By Ann Marie Shambaugh
Aleck Belcher is one of the nation’s rising young stars on the double bass. He’s been selected for elite programs that include Perlman Music Program and has won top prizes in national competitions, but his introduction to one of the largest musical instruments happened by coincidence.
As a student at Clay Middle School, he and other classmates had the opportunity to test out three different instruments. He selected the trumpet, percussion and bass because there wasn’t a line to try it out.
“I would never say that I was interested in playing bass,” said Aleck, 16, a junior at Carmel High School. “It just sort of came upon me.”
Since then, Aleck has developed a passion for the double bass, also known as a contrabass or upright bass. He’s traveled the country and beyond to study and perform with some of the top bass players in the world, and he has no plans on slowing down anytime soon.
And as most juniors are only beginning to think about plans after high school, Aleck is weighing whether or not he will graduate from CHS or attend the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, one of the most prestigious music schools in the country, if he gets accepted there.
Aleck didn’t know much about the double bass when he decided to pursue it, but he soon learned it’s a bit more tricky than playing the flute or violin.
The largest stringed instrument in its family, a double bass can weigh 30 pounds or more. Aleck is used to the looks he gets when he maneuvers the bass through crowds, on a stairway or into the back of a vehicle. He even likes it.
“When people see the bass they kind of freak out sometimes, and I think that’s cool,” he said. “I think that’s why I was so interested in it as well.”
The size of the instrument can also lead to other consequences. Bass players can suffer from back and shoulder problems if they don’t use correct posture (or even if they do).
“If you’re not six feet tall and not muscly, then you’re already at a disadvantage,” Aleck said.
Robert Goodlett, assistant principal bassist of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Aleck’s primary instructor, has been receiving therapy for bass-related injuries from a St. Vincent sports therapist and has recently begun sending Aleck there as well.
“(The bass) is not really designed for the human body,” Goodlett said.
The right fit
Aleck tried his hand at the piano and guitar before picking up the bass, but he wasn’t intrigued by either.
“I took piano lessons very briefly and didn’t like it, so I quit. It’s one of my big regrets,” he said. “I tried taking guitar lessons for awhile, but I was too lazy to practice in elementary school, so nothing really came of it.”
Now, it’s clear that Aleck has found his true passion, as Goodlett and his mother, Dulce Belcher, have urged him to practice less.
“I know Aleck is successful because playing the bass simply makes him happy. He is one of the lucky ones who found something that feeds his soul,” Dulce said. “I’ve never seen motivation, dedication and pure love like his when he plays. The music comes alive through him, and he feels it.”
Aleck is thankful for the opportunities he’s had to work on his craft in Carmel and abroad, and he still feels that he’s not “super good.” He plans to keep working hard to fulfill his dream of one day playing in a professional orchestra.
Goodlett said that Aleck is not the most naturally talented bass player he’s ever worked with, but his student combines his skill with a work ethic that make a formula for continued success.
“There’s this tendency in music … for people that get really good and get a lot of recognition to have a huge ego, “ he said. “That’s not Aleck. He is just a normal guy and he’ll talk to anybody.”
ALECK BELCHER’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS
2015 New York String Orchestra Seminar, Assistant Principal
Interlochen World Youth Symphony Orchestra, Principal
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Side-by-Side, Principal
Carmel High School Symphony Orchestra, Principal
Midwest Clinic Performance with Lynn Harrell
Indiana All-State Orchestra, Principal
2015 International Society of Bassists Young Bassists Solo Competition, 1st prize
American String Teachers Association National Solo Competition, 1st prize
New World Youth Orchestras Concerto Competition, 2nd prize
Carmel Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition, 3rd prize
Interlochen Arts Camp, 2015 Emerson Scholar
Carmel High School, Outstanding Achievement Award
MEET ALECK BELCHER
Favorite pastime: playing videogames with friends all night
Favorite restaurant: Le Coloniale, Chicago
Favorite color: Blue
Favorite vacation location: Music camp
Favorite song to play on bass: Brahms 2 Letter E
Favorite musician: Animal Collective
Instrument you’d like to learn to play: Trumpet
Favorite subject in school: History