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Preston Gray on Dual Display

Posted on: Nov 2, 2018

Fourth-year music student Preston Gray is on dual display this weekend and next, in the Drama production Almost, Maine. He had planned to play the piano score he wrote as background music live during the play—until he discovered the cast was short of male actors, and agreed to act.

Neither role was one this self-avowed shy guy could have imagined before coming to Edmonton to move beyond his comfort zone. He was listening to Gershwin, honkey-tonk, and 70’s folk and composing music for his rock band in Chilliwack, BC, when his sister, a theatre music director there, pointed him to Concordia’s reputation for collaborative music and tight-knit community. Over the last three years, fortuitous associations and opportunities at Concordia have led him into a passion for composing music that elevates what is happening on the stage. After a chance meeting in drama class Preston wound up collaborating with student playwright Joel DiNicola, composing, arranging, and performing music for the Fringe-worthy “Conventional Musical” (2017). Still, he was stunned when Caroline Howarth invited him to provide music for the rollicking Dada Play last year; and excited when director Glenda Stirling asked for his help with Almost, Maine this year, resulting in a whimsical, melodic score.

Preston loves the process of underscoring the script, finding the “sweet spots” to heighten the audience’s involvement with whatever is happening onstage—helping to tell the story–and “how alive it feels” to feed into that drama anew each night. He now writes not for himself but for others—“to give the music away,” he says. This time around he finds himself on the receiving end as well, as he listens for an actor’s cues on his recorded soundtrack.

Just a few weeks after the drama run ends, Preston’s summer project comes to fruition—a contemporary pop album with his new band Stuarts Dove, a collaboration with fellow students Andrea McHenry (vocals), Greg Crawford (cello), and Aaron Addorisio (drums), available in December on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon.ca.

But it has been the professional platform afforded by the university context—real-life experience with people who believe in his potential and depend on his output, and the energy and perspective that invariably return to him—that have propelled him to a vantage point from which he can dream of a future composing for the stage, film, television, and/or commercials. Stay tuned!