For sophomore Gibson Hartley, music is not just a hobby, but an ongoing conversation. Though he started playing saxophone in fourth grade, he didn’t start taking it seriously until he arrived at Bowdoin and began taking lessons with Frank Mauceri, the director of his jazz band. This year, he formed a quartet with friends Molly Ridley ’14, Simon Moushabeck ’16 and Sam Eley ’15. 

In addition to playing the saxophone, he composes music and sings baritone in The Longfellows. Because there are so few senior members, Hartley and a fellow sophomore have taken on the leadership of the group.

“It’s rewarding to work with the younger members and an amazing feeling to arrange a piece and have a group sing it back to you,” he said.

Hartley doesn’t see himself pursuing music as a career, but he hopes to stay engaged with music in other ways. 

“I’m a government major and would love to be a professor in the future. I would ideally love to stay in a place like this and teach and interact with musicians,” he said. 

Hartley says these interactions are what make music at Bowdoin so valuable. 

“At Bowdoin I learned to appreciate music more than I did previously. I didn’t have the capacity to understand the complexity of it, and by surrounding myself with musicians that have knowledge in music, especially in music theory, there was a surge in my enthusiasm.” 

For Hartley, music is an escape, something he separates from the rest of his life. When he is playing, he says he lets go of all concerns and commitments. 

“It becomes a moment to live and breathe in music, because it’s an ongoing conversation,” he said. “For example, I can play something on the saxophone, Molly can echo it on the piano, while Simon could be layering in with drums.” 

This musical dialogue has sharpened his awareness of verbal conversation as well. 

“I feel a concept and emotion and I’m trying to convey it in music, and verbally it’s very easy for me to get caught up in words. I haven’t always been the most articulate,” he said. 

Hartley relates to one of his favorite philosophers, Cornel West, who believes jazz is the most democratic form of music, and says he wishes the communication he experiences in music could translate into the classroom. 

“In a 35-person discussion group, people feel they have to say something different to make a good point, but reflection is important,” he said.

His penchant for Jazz is unapolagetic and earnest. “In general I find [Pop music]restrictive because the form has been created weeks before it’s recorded,” he said. “Jazz is very pure and experimental and I think that’s an incredible way of listening to music.”