Arts & Entertainment

Meet Sam Szabo: Whose Passion for Music Perseveres Through All

by Madalyn Johnson, Web Editor

Sam Szabo is a senior at Manhattan College majoring in kinesiology. Over the years, Szabo has been heavily involved with the school’s jazz band. After joining in hopes of improving his skills with the drums, an instrument he’s played since he was 10 years old, Szabo ended up committing to playing jazz with a group of students who share the same passion and determination as he does for the arts.

As a freshman, Szabo was intrigued by the idea of playing jazz for college, considering his past experiences playing music in other grades limited what instruments he could learn and experiment with.

“So I joined jazz band approximately my freshman year because I really wanted to join and develop my skills playing drums,” Szabo said.

“I have played drums since I was 10 years old, and I never really played drums in jazz, I tried in middle school but my teacher at the time wanted me to play the trumpet. So I didn’t have an outlet to play jazz at all. And I thought it’d be really cool to join a jazz band, and you know, try to play harder pieces.”

Before the pandemic, Szabo would practice with the jazz band three to four hours a week, allowing him to not only manage time for his school work but also to fit in more music lessons.

“My experience was much enhanced because for three semesters I took the lessons on top of jazz band. So that made things even better because I had to kind of manage my time so that I can practice for the lessons and revert to jazz band rehearsal.”

Unlike the restrictions and rules students had to abide by to resume certain club activities, the jazz band particularly had to find an innovative and safe way to keep rehearsing in-person without jeopardizing the safety of others. 

Szabo mentioned how the planning that went into making rehearsals happen for the jazz band was fun to be a part of regardless of how hard it was adapting to the location change.

“So the pandemic kind of changed things in the way we practiced. So from the smaller room in Thomas Hall, we transitioned into Smith auditorium and over there we played a lot, very spread out,” Szabo said “So, the rhythm section was on the stage and then everyone else was down. So it was just, it was a totally different, different kind of rehearsal because you know, we have to work with the echo and all that so it was a little tougher, but in the end, it was really interesting because we were able to record a couple of really cool pieces and put them together.”

Senior Sam Szabo has played the drums since he was 10 years old and has been able to improve his skills since joining Manhattan College’s jazz band.
SAM SZABO / COURTESY 

Along with changing where students normally rehearsed, Szabo noticed a lot more dedication when making sure concerts were performed to perfection last semester, since students would be playing for a virtual performance, set in stone on the internet, as opposed to once for a live audience.

Szabo explained during the fall semester the jazz band decided to perform perpetual concerts, virtual concerts for live-streamed audiences, to keep musicians and viewers safe. 

“We recorded that section by section and so it was really interesting because we really had to know our parts because we were all mic’d up,” Szabo said “So I think we prepared even more for the virtual concert recordings than the actual concert because everything has to be flawless for the recording. The best part of it is that you know it’s the best quality you can get because it’s a studio sound and you also have it on YouTube forever.”

Besides jazz band, Szabo has joined other organizations on campus that prioritize teamwork and team bonding, like Campus Crusade for Christ, a community that focuses on spiritually connecting people to Jesus Christ. His positive experiences with organizations that help students relate to one another make him treasure the moments he’s had in jazz band.

“So my time with cru [Campus Crusade for Christ] was really interesting in that way, that I was able to meet people with my same background. And so, same with jazz band, you kind of build off of each other, and you kind of push each other, like if you make a mistake, people will call you out and let you know,” Szabo said. “In the end, it’s just really cool to have that bond through music and to know there is a group that you can have that outlet of music with.”

As far as being a senior during one of the oddest semesters Manhattan College most likely will have to date for their graduating class, Szabo says his goal is to focus on pursuing the things he loves. Taking a shift in career paths by switching his major from chemical engineering to kinesiology, Szabo is eager to get the credentials he needs to get one step closer to starting his dream career.

“This is kind of like my fifth year, I switched majors in the middle of my sophomore year and so right now I’m finally doing what I love. Knowing that I’m going to grad school after all this is kind of my motivation,” Szabo said. “I really am taking very minimal classes right now since I’m a senior and it’s just been a long ride but I’m just really looking forward to my next chapter on life and my career in chiropractic.”

During a time where many students can feel dissuaded to join clubs because of the pandemic, Szabo, a senior who has learned so much from a club that encourages teamwork, says students should still push themselves to be involved to find a group of friends to bond with outside the classroom.

“I just really think that taking advantage of clubs is going to benefit you in the end because you’re able to connect with others in that group outside of the class setting,” Szabo said. “It’s really cool to be able to do that, even through a pandemic, especially a pandemic since it can make a lot of people feel lonely. It developed my college experience and I urge people to join whatever interests them.”