CHS alum Rushad Eggleston returns for eye-opening concert

It is not often that one sees an otherworldly elf-man prancing through the conservative halls of CHS. But from April 16-17, cellist Rushad Eggleston returned to campus to headline the Singer-Songwriters’ concert.

In order to fully understand Eggleston’s innovative and creative style, one must know of the “evolution” that led up to who he is today—a history of repeated rebellion from convention.

Eggleston PIC“I’ve had a strange evolution of style: from three till twelve, I only played classical music,” Eggleston says.

When he was 12 years old, Eggleston discovered rock ‘n roll through such bands as Guns N’ Roses and Megadeth. Shortly afterwards, he got into guitar and fell in love with this more non-traditional genre.

At this point, Eggleston put down his cello—and the classical mindset—for two to three years.

“I eventually started playing cello again with this new passion for music,” Eggleston explains.

Another spurt of serious interest in the classical cello got Eggleston into Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he was exposed to bluegrass music, with which he soon became enamored.

“I toured around then with a lot of bluegrass bands, [but I] quit that, just I like quit classical music, because I realized I needed to do my own thing, and my own thing was outside the bounds of folk music,” Eggleston says. “Folk music is a bigger box to be in than classical music, but it’s still a box. So what’s the next biggest box? Rock ‘n roll.”

Rock gave Rushad greater freedom to express himself with his bands Butt Wizards and Tornado Rider, but he got tired of playing into audiences that weren’t fully listening. This frustration led him to his most recent incarnation of style consisting of anecdotal songs from his own made-up world.

According to CHS teacher and Singer-Songwriters’ Guild advisor Marc Stafford, “After a very successful alumni concert and an assembly with CHS alum Ryan Scott, Rushad expressed interest in something similar.”

This led to the idea two years ago for a Rushad concert, but music teacher Brian Handley was too busy to organize the concert; so in conjunction with the Music Boosters, Mike Guardino did all of the promotional work.

After the first Eggleston/Singers-Songwriters’ show proved to be a big success,  Music Boosters co-presidents Kristine Ellison and Amanda Freedman began to work tirelessly towards reaching Eggleston for the possibility of another collaboration.

“[Amanda] cornered me in the parking lot of Allegro’s,” Eggleston recalls, and the plans began forming again.

As Ellison and Freedman worked with Stafford to get the show together, Eggleston, busy on tours, let the upcoming show slip from his mind until the last minute.

“After a few weeks, it hit me that I was gonna be coming back here,” Eggleston exclaims, “and then I started getting really excited … because I do think back to high school and me being that age, how awesome it would’ve been for me to see somebody that was older being so out there and playing the cello and doing what I’m doing.”

And so Eggleston began to prepare more songs, some of which he even orchestrated for CHS’s string orchestra. Then, on Thursday, April 16, he finally appeared in the halls of CHS, rocking a cello case, a green pointy hat, fluorescent leggings and checkered Vans.

On Thursday and Friday, Eggleston rehearsed original works with Handley’s Jazz Workshop and Orchestra classes, and Friday at lunch, played a short preview of the show in the amphitheater to a very receptive audience.

This is not the first time Eggleston has brought his talent to schools, nor will it be his last. He currently visits approximately ten schools a year, whether to play at elementary school assemblies or visit high school string departments.

“I like going into schools and doing stuff,” Eggleston says. “Anything I can do to spread a little light and fluffy vibes to the youngsters is awesome.”

On the night of April 17, the concert was kicked off by the Singer-Songwriters’ Guild. Eggleston played songs with the staff band and the Jazz Workshop group before performing a soulful duet with senior guitarist Robert Papacica.

After an intermission, the Rushad show officially started. Even though the concert went over an hour longer than expected, Eggleston kept the crowds entertained with his outlandish yet masterful music, stage acrobatics and an impromptu Q&A session.

The show ended with Eggleston’s high energy orchestral arrangements and a closing song accompanied by orchestra students bunny-dancing in the background.

Rushad Eggleston certainly accomplished his goal of inspiring his audience and opening young people’s eyes to the light-hearted possibilities of the cello.

“Rushad brought with him an excitement about music and creativity that is infectious,” Stafford says. “He emboldened students to allow themselves to be themselves.”

-Ari Freedman