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Glorious Misfortune reaches celebrity status

For four sophomores at St. Olaf – Brandon Berger, Stina Nesbit, Sam Adams and Helen Paolo – “glorious misfortune” is much more than some beautiful bad luck.

“We are a four-person musical group that focuses on tight group harmonies,” Nesbit said of Glorious Misfortune, the band that she, Berger, Adams and Paolo formed last year.

Dovetailing off of Nesbit’s answer, Paolo added that the group also focuses on putting on a fun show. They are just four people who jam out and make music together.

The friends realized their shared interest in music as first years living in Ellingson. Together the group of four grew as people, through rough times and also through good times. That growth through struggle and success is where the name originated. The name came up at dinner one night, and it stuck, according to Paolo.

The group has been together since March 10, 2012. “We formed because of an Ellingson coffee house talent show,” Nesbit said.

“Our music is acoustic, folk-inspired. We are folk alternative, we can be rock and jazzy because of our eclectic tastes,” Paolo said. “Our harmonies are influenced by choir.”

The Glorious Misfortune meets each Tuesday, Friday and Sunday for about an hour and a half. Since they are all from different places, practicing during the summer was difficult, but now they are getting back into a routine.

“We constantly have material in the works,” Paolo said. “Some practices we just jam out and other times we brainstorm, get an idea and just flow.”

Figuring out the instrumentation is their first step. “Usually one of the boys brings a chord progression, and then they think through the chorus and the bridge of the song,” Paolo said. “Then we improvise melodies and just goof around until we find something we like.”

“We write the lyrics last. First we all say what the song means to each of us, and then we write as a group,” Nesbit said. “We veto or say yes to things we like or dislike. It is a really communal process.”

Their songs loosely follow a formula. “We have a chorus, and then we break it down to highlight individual voices and instruments,” Nesbit said.

“We have been really lucky,” Nesbit said. “We have been able to play at places like First Ave and will be opening for Delta Rae.” They have also played several events on campus, including a performance at the Poetry House, the Vote No rally and a performance in Stav Hall over Homecoming Weekend. The group is hoping to release a professional recording around Christmas, so keep your eyes peeled for news of their album.

Each of the four members has a long history with music. For Nesbit, there is no precise year or age when she became involved in music. “I have been singing my whole life. When I was 7, I started doing musical theater, and in high school I did choirs,” Nesbit said. She got interested in music because of “The Sound of Music” and theater. “I always have found it better to sing emotions, rather than saying them. It’s what I feel most alive doing,” Nesbit said. With The Glorious Misfortune, she has been able to perform at several different venues. “The best part of performing is the fact that it is the most vulnerable I am, and in that sense it is really freeing. It is also just really fun,” Nesbit said.

Paolo has been singing since she was a little kid. “There are home videos of me when my parents were still using baby monitors. I would sing before doing anything else,” Paolo said. “It really started with my parents. They had me take piano lessons but they knew I loved singing and switched me to voice lessons in fourth or fifth grade.” Paolo’s interest in music came from the fact that there were no other musicians in the family.

Music has always been a part of Berger’s life, too. “I started music when I was very young. I was always singing when I was growing up,” he said. “My parents used to sing together to me. I have a really musical family, not trained necessarily . . .. Music has been in my life ever since I can remember.”

Berger played the alto saxophone and percussion in band and was also in the choir. “The best part of performing is interacting with the audience. It doesn’t mean anything that we are performing, in that moment, you are one. That cohesiveness evokes the best feeling ever. Making the crowd feel close to how you feel is a job well done,” Berger said.

Adams has been involved in music for quite some time, but began with the piano rather than the guitar. “I have been playing the piano since I was 4. I started the guitar in high school,” he said. “I was nerdy with not a lot of friends in high school, so I played a lot of guitar.”

His interest in music started with his family. “My mom always forced me to play piano. My brother plays bass, and we would jam for hours after school. We play music together all the time,” Adams said. “My brother goes to Carleton, so sometimes I go over there to jam.”