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Class of 2013: Music or medicine: Fort Plain graduate looks at two career paths

Friday, June 21, 2013
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Jocelyn Arndt plays on keyboards at her home in Fort Plain.
Jocelyn Arndt plays on keyboards at her home in Fort Plain.

Jocelyn Arndt banters back and forth with her 16-year-old brother, Christian, like siblings often do.

She reluctantly admitted she'll miss her kid brother when she goes to college in the fall, but then cautioned him, "Chris, don't get a big head."

Christian conceded that he'll miss her too, but added, "I'm sure there will be times when I'm totally glad that I get to be an only child."

Despite their differences, the two play together quite nicely, especially when it comes to music. They've been writing and performing songs together for five or six years, and their sound, which they struggle to pigeonhole into a certain genre, has recently caught the attention of music professionals.

"It's like blues and alternative and soul, mixed with a little bit of rock," Jocelyn explained. "It's a grab-bag of everything that's in our brains."

Jocelyn started taking piano lessons in fourth grade and soon after, Christian decided to take up guitar.

The two put together a band made up of local kids for a Lions Club variety show several years ago.

"Our singer, at the last minute, couldn't make it. I got the short end of the stick, but it worked out," Jocelyn said, making it clear that she didn't originally want to be a singer.

That's hard to imagine after hearing her sultry, bluesy voice, which doesn't seem like it could possibly belong to someone so young.

The Fort Plain High School graduate, who is this year’s salutatorian, writes songs inspired by everyday occurrences. Usually the ideas come to her right before she falls asleep.

"I think of the lyrics and the melody and I'll bring them to Chris and he'll come up with the other parts of the song, like the rhythm and the lead guitar," she said.

Last summer, the two were performing with their band, The Dependents, at the Fonda Fair when they were approached by David Bourgeois, president and creative director for Bridge Road Entertainment and White Lake Music and Post in Albany.

"He saw us and he said, 'Call me up. I'd like to work with you guys,' " Jocelyn recounted.

Now the brother-sister duo has a two-year development deal with the company and they're working on honing their sound.

"She's an absolutely breathtaking singer, somewhere between Janis Joplin and Adele. Her voice just stops people in their tracks," said Bourgeios.

The siblings are excited about the doors that are opening for them musically, but Jocelyn's also got another major life event on her mind. She's been accepted at Harvard University, where starting this fall, she plans to study in the pre-med program.

"I like how people work, from the inside out," the 18-year-old explained.

Jocelyn is following in the footsteps of her grandfather, William Arndt, a jazz pianist who worked as a doctor.

"He thinks it's the coolest thing," she said.

Balancing a budding musical career with a challenging course load at Harvard isn't going to be easy, Jocelyn admitted, but she's going to give it the old college try.

"It's going to be tough but I love them both so I think I can do it," she said.

Every day, she and Christian sit in the living room of their Fort Plain home and work on their music. Once she's away at school, they plan to work together by way of Skype video chats.

The thought of attending Harvard has Jocelyn waffling between nervousness and excitement. Excitement wins out when she talks about her upcoming adventure.

"I think it's going to be great. I'm going to meet so many cool people and there's going to be so many cool things to do and people to see and things to learn," she enthused.

She's still not sure what sort of doctor she'd like to be.

"I'm still working on the plan here," she said. "It also kind of depends on where this music thing takes us, I guess. We'll see."

 
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