child," Polan said. "Every night he would sing to me Irish lullabies and different folk tunes. We would sing wherever we went, even when we were doing things like grocery shopping. I didn't realize how important music would be to me until I started spending time with my grandmother, though. She was an extraordinary pianist and she began to show me some things on the piano."

Jennifer Polen, his aunt, reflects on Polan's younger years when he was starting to learn the tricks of the musical trade. She has commended him on his improvements and developments as a musician.

"My first memory of Sean and his music was him singing along to Andy Williams and insisting that he was a better singer than Andy Williams," Jennifer said. "In fact, he was truly dreadful…At least he doesn't suck now."

There is more to Polan than just his musical talents; he is also involved in realms of theatre. While he has changed from a musical theatre major, his interest in theatre still influences his music tastes.

"I love playing show tunes. I grew up listening to Phantom of the Opera, Godspell, Mame, everything and I still love it today," Polan said, "I also love Irish music. There is something about it that speaks to the part of me that loves fantasy. The music is sometimes mournful and sometimes joyous beyond belief. I love the extremes."

Kevin Westermann, a senior business and English major with a music theory minor, is a close friend to Polan. He believes Polan's interest in the theatre world is one of his most eccentric traits.

"I'd say the quirkiest thing [about him] is his fascination with the Renaissance Fair," Westermann said. "He has a costume and everything. He's even convinced me to get in the spirit and dress up on more than one occasion. His quirks are infectious, sometimes."

During Polan's transition between majors from the music theatre department to music performance, Westermann noticed a change in Polan's confidence as he has improved over the years, gaining momentum through support from professors.

Tony Arnold, an associate professor of singing for the department of music, has taught Polan voice for three years. Polan is a member of BABEL, an experimental vocal ensemble led by Arnold.

"Sean has worked hard, and has never turned away from a challenge," Arnold said. "He has a good musical ear, which he has extended and improved through his work as a vocalist. Sean is never afraid to risk failure, even in a public setting. The range of Sean's empathy in performance shines through, and he makes progress through the courageous act of risking failure publicly."

Polan has made a big impression on not just his teachers but the Buffalo community as well. He began teaching music after being approached by a woman from his church that requested he instruct her how to play the harp. Although he had never taught music before, he soon found himself reaching out to numerous students, both instrumentally and vocally.

His experiences have sparked a passion in Polan as he hopes to continue his studies and graduate with a master's degree in music education.

"I have always wanted to be a teacher and I think that it suits me," Polan said. "I had some tough teachers, but I loved each one of them because they helped me learn so much. I want to do that for other people. I love seeing when a person gets something, like a difficult passage or a new technique. And the fact that I [am] able to help them learn that makes me feel great."

Polan also enjoys sharing his own musical talent on stage in front of a crowd. Working with two local church choirs, he utilizes his passion for group ensembles to expand his own talents.

"When you hear voices singing together, the sound that it produces is amazing," Polan said. "You can hear this buzz when things are in perfect harmony and I find it cool."

Arnold has high hopes for Polan's future career in music and teaching. His ability to take initiative have already set him a part form a lot of undergraduate students, according to Arnold.

"I think the responsibility he has taken on for his two church jobs is an important first step in a diverse musical career," Arnold said. "[They] will undoubtedly be a patchwork of performing, teaching, and leading in a variety of capacities."

Email: features@ubspectrum.com


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