“He’s one of those amazing brains who can process advanced quantum mechanics and rip an awesome jazz solo. He uses both sides of the brain to the fullest,” says E. Forrest O’Connor ’10 regarding his roommate Malcolm G. Campbell ’10.
Campbell is one of the few Harvard students jointly enrolled at the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC), a highly competitive and world-renowned music institution. Ever since his freshman year, the pianist has spent time shuttling between the two campuses, taking music lessons, practicing with NEC students, and performing in jazz ensembles. After he graduates from Harvard this spring with an A.B. in Chemistry and Physics, he will continue his education full-time at the NEC and receive a masters degree in Music.
For most people, enrollment in these two schools would force them to choose between succeeding academically or musically. Campbell, however, manages to do both. “It’s interesting because the conservatory is an incredibly demanding environment, as is Harvard. To function in either one of these orbits is challenging enough. To function in both and not only thrive in both – that’s incredible,” says Jack Megan, director of the Office for the Arts at Harvard.
Speaking to his academic prowess, Campbell was inducted into the Harvard chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society during his junior year. Entry into Harvard’s chapter requires an outstanding grade point average as well as two heavily weighted faculty recommendations.
Music, however, is Cambell’s true passion, and his success in this arena is a reflection of his love for the sounds of music and the musical interactions that he has with others. “It’s what I’ve always loved. I derive so much inspiration from people I’m playing with and the connection you make when you’re playing with people,” he says. “Whether I’m playing funk or jazz or classical, one of the things I think I do naturally is connecting with other people when I play.”
“He’s a pretty remarkable musician,” says Ken Schaphorst, chair of the NEC Jazz Studies Department. “He can read and play at a very high level. He’s also very creative and plays with a lot of energy and passion.”
Despite the constant praise that he receives for his musical abilities, Campbell is the first to criticize himself and push to become a better player. “Music for me is so personal and I care so much about it. It can be really tough. If I don’t do well with music, it really affects me personally and really can get me down,” he says. “There are so many things that I’m not satisfied with. I don’t want to sound complacent with my playing—there are so many avenues in which to improve.”
Although Campbell’s academic and musical successes leave him with many options for the future, many think he has the ability to make it as a professional musician. “I think he has all the tools. I see him succeeding. If anyone has a good shot, it’s Malcolm. It’s a combination of talent and motivation, which I think he has,” says Schaphorst.
When asked about his post-grad aspirations, Campbell says, “I’d really love to see where music takes me. I’m sort of really realizing now how seriously tough it is, so we’ll see. Hopefully I’ll get better next year, and maybe it’ll work out so I can have a career in music.”
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