I’m a Tulsa Kid: Eric Schaefer – Tulsa Youth Opera

Monte Cassino fifth-grader and Tulsa Youth Opera singer Eric Schaefer admits he sings in the shower and even sings to himself while practicing dribbling or his jump shot on the basketball court. Eric has eclectic musical interests, from opera to rocking out on his electric guitar.

TK: Have you always enjoyed singing, and did you find yourself singing to your parents or in the shower as a young child?

Eric: The acoustics are great in the shower! And, yes, I’ve always loved to sing. People tell me I could sing before I could talk. I don’t remember that, but I remember being really little in San Francisco, and my mother taking me to these concerts in the park all the time every week. We went to outdoor operas, rock concerts and bluegrass. That’s when I decided I wanted to play the guitar and mandolin when I got older. I still haven’t taken any mandolin lessons, but I’ve been playing guitar since I was four.

TK: When did you become involved in vocal performance and what other singing groups do you perform with besides the Tulsa Youth Opera?

Eric: Guitar is how I got into singing, actually. My guitar teacher told me I should try out for the San Francisco Boy Singers — we lived in San Francisco until 2012 — just to see if I had perfect pitch. I ended up loving it. I even sang the National Anthem in front of thousands of fans at an SF Giants game once.

The first thing I did when I got to Tulsa was look for singing groups. First, I joined the Tulsa Boy Singers, and then I tried out for the Tulsa Youth Opera, which is so fun! I also sing in the choir at Trinity Episcopal downtown. I hope to join a rock band or rock camp this summer where I can play and sing, too.

TK: You sing with the Tulsa Youth Opera. What has been your favorite opera to participate in and what was your role in that opera?

Eric: Definitely Carmen. My mother took me to see it when I was really little. It’s been so fun learning the French parts and being part of such an amazing group of singers. We had to work really hard for Carmen — hours and hours of rehearsal in the weeks before Carmen opened (May 2014). But it was worth it!

TK: Do you play any instruments besides guitar?

Eric: My main instrument is the electric guitar. I like to play lead on rock songs — old ones and new ones. I went to see Paul McCartney when he was in Tulsa and he asked everyone to raise hands if they ever tried and failed to learn (the song) “Blackbird.” I smiled because I knew it. I sang and played it at the Monte Cassino talent show and also at the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM), which I go to every summer when it arrives at TU. It’s beautiful. I also love playing Eddie Van Halen solos, leads from Journey songs like “More than a Feeling,” anything by Led Zeppelin and White Stripes. Pretty much everything. I’ve been playing guitar for seven years, and I’m only 11, so I’m planning to be pretty good. It takes a lot of practice, though.

TK: I hear basketball is your game…any similarities between taking that clutch shot to performing on stage?

Eric: That’s a good question. People might think this is weird, but sometimes when I’m practicing a move or new technique, I memorize the sound of the basketball while I dribble it. It’s like a rhythm. I could even count it out. But I don’t. But yes, playing basketball is kind of like music when you’re doing it. Also, I’m kind of a shy person. But I’m never shy when I sing or play on stage. I don’t know why, but I feel happy to play guitar or sing for crowds. It’s the same with basketball. It’s sometimes hard for me to talk to new kids or coaches I meet. But when I’m playing a game and there’s a crowd, it feels like a performance and I know I will try to do my best. Also, basketball and music and math are all three the same because you have to spend hours and hours practicing. If you don’t like to practice, I think you’ll have a hard time getting good at any of them.

TK: What are your future goals with music and do you plan on participating in school productions or drama?

Eric: I tried out and was  accepted into a fancy New York boarding school with a No. 1 choir but my mother thought I was too young to go. I was cool with that because I really can’t wait to try out for the TYO productions next year. Tulsa Opera is doing “Cinderella” and “Romeo and Juliet.” I hope I’ll be big enough to play Prince Charming, but I doubt it. I’m still a soprano! But maybe not for long. I’m five-foot seven (inches).

Also, I’m singing a solo part in OKMozart’s production of (Mozart’s) “Magic Flute” in Bartlesville on June 11. It is the first time anyone paid me to sing. Even if they don’t pay me a lot, I love the idea that people want to employ me as a singer, so it’s like a pro thing. If I’m not a pro basketball player when I grow up, my goal is to be a professional musician, opera singer and rock singer.

Tulsa is a great place for music!