Hayes Cummings '11
Album Releases and Alexander Technique
A passion for music has always been at the forefront of alum Hayes Cummings’s life. He currently resides in Boston and is an active performer and music educator. After the Elon School Hayes attended Appalachian State University and received a bachelor’s degree in classical guitar performance. He then went on to study Alexander Technique, completing a three year teacher certification program before receiving a Master’s degree in Jazz and Contemporary music from Longy School of Music of Bard College.
The Alexander Technique is a mind-body modality and according to Hayes, “It’s about learning balance and tensional dynamics.” Hayes studied classical guitar in undergrad, “I was very intense into it, as you have to be. I was playing other people’s rep and spending a lot of time studying interpretation essentially. You spend a ton of time practicing, which is the classical approach; It’s sort of a solitary life. So, I think when I left undergrad I felt a little bit like I was floating; like I didn’t quite feel at home in the classical world. It wasn’t quite doing it for me and that led me to the Alexander Technique, which helped me literally find my grounding.”
Hayes’s project, The Still Point, originated in name and approach from his Alexander Technique studies - “The Still Point relates to the idea of finding a literal stillness even when you’re moving, there’s always this opportunity to ground yourself and to come back to center. I was finding my creative voice as I was doing the Alexander training, so I was thinking about my surroundings, my kinesthetic sense and my mindfulness. At the same time I was trying to sit down and play music that felt personal and good to me. So they sort of merged together and that’s where the Still Point as a project name came about.” Though it was always more than a literal name, “to me it’s an approach and I try to think of that sort of thing when I play. You know, let me find that still point, let me find that sort of quiet while making noise.”
Through his training of the Alexander technique and in search for his own sound Hayes pursued the creation of an album. “The first album for me was really a way of personalizing all of that classical sound and classical technique. All the things that I had been practicing in other people's music, I wanted to find what my ear wanted to make.” For his first album self-titled The Still Point, Hayes took an unfeathered approach. “I just sat down, I never wrote anything down— I just used my phone to remember ideas that I had developed over time. My whole goal was to not push anything. So, I tried to let things come naturally in terms of what I wanted to hear in the music and I was lucky to find my friend and bassist, Max Liebman, who helped me solidify the sound.” Thinking about improvising and approaches to jazz music was the fuel that led him to create The Still Point and work collaboratively. “I like being a collaborative musician, which I found out after I graduated. Because the classical guitar is so soloistic, it’s so focused on interpreting works by composers which is cool. But, I found that I really wanted to collaborate with other people and make original music. I needed to find my voice and I needed to find some freedom around that which led me to the jazz world.”
Hayes’s second album Play Monk is more reflective of his jazz studies. Hayes worked with drummer Alex Dillon to create versions of tunes by the legendary Jazz pianist, Thelonious Monk. “It’s all Monk, me and my drummer friend Alex, both, are sort of Monk obsessives in our jazz listening. So, we picked a bunch of tunes and we did some wide open arranging and improvising. We put together some unique arrangements, would Monk like them? I’m not sure, you know, but we did the best we could to honor him and honor our own selves.”
Hayes’s passion for playing music translated naturally into teaching music, “I do love it, I have found that it is really rewarding to help people on a creative journey. Sure its guitar, sure it’s rock and roll, pop, classical, or jazz, but really you are learning to be creative, you are learning to have a sort of artistic element to your life, which a lot of us don’t always have. I’ve also found that teaching makes me a better musician, because it always brings me back to fundamentals and the underlying principles of music making.” Hayes has a busy private teaching schedule managing a personal studio of students as well as teaching at Brookline Music School and in the after school lesson program at Dexter Southfield, an independent school in Brookline, MA. Hayes has also recently started his classroom teaching career teaching middle school general music at Dexter Southfield.
Hayes maintains an active performing schedule in the Boston area with his own projects and as a member of folk trio, The Old North. Hayes is also a member of the band Cordis, of which Billboard magazine said, “Cordis sets itself apart through sparkling moments that defy classification.” Hayes has performed at venues across the United States and helped produce workshops at universities, opera houses, and performing arts spaces.
Hayes Cummings graduated from The Elon School in 2011 and was a member of the NCSIAA boy’s tennis championship team from 2009-2011. Hayes’s albums can be found under his project name, The Still Point on Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp.