Kyle Ellgiers '06: "I've always lived my life by seeing something I enjoy and doing it, without much thought." (Photo by Gary Gilbert)
BC bOp!'s Piano Man Preparing to Take His Show Beyond BC
A philosphy major who's pre-med - and he can tickle the ivories, too
By Sean Smith
For Kyle Elligers '06, the recent Boston College Arts Festival was a grand finale to a most successful and fulfilling membership in BC bOp!, the student jazz ensemble.
Besides playing in his last BC bOp! concert at the festival, Elligers received one of 12 Boston College Arts Council Achievement in the Arts awards presented this year [see related story].
Earlier this year, Elligers won the solo jazz piano competition at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, an event held at the University of Idaho that drew high school and college-age musicians - soloists and groups - from around the country.
His BC bOp! colleagues also performed well, coming in second in the multi-microphone vocal category.
Categories in music competitions are one thing, but when it comes to categories for academics and career, Elligers is not easy to place. Although he's been keenly interested in music since he was a toddler, Elligers chose instead to major in philosophy at BC - and also enrolled in the pre-med program for good measure.
What seems an unconventional array of interests and inclinations, however, is characteristic for Elligers.
"I've always lived my life by seeing something I enjoy and doing it, without much thought," explains the Windsor, Conn., native. "For this reason I did a lot of different things as a kid, including any sport or performing group I could be a part of. When I came to BC I had to make a choice. I really like dancing, but it would be too time consuming to be a part of a dance group and also in BC bOp!
"When it comes to academics, I knew that I wanted to study philosophy at a school with such an amazing philosophy department, but I also knew that eventually I might want to consider being a doctor. So, I chose to be a philosophy major with a pre-med concentration.
"[BC] turned out to be a wonderful experience, especially when it comes to music, because the high quality of music that BC bOp! plays, with almost no music majors, is quite astounding."
BC Bands Director Sebastian Bonaiuto calls Elliger "a supremely gifted jazz improviser who combines fresh, inventive improvisations with humor, sensitivity and drama. His musical leadership has been an integral part of the growth and success of the entire ensemble. Highly regarded by his peers in the ensemble, Kyle serves as a supreme model of musicianship, dedication and work ethic. He is a warm, kind and clever person whose humanity comes through in everything he does."
Elligers' musical prowess perhaps isn't surprising. As he recalls, there was "always a piano in the house" from the time he was a year old, and his mother was constantly at the keyboard. (His first musical achievement, he says, was "learning to play 'Chopsticks.'") Elligers started out learning classical piano, but in high school began branching out to jazz.
Every good jazz musician knows how to improvise, and that's what Elligers will likely do for the foreseeable future. Studying in China during his undergraduate years at BC, he says, put him "a little behind" on the pre-med track. So he plans to take a few years off, work, "volunteer at some hospitals and then decide what's next."
When he reflects on his BC years, Elligers feels he got the mix of philosophy, pre-med and music just about right. "Since playing music is such a relaxing and enjoyable hobby for me, being in BC bOp! has really been a great thing to do in school - not to mention all the social perks of being in a group of great, talented people."