Roderick Utz: Bringing something new to the stage

Chamber Choir. They do it all, from vocals to dancing, but many would be surprised to know they have their very own beatboxer. Meet senior Roderick Utz, their first beatboxer.

After receiving beatboxing lessons from his brother at the age of 14, Utz was unable to imitate the sounds his brother made and gave up on learning how to beatbox, a form of vocal percussion. Three months later, Utz was in his room experimenting with a trumpet-playing technique for band practice when he finally found he was able to beatbox.

“I wasn’t born beatboxing. I tried [the ‘boots and cat’ method] (a common method used to learn beatboxing) and it did not work, so I didn’t try it anymore and I gave up. One day [beatboxing] just came to me and and I really liked it and that’s why I worked harder and harder and harder to get better at it,” Utz said.

While packing up his trumpet last year after band rehearsal, Utz was beatboxing and was overheard by junior David Liu, who later invited him to join Whacapella, an on-campus a cappella club. After gaining experience working with the acapella group, Utz was encouraged by senior Eric Rodriguez to beatbox with the Chamber Singers to the song “Africa.”

“The first day I came in [to the choir room, the students] welcomed me [and made it] such a good environment [with] good feelings in that room,” Utz said. “[Choir had] a really nice atmosphere and because they were so nice, I enjoyed [beatboxing for them]. It was such an amazing experience that I wanted to continue [having].”

Despite not having choir on his schedule last year, Utz practiced consistently with the Chamber Singers and was able to perform in choir’s last winter concert as their beatboxer. He also traveled to Seattle with the ensemble, helping the group obtain a third place award at the Seattle Heritage Competition and the Spirit of Seattle Award.

“[Before the competition, I] was thinking, I just gotta do the best I can and have fun. I [went on the trip to] beatbox and [the judges] said they really liked us, and we have a lot of potential when it comes to [vocal jazz],” said Utz.

Utz is considering following music as a career and is planning on majoring in recording arts in college. He uses the music program, Fruit Loop Studio, to create his own piano-based music that also complements beatboxing.

“It was this summer [that] I realized I could make [music] a living and that I can help people with it so I decided to continue it [through college],” Utz said. “I love that you can teach [music] and help people with their daily lives [through music] and that’s all I want to do, make the world a better place with music.”

By Isaac Le, Staff writer
Photo by Airi Gonzalez
Video by Samuel Compolongo