CofC’s Cecilia McGuinn is Fiddling with Music

Cecilia McGuinn, a sophomore psychology major at the College of Charleston, sits at an outdoor table at Kudu Coffee on Vanderhorst Street near campus, looking every bit the laid-back college student on an early fall evening. Though she turned 20 only a few days before, she seems wise and self-confident beyond her years, which, as it turns out, has a lot to do with her musical abilities and the fact that she often performs alongside people who are older.

Before coming to the College, she attended the Charleston County School of the Arts, where she was chosen to play as a violinist with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. She is currently a member of a touring band, Logan & the Kidders, whose recently recorded album will be released soon. A Charleston native, McGuinn remains lighthearted and casual as she relates her accomplishments and goals, making jokes and underplaying her musical achievements. Music comes naturally to her, but she says it’s just a hobby and she isn’t rushing toward a career in music. In fact, her goal is to become a speech therapist.

The College Today caught up with McGuinn to learn more about her background, the band she plays with, and whether there is a difference between a violin and a fiddle.

Why did you choose to study at CofC?

I really like the study-abroad opportunities and I didn’t really want to leave [Charleston] quite yet.

Did you consider studying in CofC’s music program?

Yes, but it was always sort of evident that I was never going to be an orchestra player, professionally or even as a hobby, because as much as I enjoy classical music, I’m much better technically, proficiency-wise, at improvisation. I just learned a different set of skills at a young age. Instead of learning to read music and then to play the violin, I learned to play the violin and then to read music. I was taught by a woman who was teaching the American style of fiddling as an introductory-level, so I learned that first. And I learned by ear to play songs.

Cecilia McGuinn (Photos by Heather Moran)

Which style of music do you prefer to play?

I really enjoy classical music. I feel like – not to sound like a music snob – but classical music is really, really complicated. And it has many movements in it, so it’s a challenge. Maybe it’s not beautiful because it’s challenging, but challenging and beautiful. You have to really work to make it beautiful.

Is there a difference between the fiddle and the violin?

There really isn’t. People ask me that all the time. I don’t particularly know much about the making of violins, but I assume that the only difference is the way you play it, really. There’s no physical difference.

Have you written your own music?

Yes, but I’ve never released it. I play ukulele, and I kind of use it as my bass drumming instrument because it’s definitely hard to write drumming music on a violin. So I usually try to use the ukulele as my bass instrument and maybe overlay it with a little bit of violin. I try to make lyrical music, so I do sing as well. If I had more songs I would probably invest more money into mixing equipment, but I only have like five or six songs at most.

What are the advantages of being in a band?

I like regular practice time. We practice every Sunday, or Monday if someone has a scheduling conflict. I suppose it’s different for every band, but I enjoy the people I’m playing with, so it’s kind of like hanging out with friends, plus music.

How do you balance your studies with the responsibility of the band and practicing and writing your own music?

Badly. It’s definitely difficult. Recently we went on a tour and I had to miss a couple of dates because Logan [Aggeles, the band’s leader] wanted me to play on days that I had class. I mean, I definitely want to get through college, at least through undergrad, before I start, if I ever even start, making music as a primary career. Logan uses it as his primary source of income, he doesn’t have any other job. He is a professional musician. But I’m a college student. Music is my hobby. We’ve definitely spoken about this, talked about our different career paths.

What other bands have you been in?

I was in a band called Yost! when I was really young, 14 or 16. And then I was in a band in high school that didn’t really go anywhere. It was called Pink Motel. It was just a fun band I was in. So I’ve never been in a band that actually has traction like Logan & the Kidders.

What are your personal goals as a musician?

I definitely want to start making weird synth music. I’ve been listening to crazy synth music lately.

Who’s your favorite band?

Oh, jeez. I have like 17,000. There’s a Canadian band called Mother Mother. And they’re probably like my all-time favorite forever band.

How would you improve the music scene in Charleston?

I think that younger musicians really need a chance to hone their craft. I think having more venues that cater to younger and more underground musicians would help. Recovery Room and The Royal American do.

How has music changed your life?

I think it’s made me more mature. Because of my level in music as a young person who is probably a little bit better than most other young people, I’ve had to interact with adults at ages which people normally wouldn’t have to interact with adults. So I’ve become more mature and more self-assured. Because otherwise I’d get pushed around.

In four words or less, describe the music you create.

Hobo lullaby for animals.

What song was stuck in your head today?

Genghis Khan by Miike Snow.


Emily Warner is a senior from South Carolina studying English at the College of Charleston.