The Circle Voice

Artist of the Issue: Piper Higgins ’17

Athlete+of+the+Issue%3A+Piper+Higgins
Athlete of the Issue: Piper Higgins

Athlete of the Issue: Piper Higgins

Athlete of the Issue: Piper Higgins

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An Open Mic head, Choir Prefect, and Music Prefect, Piper Higgins does it all. And yet, she has never taken a music lesson in her life.

In her five years at Groton, Piper has continually inspired others with her beautiful voice and guitar playing. You simply can’t miss her filling the Chapel and Gammons with her original songs and Bob Dylan covers. Not only has she has made a great impact on Groton’s music program, but she also continues to grow as a musician year by year.

        Piper’s musical endeavors began early on. She started playing the guitar in third grade after being inspired by the band ACDC. “I got a guitar that was like fifty bucks. I learned how to play ‘Tears in Heaven’ by Eric Clapton, and ever since then I’ve been really into it,” she says. Later, she even got a gig at a restaurant. Piper also sang for the chorus at her old school and since Second Form has been singing with the Choir and Chamber Choir.

Alongside choir, Piper enjoys exercising her musical freedom through performances at Open Mics and postludes throughout the year. This year, she and Phoebe Fry ’17 have led the Open Mics. “I wanted to continue the tradition of everybody being able to do it. We’ll have Second and Third Formers performing, as well as Upper Schoolers, and it doesn’t really matter,” she explains. Piper also taught herself to play both the piano and the harmonica, a “tin sandwich,” as she describes it.

Growing up, Piper took inspiration from Cam Meekins, a boy from her town who would rap in small in-town gigs and went on to pursue his musical career at various clubs in Boston. Phoebe, who began songwriting at a very young age, also encouraged Piper to write her own originals in Fourth Form. “I would start with lyrics that were kind of ambiguous. Putting them to music was always really hard, and I was never really happy with the way it sounded,” she explains. “If you try to write a song with your inspiration in mind being an amazing song, it’s hard to feel like it’s good at all.” It wasn’t until the end of Fifth Form when Piper felt truly satisfied with what she was writing. As Phoebe says, “Piper has such an advanced sense of music and a distinct, original style. I admire her persistence and perfectionism while songwriting – she will keep crafting a song until it’s exactly how she wants it to sound.”

This school year, Piper formed a band with Joe Collins ’18 on guitar. (Andrew Lei ’19 occasionally accompanies on bass.) It started with The Guitar Project, a group collaboration between various guitar students at Groton. On the second rehearsal, Piper realized, “Woah, this kid Joe Collins can shred.” She wanted to perform “Blowin’ in the Wind” and asked him to play with her for a postlude. During practices, she began to share some of her originals with him, and soon they had arranged the instrumentals together and started to record them with Kenji Kikuchi, jazz teacher. “Arranging a song that you’ve written with somebody else can make you feel much more creative,” she says, “I definitely took a big leap to involve more people with my music; something you play really close to the heart is hard to bring other people into, but it’s awesome when you do.”

In addition to songs, Piper has written her own poems. This winter, she took the elective “Poetry Reading and Writing” with Mr. Capen, and her work has also been published in The Grotonian. Like music, poetry is a personal form of expression for Piper. “A lot of my original songs started out as poetry,” she explains. “Speaking is one thing. You can be vulnerable when you speak. But when you sing, you become more vulnerable. And poetry is just… raw – you can’t even hide behind a guitar.”

Ask Piper about her favorite albums and her eyes are sure to light up. On The Freewheelin’ by Bob Dylan, she lauds, “It’s minimalist, unproduced, and still iconic.” Another favorite is Hot Fuss by The Killers: “That, for indie rock, was one of the first albums I listened to that introduced me to the genre.” She also recommends listening to I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning by Bright Eyes and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco. “They’re bands who go and they make an album that’s one piece of art,” she says. “You listen to the whole thing and you’re like, ‘That was an experience.’”

In the last five years, Piper has undoubtedly formed many unforgettable memories in practicing and performing music. One of her favorite memories was her solo with Phoebe and Matthew Higgins-Iati ’17 in the most recent  Lessons and Carols service. As she recalls, “When we got up there to sing the trio, it just felt correct.” While Piper admits that choir solos used to intimidate her (this was the first year she took part in them and performed three), she was firmly supported by her company. “Making eye contact with Phoebe and Matthew was so special and guided me through the music,” she says.

Music has certainly had a profound impact on Piper’s life. “I’m a very nostalgic person, so the way I remember certain things is through music. When you listen to a song, and you’re like, ‘That song is so accessible – these feelings have been felt before.’ Have you ever done that? When the music gives you a feeling, and you want someone else to have that feeling, so you ask them to listen to it?”

Piper has contributed in many ways to Groton’s music scene, not only through her tangible contributions in leadership and performances, but also by the way she inspires the community to constantly explore and develop new layers on their own journey with music. As Langa Chinyoka ‘17, an accomplished singer and songwriter herself, says, “[Piper’s original album] Time Machine changed my life. I listened to it all winter break.” In the past five years, Piper’s music has noticeably blossomed and will continue to do so in the many years to come.

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