by Shelby Ahlborg
From music majors and minors to people who join choirs and bands just for fun, Cedarville has no shortage of talented musicians on campus. One of those musicians is Eugene Fortier, a junior music performance major with a specialty in classical guitar.
Fortier has been playing guitar since he was 14. He owes his passion to the American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, a favorite artist of his grandfather.
“My dad had an old guitar in his closet that I picked out and learned by ear,” Fortier said. “From there, I took lessons from a guy in town. I picked up classical guitar after that, and that’s what I’m studying here.”
Fortier said he loves that music has the power to make people feel and gives them a way to express their own emotions to others. Especially in instrumental music, he said, the listener has the opportunity to guess what the musician is thinking or feeling. For him, music is his way of sharing his testimony and love of Christ to the world.
Fortier has dabbled in the harmonica and is currently being tutored in piano from a piano major, but for the most part he has stuck with his first love of the guitar.
Back home in Massachusetts, he was in a band called Opel with friends. He joined the group after they had been together for a while and has been with them for six years.
“We were like a blues/rock and roll type of group,” Fortier said. “I played electric guitar with them. We recorded our first CD a couple of years ago, and I wrote a good chunk of songs with them. Since I’m here studying, though, we’re kind of on hiatus.”
Although Opel is not technically a Christian band, their lyrics are clean, and many of their songs are about friends, revelations, and overcoming addiction. Fortierwrote two of the songs on the album, “Holy Water” and “Towers of Secrecy.” The CD is available for purchase at opel.bandcamp.com.Fortier’s family has always been extremely supportive, he said. They never complain, even with the long hours of practice. He was also fortunate to have great teachers and mentors along the way who helped him improve his craft. From his first teacher, who taught out of his home, to instructors at his community college, there were a number of people who supported Fortier.
One person who is a support and encouragement in both his music and personal life is Rev. Greg Dyson, Director of Intercultural Leadership at Cedarville. Fortier has known Dyson since he was 7 years old, when both his mother and Dyson were working in the same ministry in Springfield, Massachusetts.
“My mother homeschooled me, and my sister got involved in this puppet drama team that did anti-bullying skits and also had a Christian message in it,” Fortier said. “Greg was using them to perform in a bunch of different places, and I was just the little brother tagging along. So, I’ve known Greg for a long time, and I also did ministry with him later when I got older. We’ve got a good connection.”
Dyson thinks highly of Fortier and is impressed with his servant spirit, mentioning that Fortier has been a part of missions trips to Canada and Ireland as well as his service back home in Massachusetts, at First Baptist Church, where he is the guitarist. He loves all different types of music, and, along with the drummer and pianist, they create new music every week to use in their worship.
“Eugene has a passion for serving others.” Dyson said. “Previously to attending Cedarville, he served at Holyoke Community College in the area of disability services. He gets great joy out of serving others.”
In the future, Fortier is looking to teach and/or perform music. He wants the opportunity to share his passion with others, and to hopefully ignite a similar passion in them to use their own musical talents for the glory of God.
“The two things that make me feel alive and uplifted are spending time with God and playing guitar,” Fortier said. “I hope to one day make music my full-time job and hope the music I write or teach will impact others in a way that will make them want to know Christ.”
For other aspiring musicians, Fortier urges people to remember that being any sort of big “rock star” is hard, and even if you do make it, there will be people telling you what to do and how to dress.
He also encourages anyone trying to make it in the music world to use the internet as a resource. You can start all on your own: make your own studio in your room, make recordings, and sell music.
“As long as you’re making a living,” Fortier said, “you might not be driving around in a Ferrari, but you’re doing what you love to do.”
Shelby Ahlborg is a junior graphic design major and arts and entertainment writer for Cedars. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, writing, and studying the animation and special effects in movies.