It's hard to believe that the keyboardist in the Rafferty Swink Group, who occasionally plays at Paddy Brannan's Irish Pub, is only 17 years old. Rafferty Swink's music speaks to both a deep-seated passion for music and a lot of hard work. The young musician and Ashland High School senior admits he is driven to learn and play as much as he can. His mother, Jana Carole, agreed.
"Rafferty works harder than any kid I know, but even more important than his work ethic is the creative vision that has always guided him," she said. "He's a disciplined musician and with an organized mind, but he lets his heart and his gut largely determine whatever the next step is that he takes. He's really a whole person."
When not practicing or playing music, Rafferty shares his love of music with customers at the Music Coop. John Brenes, co-owner of the business, said Rafferty is one of his best employees.
"Rafferty is amazing," he said. "Musically, he is the most knowledgeable employee I've ever had. He also works really hard."
"Rafferty is deadly serious about music," he added.
Rafferty spoke to the Daily Tidings about his love of music and its place in his future.
DT: Do you take music classes every day?
RS: Yes, every day. I just try to play as much music as I can, learn as much music as I can. I enjoy playing but I also like music history and stuff. I'm also in the jazz combo at SOU, but I'm a full-time AHS student.
DT: What are your plans for the future?
RS: I'm really not sure. That's a question that comes up a lot in college stuff, but I don't know for sure what I want to do. I hope to go to Berklee College of Music in Boston. I also know that I want to be making music and sharing music. I enjoy teaching music, but I also enjoy playing and learning about music history.
DT: What instruments do you play?
RS: I mainly play the keyboard, but I also taught myself to play the guitar and other string instruments, like the ukulele. I also play percussion ensemble at school. I play accordion as well. I just got an accordion.
DT: Are there any musicians who particularly inspire you?
RS: Yeah, there are a lot. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. I really like Bob Dylan as far as the song writing aspect. John Coltrane and Roy Hargrove are two big jazz influences of mine, and I like Graham Parsons and Townes Van Zandt as far as country music.
DT: Talk about teachers who inspire you.
RS: All my music teachers have been great. My piano teacher, Robin Lawson, passed away this August. He was really influential. At AHS, John Soderberg-Chase, the band teacher, has been really supportive and helpful. My new piano teacher, Dave Scoggin, is great, too. I also want to mention my boss at the Music Coop, John Brenes. He has taught me so much about different kinds of music and music history.
DT: Do you have trouble balancing school and music or other interests?
RS: No, not really. I've kept pretty consistent good grades throughout high school. I've had to prioritize. I stopped playing sports, water polo and swim team, so I could do music. I'm pretty good at time management.
DT: Talk about something that makes you proud.
RS: Starting to play music around Ashland is something I've started fairly recently. I play in a trio, the Rafferty Swink Group, with two guys from the college, and I played with a temporary quartet. I'm still a high school student and I'm able to play in clubs around town. I think we'll be playing more at the pub. I like that a lot.
DT: Talk about something that challenges you.
RS: Making time to practice as much as I want to practice is one of the biggest challenges. There's so much I need to do, so much practice, and only so many hours in a day.
DT: Where can people hear you perform?
RS: Besides Paddy Brannan's, I'll play with the SOU jazz combo at the Avalon Bar and Grill in February.
DT: Do you have advice for anyone your age who also wants a music career?
RS: I think you have to be a little bit crazy to even want to do that. Just work hard, immerse yourself in whatever you can. The more time you spend listening to music, playing music, talking about music, or dreaming about music, the better.