A blind singer from Down East has been recognized as a top young artist by an NPR music program
An 18-year-old singer from Beals Island Maine will be featured with other emerging classical artists this Saturday on NPR's From the Top program, airing 5 p.m. Saturday on Maine Public Classical.
Noah Carver, who has been blind from birth, is also the recipient of the program's Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist award. Carver says he'll use the $10,000 award to help him pursue his education and career as a performer, composer, and arranger.
One or two times a week, Noah Carver works with his voice teacher Gary Magby. The sessions are done online, as Carver lives in a small Down East fishing village, and Magby is a state away in New Hampshire. Carver, who is a tenor, says there's a standard routine.
"It usually starts with vocal warm-ups," says Carver. "That usually can take anywhere from 15- 20 minutes maybe, and then we get into the banging out of notes."
Carver says that he "started singing at a very young age just imitating what I heard on the albums my parents would play — everything from Bocelli to AC/CD. Then when I was four I started singing at the church where my parents were both ministers. But I didn't really start singing in more formal setting until I started singing with the Washington County Children's Chorus."
In middle school, he sang in festivals and took music instruction in voice, piano and guitar, but he says music was just a hobby.
"And that changed in high school when I started taking professional voice lessons with my voice teacher and after my first all-state music festival and after that I realized that this thing that is taking up more and more and more of your time is becoming less and less and less of a hobby and more and more and more of something that you just love to do. And at that point I realized 'hey maybe you should commit yourself to doing this,' and so by junior year I was pretty ready to go," he says.
Voice teacher Gary Magby says unlike many young opera students, Carver is not driven by ego.
"For me he is a singer who puts the music first," Magby says. "And he does not worry about if he's going to crack on a high note, He's more concerned about, 'Am I singing in tune? Am I being faithful to the score? Am I caressing the text?' His brain just isn't in the place that we're used to seeing in a young artist."
For "From the Top," Carver recorded "Music for a While" by Henry Purcell, with accompaniment from Magby.
"This piece has been around circa Shakespeare's day. But I was introduced to it relatively early on singing with Mr. Magby," Carver says. "I literally fell in love with it. And when first COVID-19 hit, and then other things came along and I sort of realized that this is very apropos for the time we're in because on of the lyrics."
He went on, "The primary message is 'Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile,' and I thought 'My goodness, I couldn't find anything more appropriate if I tried. This is so apropos for the world we're in because goodness knows people have a lot of cares that could use beguiling for a short period of time through music.'"
Carver plans to use the $10,000 prize from the Jack Kent Cook Foundation to buy equipment and software to assist in braille notation, translation, and composition as he enters the Eastman School of Music in the fall. And while his disability has been featured prominently in press coverage of his achievements, Carver says he'd one day prefer that the focus be on his art.
"This is something that I've thought about and talked about at length privately with my friends and my voice teacher and such. And there is no way to remove my blindness from the equation. I'm blind... It's simply part of who I am. But I'd like to be known as a capable musician... first and foremost... who happens to be blind."