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Campus Spotlight: Joe Schultz: meeting one person at a time via didgeridoo

(CHELSEA KATZ / THE STATESMAN)
Joe Schultz has played his didgeridoo at many events and open mic nights around campus. (CHELSEA KATZ / THE STATESMAN)

He is the Yorktown Heights boy who found himself playing in New York City without enough money to take the train home. So naturally he pulled out a didgeridoo, played for an hour, made $20 and was on the next train.

Another time he jammed with his didgeridoo in Washington Square Park and watched as some people started dancing while others watched the dancing people and one person started smoking pot right in front of him. He figured that those were just the sorts of people he attracted.

By the time Joe Schultz arrived at Stony Brook for his freshman year, he already played clarinet, baritone, cello, guitar, percussion, futujara and the didgeridoo. And with the plethora of open-mic nights on campus, his long black aluminum windpipe is hard to miss. For Schultz, his star moments are when he gets to discuss his music and meet others.

“People say to me ‘How do you know how to play all of these instruments?’” the undeclared sophomore said. “It’s just knowing the fundamental concepts and then figuring out how to apply them.” Learning about notes, scales, rhythms and chords is just a part of mastering an instrument. One must also have the physical ability to play.

When it comes to physical ability to play the didgeridoo, one must figure out how to use “circular breathing,” a type of breathing that requires the player to store air in his or her cheeks to expel while inhaling. Schultz took about one week of solid practice to get it down.

He likes the freedom that comes with playing his “didge,” a freedom that he found when he was six or seven years old. His dad played the didgeridoo and saw that it piqued the young Joe’s interest.

“I would watch him play and I was really interested in it so he went to Home Depot and got a piece of PVC pipe and made me a didgeridoo and that’s what I… learned to play on,” Schultz said.

About three years ago, he purchased his first didgeridoo. Last spring, he played at 15 shows on and off campus. The preceding fall, he played 12 times. His goal is to increase the amount of times he plays each semester.

One of his shows last semester was at UCafe where he played his didge into two microphones to create a different fusion of sound, an idea that he first heard from a French didgeridoo player named Zalem.

“It’s surprising what he can do with the didgeridoo,” Dylan Israelian, a sophomore linguistics major and Schultz’s roommate, said.  “He plays with a modern style and it’s pretty captivating how well and how interesting he can be, how fresh.”

Israelian plays the guitar and jams with Schultz on a pretty regular basis. Schultz says that the didgeridoo works with a number of different instruments. He has improved with guitar players, banjo players and electronic music.

When Schultz is not playing an instrument, he plays tennis. In addition, he and Israelian enjoy playing “Super Smash Brothers.” Though he has not yet officially declared his concentration, he is toying with economics. Ultimately, he wants to be a professional musician but still wants a fallback.  At one point, he wants to sell didges as well. He has even received a job offer in Los Angeles to do so.

He also mentors other people around campus who want to learn to play the didgeridoo.

“He’s just a really nice guy,” Liza Dikovskaya, a senior biology and psychology major and friend of Schultz’s, said. “He’s really enthusiastic. I was a complete stranger and he decided to help me. That shows passion and I like that.”

Dikovskaya was just one of his “students.” For Schultz, one of his favorite parts of playing any instrument is the people that he meets.

For those interested in learning any instrument, he considers practicing key. His suggestion is to learn from better people on YouTube.

“Nobody gets good at anything without putting tons and tons and tons of hours into it,” Schultz said.

And for those who want even more practice, well, they can always just play with him.

 

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