By Milend Kolbet
Hailing from Anchorage, Alaska, Arthur Welsh is a 4th year Oberlin student studying Jazz piano and mathematics. He was initially inspired to make music by his parents, who encouraged him to take up the piano at five years old. But his personal journey began around the age of 11, when he started playing the clarinet. Arthur went on to win a statewide competition for that instrument during his senior year of high school, and from there he began to develop his own musical interests and tastes.
However his musical talents are not confined to these two instruments. Welsh also plays the saxophone, flute, oboe, and bass guitar, and has been trying to pick up the acoustic guitar in his free time. Yet despite his immense musical talent, Arthur was not initially considering music school, as he found himself engaged in extracurricular activities. His high school band teacher was the first to suggest music school, and he only applied to Oberlin because of its dual degree program.
Since arriving at Oberlin Conservatory his music career has taken off, especially under jazz piano professor Dan Wall, who Welsh refers to as “the best teacher I will ever have.” Another major influence during his time at Oberlin has been music theory teacher Arnie Cox, who helped him learn to listen to music on a deeper level than he had experienced in the past. Overall he feels that the jazz faculty and students at Oberlin help him grow as a musician everyday.
Surprisingly Welsh barely listened to jazz until he got to Oberlin. Instead he listened to the music he grew up with as a kid, mostly funk and rock & roll. He cites Earth, Wind and Fire as one of his biggest musical inspirations. “They taught me how to groove.” Oscar Peterson is one of his biggest jazz piano idols, and Peterson’s Tenderly with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown is among his favorite albums. His other favorites are Time by Elijah Fox, Bill Evans’ Alone, and I Am by Earth, Wind and Fire.
Reflecting on how his music has changed, in his second year at Oberlin Welsh developed an interest in music production. While he hadn’t considered this a serious career path, Oberlin has helped him envision new pursuits. Now he has begun to explore composition, beat making, and other genres of music on top of his academic pursuits in jazz. Welsh enjoys learning from crossover genres as well as rap. He sees rap as an extension of jazz music, as popular music shifts from jazz to rap, Welsh loves to listen to rap infused with jazz. Overall he finds that contemporary music which uses older lineages in a “fresh way” is what he finds most interesting.
Currently he has been listening to new types of Jazz music as well. Recently he has been getting into The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. In Welsh’s opinion it is important to break the boundaries of tonal music, and to explore music free of western theory and expectations. By exploring many different genres Welsh is able to bring more diversity into his own music.
Welsh currently has two albums and an EP uploaded to his SoundCloud page. Daydreaming from 2019 is composed of beats that he made sophomore year to showcase his newfound production skills. He followed that with a six-track EP, Truth, made with his friend Harry to showcase his collaborative production and composition skills and released during quarantine in early 2020. His second album, Conceived Reality, released in late 2020, features 12 tracks recorded with fellow conservatory student Mark Ligonde. Created as a college winter term assignment, the project focuses on different musical styles in composition and production.
Looking towards his future in the music industry, Welsh said he “wants to be everywhere he can be with music,” and looks forward to taking on all types of new challenges. He looks forward to playing concerts, producing, and being a band leader. Ultimately, Welsh wants his career to guide itself. “The biggest adventure is not knowing where I am going to end up, but just seeing where the music takes me.”