Hayden Everett and Caroline Pernick bonded over their love for folk music in a dorm room in Hedrick Hall.
Now, they are performing their own folk duet for the first time together at Spring Sing. Despite this being their first duet together, performance and music have always been central to their identities. Everett, a first-year jazz and piano performance student, has performed piano and sung with his church's worship while Pernick, a first-year musical theater student, has sung and acted in several plays. Although they pursue different musical genres, Everett said the two tend to fall back on to folk music when performing together.
“We are both influenced by what we study. For her, it is musical theater and for me it is jazz," Everett said. "But I feel, with folk, we can meet in the middle,”
Pernick said she remembered that the first night they met in Hedrick kick-started their desire to work together. They experimented with different harmonies in their dorm and discussed their love for folk music and the variances between jazz and theater for hours. Pernick said she credits their dynamic as friends before artists as to why they work together well.
“I think we are unique in the way we are with each other because we have only known each other for eight months and, yet, we have this almost siblinglike bond,” Pernick said. “And in these past eight months, we have evolved both as friends and artists.”
Everett said he likes to challenge himself musically and will use the upcoming performance to branch out of his comfort zone. He will play the guitar, an instrument he said makes him feel more restricted, since he usually plays the piano.
The desire to forego comfort is central to the song the two are performing, entitled “For I Fear." Everett wrote the song during the summer before his freshman year, inspired by a trip he had taken to the Dominican Republic, where he worked at an orphanage. He said he was humbled by the amount of joy he saw in the people there – they seemed to appreciate their faith and relationships more than he had seen in the U.S.
“When I came back, I realized how absorbed we are here, in ourselves and in being comfortable,” Everett said. “I wanted to convey in the song that there is more to the world than just us, and sometimes we need to just let go of ourselves.”
But “For I Fear” also represents the pair's journey over the past eight months, as the song developed alongside the artists themselves. Everett wrote the majority of the song but credits Pernick for helping him make the lyrics a reality. Since he developed the song over a long period of time he couldn't see it from an outside perspective, he said. Abe Soane, a mutual friend of both Everett and Pernick, followed the making of the song and said he witnessed Pernick's influence firsthand.
"I think she has grounded the song," said Soane, a first-year musical theater student. "His jazz background, which has a lot of improvisations, means that he is always changing and adding something every week, and she has made sure he stays on message."
Everett said Pernick helped him refine the song by bluntly telling him what worked and what didn't and helped him find the right melodies to accompany his writing. When Everett went in to audition for Spring Sing, he said he couldn’t perform the song without her.
Everett said the song's evolution mirrors how his musical style has developed. Everett said when he initially began songwriting, he couldn’t see the intersections between different genres and saw folk as completely different from jazz. However, as he worked with Pernick, Everett said he understood that his music didn’t have fall under a specific genre but could be a mixture of different influences. Pernick used her theater background to add character to the lyrics and the melodies, juxtaposing powerful vocals with soft folk guitar, he said.
Despite never singing in an official performance together, Everett said they don’t see themselves as any less of a duo. Their late-night jam sessions in their dorms and impromptu melodies on the stairwells are equally important to their musical relationship as performing on stage. To them, performing with each other was first a respite and only later an art.
“We kind of used to think of it as an escape from the music we work on every day, like something wholly different,” Everett said. “But music is a lot more fluid than that and performance is too."