By Lily Bohlke
Bassist Victoria Park ’21 has played at Lollapalooza in Chicago, the Red Rocks Amphitheater in the Colorado desert, the Hard Rock Café in Times Square and in a Grammy-winning sound engineer’s studio.
“I started playing piano when I was four years old. I grew up in a very musical family,” Park said. “When I was around nine, I started playing guitar because I was interested in rock music, and then when I was 11, I started doing this program called School of Rock, and it’s an outside-of-school program where kids and young adults play contemporary music at a high level in ensembles. When I was there they asked me to play bass on one song and … I just really delved into the instrument and fell in love with it. It became my primary instrument from then on.”
Many of the bass-playing opportunities Park has received have been through the School of Rock, although she and her family have also found venues and gigs on their own. Last summer, she went on tour with her indie band Last Shelter, playing in Connecticut and Rhode Island in addition to their usual performing spots in New York and New Jersey.
Park even got to play bass for Twisted Sister lead singer Dee Snider’s solo album “We Are the Ones.” While attending a corporate event at Times Square’s Hard Rock Café, Snider’s producer starting chatting with Park’s dad and after hearing her play, they made arrangements for her to do the record.
“It was my first time recording in a studio and to have it be a pretty big thing with a Grammy-winning engineer was super exciting, and to have my name in the credits and everything on a pretty major record was … a super unique opportunity,” Park said. “It was also really cool because one of the songs I played bass on was paired with a music video that was made in support of the protests happening at Standing Rock, so he took his crew out there and took some really amazing videos in solidarity.”
The bass is a “social instrument,” according to Park, in that it works best when paired with other instruments. A valuable addition to any musical composition, the bass supports the other instruments, bringing out each one’s playing.
“I think it’s really cool to take a role in the band where you’re not necessarily the main focus, but you’re still trying to hold everything together,” she said. “It requires you to listen to everyone else in the band and work with them to create things that work, basically.”
Until this year, Park’s first year at Grinnell, Park played at numerous gigs around New York and New Jersey, constantly seeking out new opportunities. Although the Grinnell music scene is not quite as loud, late and popping as New York City’s, Park has loved it so far. She plays in a few student bands and has played shows on-campus, for example a Tiny Dorm Concert, and she plays in jazz ensemble. She’ll also be performing in Showvember, Freesound’s annual student music showcase, on Nov. 10.
“I think the music community is really awesome here. It’s a really tight knit group of people. Everyone’s super nice and welcoming, [and] especially in my first semester I’ve been able to join a bunch of bands on campus and that has been really exciting for me — just meeting new people and playing with new people and approaching music in a different way that’s a little more laid back,” Park said.
As for the content of her music, she can most commonly be seen writing bass parts for other musicians’ songs. However, she also writes her own entirely original music.
“I have started writing my own music, and I’m trying to work on singing more so I can play my own music. I’m also working on writing music with a couple of my other friends. Otherwise, I’m mostly playing bass for other people, where I’ll write my own parts but not necessarily the full song,” Park said.
Not only does Park make music, but she also does graphic design and illustration. Some of her favorite things to design are album art and other pieces that intersect music and visual art.
“Translating auditory material and trying to pair it with a digital image is a really fun activity and a fun challenge to try and figure out how to connect the two,” she said. “I’ve been able to do artwork for my band and for other musician friends of mine, so to have that kind of skillset is really fun.”
Park began as a pianist and transferred to guitar and then to bass, and somehow she found time to learn visual art skills as well. Like her varied artistic interests, her musical preferences are diverse.
“I will play any genre,” she said. “Right now I’m in an indie rock band, but also a punk band and playing in jazz [ensemble], so a huge variety of things.”