Hales will perform at the School of Communications Convocation at 9 a.m. on April 26
When Christian Hales came to BYU, he had no intention — or desire — to become a music major. He was a pre-graphic design major who simply happened to have a background in bass performance.
In his first year of college, Hales received a call from a School of Music bass professor that proved to be life-changing. The professor encouraged him to try music classes for a semester; he could always quit if it didn’t feel like he was on the right path.
Hales took a leap of faith and enrolled in several music major classes — a decision for which he is deeply grateful.
“It’s such a unique opportunity to make music creation your field of study,” said Hales. “I get to spend all day thinking about what music means to me, what it means to humanity and what I’m communicating to people through my music. It just felt like a far more beautiful experience than I would have had in another major. I gravitated toward it.”
In the years following his change of course, Hales found validation for his pursuit of music in various experiences made possible through the School of Music and experiential learning funds. In addition to touring the Philippines with the Chamber Orchestra, Hales received individual grants to travel with other bass majors to Russia, Poland, New York and San Francisco for research and festivals.
“It’s cool to get out and see the world, but these trips have also been irreplaceable educational opportunities,” said Hales. “You learn things when you get out of your comfort zone that you can’t get in other ways. It was valuable for me to see what music is like in other places, who my peers are around the world and what work they’re doing — things I couldn’t have learned by just looking them up online.”
As part of his participation in the BYU Honors Program, Hales chose to combine his senior thesis with a creative project. He was interested in the experience and relationship of audiences with living composers as opposed to the classical works people tend to associate with an orchestral performance.
Hales curated a concert featuring music written and performed by his fellow students. He set up a performance space in an art gallery with lighting and programming that he felt would lend itself to the material.
“I tried to create an experience that would help people appreciate music that might be harder to understand,” he explained. “Putting that concert together changed the way I approach my music and the way I approach other people’s art. Music can be an incredibly personal, enriching experience, one where we all feel connected — audiences and performers — and I think that should be the goal for all of the arts: not just the creation itself, but asking ourselves how our artistic creation might act as a vehicle for human connection.”
In the fall, Hales will begin a master’s program in music performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, further pursuing the work he began with his honors thesis.
“Whatever I do, I just hope it can serve to bring people closer together, ask hard questions and get us to think and consider our lives a little bit differently,” he said.
As part of this mission, Hales hopes to continue to help people find a deeper connection to music in their lives.
“I wish people believed in their ability to appreciate the arts,” said Hales. “I think some people don’t trust themselves to be able to interpret music the right way, or they feel like they aren’t smart enough to understand what’s on stage. Music is more about communication with your fellow humans than it is about some esoteric aesthetic thing. If music makes you feel a certain way, pay attention to that.”
Q&A with Christian Hales, BM ‘19
Music | Music Performance: String | Portfolio
What did you want to be when you grew up?
“I wanted to be a logo designer — I think I still do. I actually work as a part-time graphic designer, so I’ve not given up on that yet. I also always fancied myself as sort of an idea person, so I wanted a job where they just pay me to think up cool ideas. I don’t know if that actually exists; I think that’s part of a lot of people’s jobs.”
Where do you find inspiration?
“Someone who has inspired me recently is Alex Honnold — not because he did this huge free solo climb and the documentary, but I watched this interview that he did where he talked about why he chose to live in a van for years. He said, ‘you know, I don’t want anything more than this.’ I felt like he offered a really valuable perspective. What I really want is the ability to do what I love, and once you do that, you don’t need to be rich or have all these accolades.”
What was the hardest challenge you had to overcome at BYU?
“I struggled with deciding that I wanted to do music from the beginning. I really struggled with what I wanted to do with my life. I had to sort out my identity as a person and tackle all of the insecurities one by one. It got in the way of my music making, and it prevented me from really feeling invested in my practice. I’ve had to make a deliberate effort to work through that insecurity and to start to take risks and trust myself and trust God. It wasn’t until I felt like I could invest more of myself into the music that it actually became a joyful experience.”
What is your favorite snack?
“I guess the way to decide your favorite is to think about what you actually eat a lot, and that’s embarrassing because my favorite snack — which I eat maybe two or three times a week — is the pumpkin swirl bread from the Creamery and a Coke. I eat that a lot more than probably is good for a person.”