Artist of the Issue: Josh Guo


Courtesy of Josh Guo '20

Josh Guo '20 performing with the Groton School Jazz Combo, Riverside, at the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston.

Joshua Guo ‘20 is a gifted and passionate pianist. Having performed many times after morning chapel, The Circle Voice’s humor section last year dubbed him the “Postlude Prince.” Josh spoke with The Circle Voice about his musical journey and plans for performing arts on the Circle as a lead music prefect.


When and how did you start playing the piano?

I started playing the piano when I was four when my mother forced me to go take piano lessons. But right away, I found an instant connection and realized that it would become one of my lifelong passions. I began composing at eight, which was even more powerful in giving me independence and control over what I played.


What are some things you like about the piano?

I love the piano and composing because it’s a way for me to express my inner thoughts and emotions, to communicate and connect with others, and to tell the most beautiful, vivid stories. For me, a single note on the piano can tell a story that thousands of words can’t.


Who are your favorite musicians and composers?

My favorite jazz pianist is Bill Evans because he can break apart a traditional jazz tune and piece it back together in his own innovative way, especially on Conversations with Myself, where he overdubbed himself so that he could play multiple parts at once. My favorite classical composer is Liszt because of how he seamlessly blends technicality and emotion to tell a story. I also love John Williams because of his variety and range in genre and mood as well as his ear for melody. My favorite jazz composer is Chick Corea because of his forward-thinking experimentation across genres and his work ushering in the birth of jazz fusion. Finally, my favorite modern artist is Frank Ocean because of his gift for pouring raw, unfiltered emotion into a minimalist soundscape.


What are some of your favorite pieces?

“Liebestraum No. 3” by Liszt, “Beautiful Love” as performed by the Bill Evans Trio, “Vienna” by Billy Joel, “Spain” by Chick Corea, “Ex-Factor” by Lauryn Hill, and “Moon River” by Audrey Hepburn


What is your favorite music memory at Groton?

One favorite memory was the tour of China the Jazz Band took during spring break of my Fourth Form year. It was such an awesome time to bond with everyone else in my band and to connect and even play with musicians from schools all over China. 


At Groton, this isn’t a specific memory, but I’ve always found it really therapeutic sitting in a practice room late at night and listening to the muffled noises of other people practicing and singing through the walls. It sounds really weird and creepy, but it’s just a moment of harmony and peace and quiet, which I think we don’t get enough at this school.


What are your plans as a music prefect?

As a music prefect, I definitely want to continue to bring more music into everyday Groton life to showcase the amazing talent we have and also to lift the community’s spirits through music, whether it be in the chapel, community service, or even MLK Day celebrations. I also want to create more opportunities for student creators such as composers, songwriters, or producers to showcase their work. I’m helping organize the first-ever composition concert this winter, so hopefully that’ll be the first step in that process.


Are you doing any music FSAs at Groton this year?

I’m still deciding, but I definitely want more time to do more composing this winter, maybe even some more modern experimentation with production, which I haven’t done a lot of. 


What musical projects have you worked on during the summer?

This summer, I continued with some projects from my music FSA last winter, during which I transcribed the music of the Bulang Minority into a multimedia e-book as their music is fading and being forgotten. I went back to the Bulang village this summer to return all the music I’ve written and transcribed for them. I also recorded new music to be transcribed.


How do you balance academic and music life at Groton?

I’ve never really seen music as a burden or a task, and therefore I’ve never really felt that I’ve had to balance it with academics. Academics and music are two important pieces of my life, with music offering an important change of pace and therapy for me to relieve stress and anxiety, or let out whatever I’m feeling at the moment. Some of the longest nights and difficult winters here have been remedied with a quick trip to the piano or my favorite Spotify playlist. I couldn’t survive without music, and I’m so grateful to it and the rest of the music community here at Groton.