Student Spotlight: shArk’s Zach Wooster ’15
From One Wheelock to shArk, Wooster has pursued a passion for performance.
When Zach Wooster ’15 takes the stage this spring for his last show as a guitarist and vocalist with campus band shArk, he may be greeted with a chant of “Fins Up!” — a slogan used by the group’s fans. As he strikes the final notes of his Dartmouth career, Wooster will find himself a long way from his early performances at the College, played alongside friend and bandmate Pablo Marvel ’15 in the relaxed atmosphere of open mic nights at One Wheelock.
“[Marvel] had written a couple of songs, and he taught them to me,” Wooster said, recalling these first performances. “The two of us were doing little duet things down there.”
Marvel, who Wooster described as one of his best friends, didn’t just introduce Wooster to these initial songs. He also helped connect him to Chase Klein ’14, and the three formed campus band Chuck together during Wooster’s sophomore year. The band would play together — and evolve as a group — until Klein graduated, Wooster said.
Despite Wooster’s role in Chuck and interest in music, he never turned to any of the College’s music groups to continue performing. Instead, he joined Marvel and other remaining members of Chuck — Nick Deveau ’16 and Felipe Jaramillo ’16 — to form a new band, shArk.
“I never dove into the chamber music or jazz band because I just didn’t really have a background in it,” Wooster, who has played in several bands at the College, said. “I think I appreciate that music a lot, but I don’t have a passion for it the same way I have a passion for writing my own music and playing the music that inspires me, like I get to do in shArk.”
Adding new members Zev Kane ’15 and Ben Meyer ’15, Wooster said, shArk transitioned away from Chuck’s country style to a sound more influenced by reggae and rock. The band, which meets to practice twice a week, now performs both covers and original songs, incorporating the different musical backgrounds of its members.
“The great thing about bands is the group dynamic,” Wooster said. “I wouldn’t call myself the leader of shArk by any means...You get so many perspectives in a band like shArk.”
Meyer, who plays trumpet in the band and first met Wooster in a youth baseball league, noted the distinction between his own musical background and Wooster’s. Wooster, he said, has introduced him to genres to which he had never before been exposed, including Phish and groups from the sixties, seventies and eighties that he described as groups “my parents should have been listening to if they were into popular culture — which they weren’t.”
In addition to his musical taste, Meyer also praised Wooster for his musical sensitivity, which he said helps all members of the band improve their sound.
“He’s very careful about what sounds good,” Meyer said. “He has no reservation about telling you if it sounds bad, which is a great quality to have as a musician because it keeps you honest, but it also keeps the people you are working with honest.”
Wooster, who built on childhood piano lessons with an Advanced Placement class in music theory during his junior year of high school, said that it was this class that first opened his eyes to the possibility of writing his own music. At the College, he said, he has taken a number of music production and composition courses, as well as additional courses in music theory.
Last term, Wooster also conducted an independent study with music and computer science professor Michael Casey, who directs the College’s digital music graduate program. In the class, Wooster said, he was able to pursue one of his latest interests — producing jazz-based hip-hop beats.
“I basically just made it happen myself,” Wooster said. “I just had an idea that I could take what I’m doing in my free time and try and find an avenue where I could learn more about it.”
Casey, who teaches courses including “Sound Analysis and Synthesis” and “Music, Information and Neuroscience,” praised Wooster’s knowledge of the history of the sounds in which he is interested. Throughout the term, Casey said, Wooster worked on making his musical ideas clearer and extending the forms of his ideas so that entire song structures were created.
“[Wooster’s] developing as a composer and a producer, and what that means is being able to find the right sounds and put them together,” Casey said. “He’s developing an ear for historical musical recordings.”
Despite this foray into other genres of music, Wooster remains invested in shArk. In his final weeks at the College, he said, he has several goals for the band, including playing for a crowd during Green Key weekend, as well as a personal goal to play and write more of his own music. The band also aims to use its upcoming performances before Green Key — including opening gigs for The Rooks on April 24 and for Low Cut Connie on May 15 — to build momentum and refine its set list for a large performance over the big weekend, he said.
“We want to feel like every single song is perfect for that setting,” Wooster said, “That’s going to be our biggest show.”
When asked for final advice to give to fellow musicians at the College, Wooster urged anyone with an interest in music to get involved, citing the strength of the Dartmouth music community. In particular, Wooster pointed to fellow campus bands like Burn the Barn and The Euphemisms as examples of students with whom he has become friends during his own musical journey.
“I think if you love music, you should work to find and make a band,” Wooster said. “You can make such good friends. That’s been the biggest part for me. It’s not necessarily like doing it for myself — it’s meeting so many cool fun people who also like to play music. They’re all around... If you want that just seek it out.”
The final word with Zach Wooster ’15:
First concert: State Radio in Boston (seventh grade)
Favorite karaoke song: “What I Got” by Sublime